The current COVID-19 pandemic changed the way many companies conduct their core business. Over a few dynamic months, some brick-and-mortar industries turned to remote working, and as it seems, remote work will become a new standard. According to Global Workplace Analytics, around 75 million US employees could work remotely by the end of 2020. Preparing your employees for upcoming changes is a must if you want to keep with fierce competition in various industries.
Since social distancing measures reduce the maximum amount of people sharing the same room, the question is — how to hold productive meetings? The answer lies in online meetings. For some people, online meetings can be challenging since lacking a physical presence. But, with proper training, you can help your team hold extremely productive online meetings.
Here are a few tips that will help your company to adapt to online meetings.
1. Educate your team on technology
Technology is the primary medium for holding online meetings. You have to gradually prepare and train your team to combine technology and platforms for online meetings effectively. There are multiple online meeting platforms, such as Google Meet, Zoom, Skype, and it’s essential to pick one that satisfies all your company needs.
Did you know that about 55% of communication is body language, and just 38% goes to voice? Your employees must ensure the necessary technology that allows them to join video conferences without interruptions. The basic setup includes a fast internet connection, working camera and microphone, computer, and online meeting platform. It’s helpful to create a step-to-step guide that covers a complete setup process. We recommend using a collaborative environment such as Google Docs, as it allows everyone to leave feedback and comments for improvement.
2. Create a meeting agenda and set a meeting moderator
Having a meeting without a pre-set agenda can easily drift away from the primary purpose, which results in higher costs due to unclear instructions and repetitive tasks. Delegate a meeting moderator role to one of your team members who possess strong management and communication skills. The meeting moderator has to make sure every attendee has been notified of the meeting start time and a current schedule.
Send the agenda to all participants at least 24 hours before the meeting, so everyone can prepare on time. Since we’re constantly bombed with information, sometimes it’s easy to get distracted and forget to prepare for an upcoming meeting. Train your team to effectively use reminder tools such as Google Calendar to ensure everyone got the right information on time.
While creating a meeting agenda, be sure to make an easy-to-understand list of the main topics and subtopics that will be discussed. Another important task of the meeting moderator is navigating attendees through the meeting agenda and keeping the conversation focused and organized.
We recommend supervising a newly-delegated meeting moderator and sharing the processes once they can hold a meeting effectively without supervision. Just attend a few meetings and take notes which you can discuss with a meeting moderator afterward.
3. Create and share meeting notes
Working in a remote environment can be tough as there is a chance you’re collaborating with employees who live in different time zones or don’t share the same native language. These barriers can lead to misunderstanding and resource mismanagement. After every meeting, be sure a team member is responsible for creating meeting notes that cover all topics and conclusions from the recent meeting. That way, all meeting participants will know their roles, tasks, and progress, which highly minimizes misunderstanding risks.
It would also be handy to set up a collaboration platform such as Asana or Trello to create tasks and assign them to specific employees. If your company uses a particular management tool for keeping track of tasks and notes, you can create a document explaining all the important features of using the tool. Alternatively, there are multiple online courses where you can train your employees to effectively use management tools, track tasks, and create meeting notes.
4. Focus on employee’s feedback
Feedback is vital as it gives you input on a current situation. Most online meeting platforms feature a feedback option where participants can leave comments and rate a meeting session. Use this feedback to understand your employees’ needs and challenges and improve the overall experience.
Train your employees to use feedback in both ways. A feedback loop won’t only make online meetings more effective and focused, but will also keep your employees engaged and create a healthy meeting culture.
5. Opt for a distraction-free meeting room
On-site conference rooms usually feature a clean and minimalistic design that minimizes distractions and keeps attendants focused on the meeting agenda. The same principles should be applied when it comes to online meetings.
Each of your employees should focus on creating a clean and distraction-free meeting room. You can share with your employees some tips and advice on how to design this meeting-friendly environment. For instance, you can describe how to blur their background, how to mute notifications, etc.
6. Set a meeting etiquette
Similar to setting a meeting agenda, having proper meeting etiquette is crucial for a productive and comfortable online meeting. Since online meetings are similar to regular face-to-face meetings, with only a difference in medium, you should create a list of do’s and dont’s for effective communication, including:
- Don’t exclude anyone, and give a chance to everyone to introduce themselves.
- Focus on the person who’s currently presenting their ideas.
- Don’t interrupt other team members. Write notes if you’d like to add anything or you don’t agree with something, so you can share it later.
- Do a hardware and software test before the meeting, and fix all the problems on time.
- Prepare yourself by reading the meeting agenda in advance.
- Avoid distractions such as notifications, other people in the same room, checking your phone, etc.
Having proper meeting etiquette in place won’t only result in productive online meetings but also higher satisfaction. Since everyone is coming from different backgrounds, it’s crucial to gradually discuss the etiquette with each team member and have a feedback session. It’s very important that you focus on training your team to follow a specific meeting etiquette as it allows effective and clear communication and minimizes the risks of misunderstanding.
7. Pick the right timing
Managing teams in different timezones can be challenging especially if there are substantial time differences. It’s vital to organize a meeting that works for every team member, no matter the time zone. For instance, if you have team members from Sydney, Berlin, and New York, it can be a real challenge to set up everyone’s right timing. One of the working schedules could be 9 pm in Berlin, 7 am in Sydney, and 3 pm in New York.
Ensure that the delegated meeting moderator knows each attendee’s situation and can effectively organize a meeting no matter the timezone and other barriers. Before setting a final meeting time, be sure to talk with each attendee, and understand their schedules. Multiple applications help quickly understand the timezone difference, such as WorldTimeBuddy and EveryTimeZone.
Team education is the key to productive online meetings
Without proper education, you can’t expect productive online meetings. Some people aren’t used to online meetings, and the current COVID-19 situation dictates to adapt to new ways of working. Educate your team members on technologies, setting up a distraction-free home office, giving and receiving feedback, creating meeting notes and etiquette, and you’re a step closer to holding productive online meetings.
Derek Jones spearheads key initiatives at Deputy, a global workforce management platform for employee scheduling, timesheets, and communication. With a focus on Healthcare, Derek helps business owners and workforce leaders simplify employment law compliance, keep labor cost in line, and build award-winning workplaces. Derek has over 16 years’ experience in delivering data-driven sales and marketing strategies to SaaS companies like MarketSource and Griswold Home Care.
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