Your Guide to Structuring Meetings for Remote Employees
With everything from game night, to university courses, to family hangouts moving to video chat, most people out there are sure to be familiar with video conferencing. And, if you’ve ever been in one of these such chats, you’ve probably noticed how disorganized they can be. When it comes to being a remote substitute for family reunions, these chaotic experiences might be fine, and, not to mention, true to life! But when it comes to remote business meetings, you want to make sure that they stay organized, and that everyone can participate as they normally would have even given the shift from in-person meetings and the subtle changes and technical difficulties involved therein.
Know the Software
Nothing is worse or more distracting than a host who can’t figure out the technical aspects of the video conferencing software. Don’t be afraid to poke around the software before the meeting, set up some test calls, or look online for tutorials that teach you the ins and outs of whatever software your business is using. Even if you are confident in the video software, and have used it before, it might be a good idea to look into helpful tips and tricks online. Different shortcuts, adjustments, and other tricks can help you streamline your meetings and give you useful information about what to do if you run into any problems. It’s also important to make sure everyone else knows the software as well. We’ve all been in video meetings where some people can’t figure out how to connect or how to unmute themselves, and it eats up valuable time and attention.
Create an Agenda
Although other topics might come up or demand more time, it is still important to structure your meetings ahead of time with an agenda. Remember, time and attention are things you really can’t afford to waste, and an agenda will keep things running smoothly, and make sure that your meetings touch on all of the things that need to be addressed. You should also share this agenda with everyone in the meeting beforehand. This will give everyone time to consider the general flow of the meeting, and how much time they have for their own specific topic. This will make it not so easy to get off track or fail to address specific items that need to be covered.
Meet in Smaller Groups
With face-to-face meetings, it doesn’t really matter as much the sheer number of people invited to a meeting, but with remote meetings, the rules are a bit different. The more people you add, the more likely you are to run into difficulties. They could be technical difficulties or that general video chat chaos we’ve all experienced. Breaking off into smaller groups for meetings can help to keep the conversations focused and on schedule. If you need to, you can even have a larger meeting after all of the smaller groups are done with their individual meetings, to discuss the broader topics and to make sure that all of the pieces to this puzzle can fit together. In these situations, it might be a good idea to try out electing speakers from those smaller groups to keep even the larger groups as unchaotic as possible.
Video conferences are a different ballgame. They’re just not the same as face-to-face meetings, and some people will have a harder time adjusting to that than others. There are those who will have a harder time feeling like they can speak up during a video conference call. But you don’t want to miss out on what they have to say. If you notice that someone who usually participates during in-person meetings, but is declining to do so in video meetings, try to involve them when possible. If there is some topic you think they may have some good input on, don’t shy away from asking them what they think and trying to get them involved. Hopefully, in time, everyone will get used to the change in setting and overall feel that is simply different from in-person interaction. Keep in mind that some people might be interacting through these remote meetings with people they’ve never met face-to-face. In these cases try to find opportunities for these individuals to digitally shake hands ahead of time, or make sure to introduce everyone new at the start of the meeting.
Scheduling multiple people in different places, and sometimes different time zones, can be a bit of a hassle. With each person busy throughout the day on their own individual projects, finding space in the day where everyone has the time for a meeting can be difficult, but there are ways to make this process much easier. For starters, try a scheduling app. These apps make it possible for users to designate blocks of time that work for them so that everyone can sync their free blocks up and make room for a meeting. There are even free apps and webpages, such as Every Time Zone, that make it easy to understand and visualize the different time zones that may be at play for workers who are spread out across the country or the globe. One thing you want to keep in mind for scheduling is to make sure everyone sticks to the schedule once it’s set. You don’t want to create an environment that says it’s okay to join late or drop out early. Doing so could hold things up for everyone else. Starting the meeting off with a little bit of small talk is okay, and, in fact, can be beneficial for helping you stay connected with colleagues remotely. Just make sure that the meeting times as a whole are respected.