A lawyer, a doctor and a manager walk into a bar…
I’m kidding. The manager can’t be there because it turns out that some managers spend a whopping 30%-60% of their time in meetings. That leaves them with little time to manage other matters, or make that trip to the bar.
Imagine how much time would be saved if those meetings were conducted more efficiently. Studies reveal that most meetings are indeed costly and unproductive, yet essential to the decision-making process if they’re conducted properly.
Clearly, we need a better way to manage meetings. But how do you manage or organize the best meetings ever if you work in a remote team? Read on and you’ll get a sense of what it takes to keep your meetings on track, even if you’re not all around the same conference table.
Use only one platform
Today, virtual meetings are the backbone of corporate life. They’re easier and more cost-effective and they don’t have physical limitations because not everyone has to be in the same room in order to conduct one.
Unified communications and collaboration, better known as UCC, is the combination of technologies used to enhance your experience in communication.
Online meetings, open messaging, file sharing, screen sharing, audio and video calls are all part of UCC, which integrates the many aspects of communications in one seamless platform.
UCC allows you to devote your attention to one platform to keep you focused and efficient. No longer will you need multiple apps, which each come with their own distractions!
Prepare a good agenda
Do you go into meetings only guessing at what will be discussed and what is expected of your presence? The best meetings are ones you’re ready for.
Having a UCC is just the first step. If you want to organize an effective meeting, start by preparing a good agenda.
My meetings in AgoraPulse, with a remote team of people, come with a crisp and concise agenda and it has made a world of difference. If you are the unlucky victim of meetings that aren’t so, perhaps you should share this article with your managers to help them save time—yours and theirs.
An agenda sets the right tone and helps ensure efficiency. It eliminates guesswork and the inefficiency of being unprepared. It keeps everyone focused. This way, participants know that there’s a legitimate purpose for the meeting. An agenda helps them highlight the issues to be discussed and progress the meeting toward the expected outcomes.
Share the agenda early
The best meetings are those that you see coming a week ahead of time. It is meaningless to share a good agenda a few minutes before the meeting. Nobody will have the time to prepare for it.
Sharing early lets you plan your participation beforehand. If your entire team is apprised of the agenda and are prepared, your meeting will be much more productive.
Turn the video on
The best thing you can do is to make everyone feel like they’re in the same room.
This can be done by having the video function turned on. A crucial aspect of UCC is using technology to humanize communication, and a video does just that.
With video, you can see the reactions of your team and eliminate any dead silence if they are responding by nodding their heads. Facial expressions matter.
Videos also allow the team to avoid the distractions that can easily occur during virtual meetings. Since each employee is alone in a room, they could also be checking emails or multitasking during the meeting. Switching on the video keeps the team focused and engaged.
Break meetings into smaller chunks
The best meetings are like the breezy walk around the park that you take every evening, and not like running a marathon once a week.
Breaking meetings into smaller chunks can help with productivity as it allows for a focused discussion. It’s what we do at AgoraPulse in my workplace. We have smaller meetings to discuss our work with our team leaders every day. These meetings last about 30 minutes and we then start the day knowing exactly what to do.
A large, marathon-like meeting works if you need to include many people at once, but you should avoid this unless it is absolutely necessary (for example, when you need to make a company-wide announcement on a major policy change).
Give each person time on the agenda
The best meetings give you a voice. Breaking meetings into smaller groups gives everyone time on the agenda and helps you get input from all the team members if they have any blockers.
Here’s how it works: In one of your regular small meetings, have team members share what they have been doing, what they need to do and if they have any blockers.
Each team member gets a few minutes on the agenda to discuss and share blockers that they’ve experienced. After the team member has shared it, the rest of the team gets an opportunity to offer advice. This will also give the team leader an idea of what needs to be done to help the team.
In my experience, this has proven to be more productive compared to other meetings where the people attending weren’t asked to provide input.
Summarize each meeting
You leave the best meetings knowing the big picture.
End each session by summarizing the topics that were discussed, and share who is responsible for each action item.
I was once at a virtual meeting where the leader took notes and wrote down action points on a whiteboard which was not shown during the meeting. At the end of the meeting, the team leader flipped the whiteboard and had our cameras zoomed in. I left knowing what I had to do, what my colleagues in Amsterdam had to do, and why we were doing it together.
Take meeting minutes
The best meetings come with a tangible reminder.
Meeting minutes are important because they keep the meeting attendees on the same page and help those who weren’t able to attend keep up. They crystallize the discussion into something you can refer to.
Most of these strategies work equally well for in-person meetings as for virtual ones. But because virtual meetings come with some of their own special challenges, it’s worth putting all these strategies into place to minimize time-wasting and maximize usefulness and impact. This way, after a long workday, the manager might just have time to meet friends at the bar after all!