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Working remotely is our new reality, and meetings are the best way of connecting with our team. Here’s how to host an efficient virtual meeting in 2020.
2020 is officially the year of telecommunications. With the pandemic taking over, most companies had to face the need to transition to remote work. And although big names such as Twitter will offer permanently their employees the option to work from their homes due to all the benefits, there is still one significant problem that most virtual companies are facing: connection.
How to build a strong connection among team members? How to break the digital ice that protagonists virtual meetings?
Building culture and fostering remote collaboration is possible when you create strong connections virtually. Lucky for us, the pandemic took place in an era where almost everything is digital. With the right tools and strategies, you’ll be able to support your work-from-home employees and host an efficient virtual meeting.
Running a Successful Virtual Meeting
I’ve been running remote teams for more than 10 years and advising companies into doing so. I’ve realized that there is one mistake most leaders make: To try to replicate the on-site meeting experience into a virtual one.
Why is this a mistake? Because virtual meetings are nowhere near to be the same as on-site ones. The lack of human contact is lost because we are not in the same conference room with our employees. And this is why we need to change the game. Instead of simulating the same experience, we need to understand how technology works and how to build a business cadence around your company’s workflow.
1. Choose the right software
First things first, you need to decide which tool is the best one for your team to use while having these virtual meetings.
The best meetings are with video conferencing software that allows you to see all of the team member's faces and connect with them in a more personal way.
Some of the best video call applications are:
- Zoom: It’s one of the most popular group call apps. It offers high definition videos and various third-party integrations.
- Google Meet: It integrates with other Google’s apps making it an attractive option. It’s free and supports 100 people for 60 min. There is also the enterprise plan that makes part of the G Suite basic plan.
- Skype for Business: This tool is the improved version of the standard skype. It has several features such as whiteboards and supports to run meetings up to 250 people.
- GoToMeeting: This software has many useful features, such as meeting scheduling and transcript services. Its pricing starts at $14 per month, group groups of 10 people.
2. Schedule the Meetings
Managing a distributed team means working with different time zones. Each employee has its own working schedule while working from home, but ideally, all of the team is connected at the same time during some hours of the day. This is when meetings should take place to respect each team member's schedule and not make some of them get up early or sleep too late.
One of the best strategies for organizing time zones and meetings is to set up a document that states the basic information of each employee with their time zones and their availability hours.
Once you are aware of the times, schedule in everyone's calendar the meeting (best if 5-4 days in advance).
Time zone tools
- World time buddy: My personal favorite! I work in a company where there are too many different time zones. World Time Buddy lets you choose 3 or more cities simultaneously to see the local time in each location.
- Time Zone Converter: This app works similar to a currency converter. You have two clocks, one displaying the local time and the other the time you want to compare it with.
- Timezone.io: This tool lets you track the local time of all your team members. You can get a clear view of all the different local times and see the best time for everyone to meet.
Meeting scheduler tools
- Google Calendar: If you have a Gmail account, then you probably know google calendar like the palm of your hand. When you create events/meetings, Google Calendar shows you each person’s calendar and lets you send the invite easily.
- Any.do: Another great meeting scheduler. Once you integrate it into your working space, you can easily schedule a meeting, and it will automatically appear in your employee’s calendar.
- Calendly: Calendly is one of the best tools for those who often get meeting requests. This app lets other people schedule meetings with you by showing them your schedule availability and offering the hours where you are available.
3. Meeting goals and the main purpose
All meetings have a purpose. Whether making sure all team members are doing okay with all their tasks or because you have an urgent project to develop.
The key to avoiding those long boring meetings is to have an agenda and stick to it.
- First, set up what is your primary goal: Why is this meeting taking place?
- Secondly, decide the key points to discuss.
This way, everyone will focus on discussing those points instead of feeling that the meeting is not reaching anywhere. Everyone will have a direction to follow, and will not get carried away with other topics.
4. Take notes
Even if you have an excellent memory, you have many things going on in your mind making it impossible to remember all the things discussed in meetings.
Therefore, taking notes is one of the key aspects during meetings. Whether it's a project or just specific things discussed in the meeting that require follow-ups or special consideration, it's good to write them down and keep them in a place you'll know you'll review later.
Some of the best tools to take notes are:
- Hugo: It's designed to take notes during meetings. It has collaboration features for planning and organizing as well as post-meeting follow up. Hugo integrates with Office 365 and G-Suit.
- Evernote: This is one of the best apps for taking notes. Although it doesn't have many features regarding note-taking in teams, the app works efficiently for individuals. Besides taking notes, you can organize them and archive them.
- Notion: This is one of the best tools to take notes and share them with the team. It has features that allow you to tag colleagues in notes and integrate notes with tasks.
5. Get everyone involved
Meetings are not a monologue. The idea is to foster an environment where everyone feels they have a voice and to encourage teamwork.
At the first remote meeting, this might be hard to achieve because of the lack of experience. It's important to get to connect and bond with your team, to smooth the environment.
You could start the meeting with fun ice breaker questions, or even basic questions like asking how everyone is doing.
Also, take into account that some team members are more introverted than others and are less likely to share their opinion. It's good to take the initiative and ask each one what they think on a particular subject of a project or task.
Final Tip: Authenticity
It’s essential to be organized with meetings and to schedule them in advance. But even more important than that is to be yourself.
You may have come with many articles regarding culture and healthy virtual environments. But none of this is possible if you are trying to replicate the exact same models from other organizations different from yours. You need to believe in what you do! And transmit that belief among your team members.
Being authentic means that you give your employees the space to be themselves as well. To let them be creating and encourage them to think outside the box. This way, you’ll have meetings that make everyone in your team more productive and happy.
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