In a more globalized and connected world it is not uncommon to work in global and remote teams stretching across various time zones. Having diverse project teams comes with many advantages like an increase in creativity due to different views and more suitable role allocation. However, with the distance there are also many challenges to conquer. Meetings at different time zones may cause stress to some team members. It may also be harder to build relationships over the phone instead of face to face. A lot of the personal interaction is lost which can cause misunderstandings or slow down the relationship building process.
Here are some tips on how to ace your virtual project meetings.
Meaningful agendas. A meaningful agenda is a must for any meeting and more importantly for a virtual meeting. A good agenda should include the main discussion items, action items from previous meeting, decisions that are required and any background information.
Communication tools. There are many communication tools available like instant messenger, video conferencing tools like Cisco WebEx and collaboration platforms like SharePoint and Yammer. Slack (Searchable Log of All Conversations and Knowledge) is a cloud based application that has received a lot of positive feedback recently. It offers chat rooms and private groups which are searchable based on content. I have not had a chance to test this tool but I am very keen to give it a try in my next virtual project assignment.
Use video. Whenever possible try to use video conferencing. Not only will this improve the interaction and engagement, it will also minimize multitasking. Who likes to be caught typing an email whilst in a meeting with the boss?
Round circle. The idea is to give meeting participant a one minute personal-professional check at the beginning of the meeting. This will help everyone to get to know each other and remember names. It is also a good way to tune into someones voice and accent when the team has a culturally diverse background.
Rotate the meeting facilitator. Changing the meeting facilitator on a regular basis will keep everyone engaged and focused. It also opens up for new ideas on how to run the meeting.
Use the timer. For some meetings especially when working on an agile IT project it is recommended to use an online timer. It may also come in handy if meeting participants tend to wander off the main topics. Using a timer is a good way to bring everyone back on track.
Ground rules. Every now and then I encounter some very unproductive meeting habits. For example chatting and laughing in a big meeting room can be very unpleasant for the person on the other end of the line. Some basic ground rule like use the mute button in specific situations or repeat questions from the audience can be very useful. They can be introduced when you start in a new project team or form part of the standing agenda.
Make most out of face to face meetings. Depending on the culture and background, it can be incredible hard to build a relationship with someone that you have never met. When the opportunity presents to meet someone face to face then you should really make most out of it. Go for a coffee or lunch with the “stranger” that you have been working with for so long and get to know them a bit better. What makes them tick? What common interests do you have? Strong relationships are build on shared experiences. Create those experiences to strengthen your relationships.
Do you have any specific tips on virtual meetings that you would like to share?