Virtual and remote employees are often happier and get more done than those who work in traditional office settings. The process of managing a virtual team isn’t all fun and games, though. Especially when it comes to holding meetings and making sure everyone is on the same page.
If you struggle with conducting virtual team meetings, you’ve come to the right place. Listed below are 10 best practices to keep in mind during your meetings to make sure they’re effective and productive.
Common challenges for virtual team meetings
First, let’s go over some of the hurdles team managers might experience during virtual team meetings. The following are the most common challenges they report facing on a regular basis:
- Difficulty communicating: When you’re meeting with a remote team, it can be hard to get everyone talking openly; this is especially true if you’re only communicating through chat and aren’t making use of audio or video tools
- Trust: In the same vein, employees might not feel comfortable opening up in front of their teammates or supervisors; they may not feel close enough to these people or worry about being judged
- Staying on task: If team managers aren’t careful about creating an agenda and sense of structure, it can be easy for virtual team meetings to get derailed, especially when you’re meeting with large teams or have a lot you’re trying to cover
These obstacles can make virtual meetings seem as though they’re total timewasters. There’s a lot of value to collaborating as a team. The key is to make sure you’re doing it in the right way.
Virtual team meeting best practices
As you can see, there’s a lot that can potentially go wrong when it comes to holding virtual team meetings. If you remember these best practices, though, you’ll have an easier time keeping everyone on track and maximizing the meetings:
1. Establish meeting norms
A good starting point for team managers looking to streamline the meeting process is to establish a set of meeting norms. These can be included as part of the team meeting checklist, or they can be distributed before the first meeting to ensure everyone knows what to expect when they sit down to chat together.
Meeting norms are a set of standards that all team members should keep in mind to help the meeting go as smoothly as possible. The following are examples of what you might want to include on your list:
- Always test your technology before the meeting begins
- Do not multitask during the meeting
- Go to a quiet place for the meeting (i.e., not a coffee shop)
- Use video whenever possible and be camera-ready (i.e., not in your pajamas)
Having a few simple norms like these put in place can make a big difference and help you avoid wasting time or getting distracted.
2. Assign roles
It’s easier for team members to remain engaged throughout the meeting if they have a specific role assigned to them beforehand. For example, you might want to put one person in charge of taking notes and another in charge of monitoring the time and making sure everyone adheres to the agenda.
If everyone has a job to do, even if it’s a small one, they’ll be less likely to start doodling or discretely (or perhaps not so discretely) scrolling through social media during the meeting.
3. Avoid technical issues
Technical issues can easily turn a simple 15-minute meeting into a 45-minute nightmare. Do your best to avoid them to keep your meetings short and as productive as possible.
An easy way to do this is to make sure everyone has adequate time to prepare for the meeting. When you’re sending out a message letting them know when it’s scheduled, include a reminder encouraging everyone to test their equipment before joining in.
It can also help to have a designated team member who’s responsible for assisting with technical issues. That way, if something goes wrong, that team member and the person dealing with the technical problem can work together on their own without derailing the entire meeting for everyone else.
4. Start with an icebreaker
All team meetings can be a bit awkward from time to time. This is especially true with virtual team meetings, though, as many (if not all) of the team members may have never met in person before.
To overcome the awkwardness and help everyone feel at ease, it’s a good idea to start the meeting with an icebreaker. It can be as simple as having everyone introduce themselves or asking them to share something about how their day has gone so far or what they’re planning for the upcoming weekend.
5. Make brainstorming easy
When you’re planning a meeting with a virtual team, it’s helpful if you utilize tools that allow for easy sharing and brainstorming.
For example, using a team management tool like Weekdone provides you with a space to share ideas and communicate with ease. You can take advantage of chat features and other tools to help everyone participate and simplify the process of setting and tracking goals and team progress.
6. Include energizing activities
If you know that your upcoming meeting is going to be a long one, be sure to include some energizing activities on the agenda. Something as simple as making time for a 2-minute stretch break can go a long way when it comes to helping everyone stay engaged and focused on the task at hand.
7. Ask for and provide feedback
As a team manager, it’s important for you to remain open to constructive feedback from your team members. Communication is critical for remote teams.
After the meeting is over, let everyone know that you’re open to hearing what they thought about how it went and what they’d like to see done differently in the future. This gives you a chance to learn from your mistakes and tailor your approach to better fit your team members and their unique preferences.
It helps to provide feedback to your team members, too. Whether you recognize them for something positive they did during the meeting or if you send them a private message later thanking them for bringing something to your attention, this helps to increase the likelihood that peole will chime in and contribute later.
8. Send valuable followups
If you send out detailed minutes from your virtual team meeting, there’s a good chance that very few (if any) people will read them.
Instead of wasting your time (or wasting the time of someone else on your team) typing up these minutes, try to limit your follow-ups to things that matter most. It could be a private shout-out like we mentioned above, or it could be a reminder about an important deadline.
Make sure they provide value, though, or else they’re just going to be forgotten as soon as the email or message gets opened.
9. Help introverts feel more comfortable
During group meetings, introverted team members (and, if you’re managing a remote team, chances are you’re in charge of a lot of introverts) may have trouble speaking up or sharing their ideas.
Do your best to accommodate these team members and give them an opportunity to contribute. If you notice someone has been trying to talk but having trouble getting a word in, for example, call on them directly. If you haven’t heard from a particular team member in a while, you could also ask them if they have anything they’ve noticed or want to chime in.
10. Stick to a schedule
Finally, try to stick to a schedule for your meetings.
Conducting a weekly review, for example, will help you to keep the meetings short and simple and will make it easier for you to keep track of what everyone’s working on and where they’re at with regards to specific goals. This helps everyone to know what to expect as well and helps them plan ahead (and make sure all their equipment is working).
Master your virtual team meetings today
There are lots of steps you can take to make your virtual team meetings more productive and more enjoyable for yourself and those on your team. Keep these best practices in mind and you’ll have an easier time keeping people engaged and making sure the meetings are actually worthwhile.
Don’t forget to check out our list of the best tools for help with your next virtual team meeting, too.