You just completed another virtual meeting, and you are thinking to yourself, “I just wasted an hour of my life.” We have all been there. There is nothing more frustrating than a disorganized and useless meeting.
This seems to be happening more and more for remote employees as virtual meeting fatigue sets in. Since remote workers are not physically at the conference table, they miss the non-verbal cues and side conversations. If you have a hybrid meeting with those attending in person and remote, in-person attendees often forget who is on the other end of the speakerphone. It is no wonder that people multitask during conference calls.
The problem is you need remote workers to contribute. You need their information, knowledge, and feedback. To make your remote colleagues feel more connected and valued, here are 16 ways you can improve your virtual meetings.
Make It Mobile-First.
The first step toward changing this dynamic is to provide remote employees with the right tools. They need to join virtual meetings from any device – mobile, tablet, desktop – and any operating system. Finding the right remote working solutions, such as a cloud-hosted phone system, can help eliminate this issue with a single click and make it easy to collaborate with colleagues.
Ensure A Strong Connection.
Nothing is more aggravating than a poor connection that makes it difficult to hear others or contribute to the conversation. It is important to make sure that you provide your employees with stable and reliable resources to allow them to connect to the internet from anywhere.
Set A Clear Agenda.
It has been said many times, but it is worth saying again. Distributing an agenda days before the meeting is essential. Choose a unified communications solution with a built-in agenda capability that enables you to send the invite’s meeting plan—this way, remote employees are not at a disadvantage. Everyone is on the same page from the get-go.
Choose the Right Time.
A convenient time for participants is essential. If the participants cannot devote their full attention to the meeting, then the meeting outcome is more likely to be poor. It is the meeting leader’s job to be conscious of this and proactively find times that work for everyone.
Share Expectations for Participation.
With the agenda, let participants know you expect everyone to come prepared to fully contribute to the conversation, no matter where they are located. Ask everyone to read through the agenda and reach out to the meeting leader with any questions or feedback.
Invite the Right People.
Not surprisingly, virtual meetings with too many participants are less engaging. A Stanford University study found that the magic number for a productive team is five to six people, but no more than 10. A sure way to increase inclusion and participation in a conference call is to have the right people involved.
Establish Meeting Ground Rules.
When you call in remotely, it often feels like you have to fight to be heard—set ground rules for how people should communicate during the call. For instance, one person speaks at a time with no interruptions. Or ask your team what they feel the ground rules should be. A remote colleague might suggest, for instance, that everyone say their name before speaking since she is not in the room. This also reminds the people in the conference room that remote colleagues are on the call.
- Start with Introductions.
So simple, yet so important. Ask everyone to say “hello,” give their name and role, and explain why they are on the call. Small talk can help make everyone feel included, especially remote colleagues. If the call is a video call, make sure everyone is on video (not audio). If someone cannot be on video, ask them to post a photo of themselves.
- Invite participation.
Since it is easy to forget who is calling in, it is the facilitator’s job to make sure everyone contributes. Keep track of who has spoken and who has not. Ask direct questions to those who have not contributed like, “Ashley, what do you think of this idea?” Use a cloud business communications service that enables participants to input via cloud collaboration tools such as chat, IM, or polling.
Manage Speaking Time.
One of the most challenging tasks for a meeting leader is controlling who speaks and how long. This is particularly difficult for remote colleagues, who often find they cannot get a word in edgewise. The meeting leader must be aware of this dynamic and counteract it. For example, if one participant is rambling, the leader can interrupt gently, acknowledging and reflecting on their contribution before moving the discussion on or asking for input from another participant.
When speaking to someone face-to-face, you get a lot more information. Speech clarity is not as important because the listener picks up non-verbal cues. That dynamic is missing for those not in the room. Therefore, the facilitator must speak clearly and slowly, with more pauses to make sure everyone follows.
Make It Visual.
Use collaborative conference software that allows anyone on the call to share their screen. Use visuals to keep everyone engaged. Ask different participants to share documents.
Break It Up.
When planning the meeting, be conscious of keeping it interactive. For instance, stop after three slides to ask questions. Assign different items on the agenda to each participant. This way, the remote worker feels like an essential contributor to the meeting.
Effective meetings need more than a leader. Other roles include a notetaker and a timekeeper to keep the agenda on track while the leader focuses on content and presentation. A good practice is to rotate these roles. When meeting participants share responsibilities, they feel more ownership and engaged.
Create A Shared Workspace.
Remote employees need access to the same information as everyone else on the team. Choose a cloud business phone system that provides a virtual shared workspace containing all documents and communications about the team’s efforts. With a click, remote workers can see all the team’s work in one place.
Record the Call.
Sometimes colleagues have to drop out of a call early, or something comes up that prevents them from attending. Use cloud-hosted communication and collaboration solutions to record the call and store it in the shared workspace. Also drop the meeting minutes in the workspace, as well.
Hopefully, by incorporating these 16 simple steps into your virtual meetings, you will walk away feeling more productive. If you do not have the technology to achieve all 16 steps, contact us here to see how we can help create an inclusive, collaborative workspace today!