Interested in conducting excellent virtual team meetings?
You’ve come to the right place!
While remote work is becoming increasingly popular, most managers are still confused about how to conduct meetings with their remote employees. Luckily, with advances in technology, conducting virtual team meetings is now a breeze.
However, there’s still that challenge of keeping your virtual attendees engaged.
After all, a remote employee isn’t in the same room as you, right?
In this article, we’ll cover all the things you need to know to conduct an effective virtual meeting. We’ll go over everything from setting the stage to how you can follow-up on employees post-meeting.
This article contains:
(Click the links below to jump to a specific section)
- Choose the Right Online Meeting Tool
- Set the Time for Virtual Team Meetings
- Implement Virtual Team Building
Let’s get started.
How to set the stage for virtual team meetings
Before you start a meeting with your remote team, you need to first think of the following things:
A. Choose the right online meeting tool
You can’t have a virtual meeting without an online platform to conduct it.
When choosing the right tool for your needs, ask yourself these 3 questions:
1. What do you need for a successful virtual meeting?
Think about what you’ll be doing at your remote team meeting.
The basic necessity will be a tool that provides audio and video capabilities to help you interact with each employee in your virtual team.
Then, consider supplementary features like screen sharing according to your requirements.
For example, if you need to walk your virtual workers through a process, an app with screen sharing capability should be on your list.
If you’ll be doing presentations with your remote team, you’ll need presentation features. You could also use an online whiteboard for simpler virtual collaboration with your remote workers.
What about your team members?
Your virtual team doesn’t have to be limited to audio responses.
They could benefit from a team chat sidebar that everyone sees, and use emojis for quick emotional feedback.
2. How many people will attend?
The size of your remote team affects your software selection.
Some tools may be more suited to small groups as there’ll be limitations on how many people will be visible on the screen at the same time.
3. How user-friendly is the tool?
There are plenty of great video conferencing, whiteboard and presentation tools that you could use for online meetings. Some of them even integrate with project management apps – thereby enhancing real-time communication and collaboration.
However, the software you choose should be easy to download, install and use.
The more intuitive it is, the better as you won’t have to waste time figuring out how it works.
Some popular user-friendly video chat apps you could consider are:
B. Set the time for virtual team meetings
Time zones can be a big headache when it comes to picking a remote meeting time.
Make sure to consult your team members to determine what hours work for them.
Luckily, there are several ways to get your distributed team together for this.
You could ask your remote team members directly, or use an online calendar like Google Calendar to see everyone’s schedule. You could even run a quick online poll to check everyone’s availability.
C. Implement virtual team building
Why is virtual team building important?
Team building is an excellent way to familiarize your team with their remote colleagues and instill some trust and team spirit before the serious work begins.
There is no way a virtual team meeting can succeed if your team isn’t already strongly knit.
Virtual team building will encourage virtual teamwork between your team members, which is essential for boosting team performance.
So what kind of virtual team building activity can you do?
There are plenty of online game ideas for remote team building. Here are a few highly engaging, popular virtual team building activities:
- Virtual Clue Murder Mystery
- Virtual Jeoparty Social
- Virtual Escape Room: Jewel Heist
- Virtual Trivia Time Machine
- Virtual Happy Hour Trivia
To check out more activities, check our blog posts here: 61 Virtual Team Building Activities Your Remote Team Will Love.
Always ask your remote team about what kind of virtual team building games they like.
Whatever it is, it should be a fun way to create team bonding and ultimately, a positive company culture.
14 simple tips for effective virtual team meetings
Now that we’ve looked at how you can set up your remote team meeting, here are some tips you should follow before, during and after the meeting to ensure successful results.
A. Before the meeting
1. Establish meeting etiquette
Ensure you lay down some ground rules for your team before the meeting begins.
Here are some things to keep in mind for an effective virtual team meeting:
A. List of attendees
List out who’s attending so your entire team knows who will be there, eliminating any confusion. If a remote worker is unable to attend, remember to convey it to all the attendees.
B. Read the agenda
Your team should read the meeting agenda ahead of time.
Not only will this let your online team know what they’ll be discussing, but it’ll also give them time to sort out any remote work issues they may be facing.
C. Quiet location
Have everyone attend the meeting from a quiet location to prevent interruptions. Use noise-canceling software, if necessary, to drown out external noises.
D. Use video
People respond better if they can see the facial reactions of the person they’re talking to. Use the video call feature whenever possible, and be camera-ready.
E. Ban multitasking
Your team should be paying attention to the meeting and not emailing, instant messaging, or watching Amazon Prime Video on the side!
This is why video conferencing is a good idea. It reduces the temptation to multitask since everyone can see what you’re up to.
F. Cut-off phone distractions
Ask your team to turn off notifications or put their phones in silent mode. This will minimize distractions caused by any pings or pop-ups on mobile devices.
G. Don’t interrupt
When others are speaking, let them finish. If you need to talk, wait for a pause.
This prevents the confusion caused by people talking over each other.
2. Set an agenda
Use an agenda to define your meeting goals and outline what your meeting will be about.
How do you set an agenda?
Gather opinions from your whole team on discussion topics. Add urgent topics that need discussion and let your team members speak on their subjects. This will help keep people engaged.
Also, set a time limit for each item to avoid a never-ending meeting. However, remember that some items may require a longer discussion than others.
3. Assign roles when needed
A virtual team member is more likely to be engaged if they have a specific role during the meeting.
You could have:
- A team member to monitor the time to maintain your meeting’s pacing.
- A team member to take down key points and notes (meeting minutes) that they can share with the entire team via Google Docs.
- A team member to make sure that everyone sticks to the agenda.
4. Safeguard yourself against technical issues
Don’t forget to test your technology before you start your virtual meeting.
Make sure your video and audio works, and your internet connection is stable.
However, even with the best preparation, you could still run into some issues.
You can’t do anything about a storm knocking out your power lines, right?
To deal with such situations, have a Plan B in place. At the very least, ensure that you communicate your issues to your virtual team to decide what to do next.
5. Cut-out long reports and presentations
In traditional on-site meetings, it’s common for a participant to present a long, detailed report.
But for an online meeting, this could be too time-consuming.
That’s why it’s important to filter out all unnecessary in-person reporting.
Share any virtual work reports beforehand, and discuss only the relevant points instead. You can ask your team to read these reports before they attend the meeting.
If you have a presentation that can be shared ahead, do so and let your team members comment on a different platform (like a discussion board or Slack thread). Then, have them bring their questions about the presentation to the meeting.
B. During the meeting
6. Start with an icebreaker
Remember, facilitating team building is super important to have a productive meeting.
Start the meeting with a virtual icebreaker, which also doubles up as a team building exercise.
As most video conference apps may not show all the attendees on-screen, have everyone introduce themselves, or ask direct icebreaker questions. This will allow them to engage in some team building activity and let everyone else know of their presence.
If you know remote team members who have similar interests or live in the same area, have them chat about it. For example, if there are members from New York, you could ask how the weather is over there or simply check-in on their well-being.
Essentially, you could ask them about anything non-work related — from soccer teams to their favorite music playlists!
7. Break the monotony
If your meeting is going to be lengthy, make sure to have some breaks in between.
After all, even an hour of discussing work topics can be pretty draining.
Let your virtual team get up and stretch for a bit. Or you could always have a quick team building activity, like a trivia game, to break the monotony.
This allows team members to relax and get away from the discussion, helping them come back with a fresher mindset.
8. Be a facilitator
As the team leader hosting the meeting, it’s your job to encourage collaboration between your team members. To make your virtual meeting as productive and successful as possible, you should act as a facilitator.
Create opportunities for team members to interact, instead of dictating everything that needs to be done. As such, a team leader should have excellent communication skills to improve rapport with their remote team.
9. Keep attendees engaged
One of the hardest things to do in a virtual meeting is to keep your team members engaged.
So how can you narrow the communication gap created by physical distances?
A. Use visual aids
It’s no secret that we respond well to visual aids.
Use these to convey highly technical or dull topics to your remote team instead of simply talking about it. For example, you could use a colorful chart or graphic to represent project milestones during a review meeting.
B. Encourage collaboration and feedback
Encourage your virtual team to brainstorm and collaborate over problem-solving. You can also ask for, and give feedback to your team members.
When they know that their opinion may be required at some point in the meeting, they’re more likely to be alert and attentive.
C. Engage in casual chat
Make time for light conversations, and be sure to include your introverted members.
Introverts can have more trouble voicing opinions, which can be even more challenging in a virtual work environment.
While this will work for smaller team meetings, it may not be possible to talk to everyone if you have over 20 people in larger online conference calls.
In such cases, you could have a specific virtual meeting facilitator who can run live polls on topics and filter online questions. They can assign people into segregated chat rooms (like Slack channels) when smaller group discussions are needed.
10. Stick to your schedule
Remember, you could be meeting with remote workers from different time zones.
Some may be close to their bedtimes while others could be near their lunch hours. Even if you’re in the same time zone, your team members may have work to attend to after the virtual meeting.
That’s why you should always stick to your schedule. Don’t extend a meeting any longer than necessary. If something needs more discussion, set up a different time for it, and meet only with those who need to be involved.
C. After the meeting
11. Run through needed actions
Clear communication is essential to keep your team’s work organized.
Before you end the meeting, go through any required action items. This ensures that everyone knows what they need to do and when. If you’re using a project management or task app, you can always assign those tasks on the spot.
12. The water cooler session
Offices often have water coolers where employees meet for casual chats.
While they’re not exactly team building sessions, this is usually where post-meeting thoughts are expressed.
If your team is comfortable with one another, run a virtual water cooler session after the meeting. This gives a place for your attendees to express themselves and transparently process their emotions.
If they’re not yet comfortable with each other, you can always do more virtual team building activities to build trust.
However, this may not be possible when you’re running tight schedules or managing a large team.
13. Send follow-ups that are of value
Try to limit your follow-up notes to what’s important and highlight any agreed-on assignments.
If you send the entire team meeting minutes to your attendees, no one is likely to read through all of it.
14. Assess your meeting’s success
Finally, ask your remote team for their opinion on how well the meeting went.
Was the video conferencing method effective?
Did each employee feel included in the conversation?
You can do this as a face-to-face virtual discussion with an attendee or use an anonymous survey. Use the method that you think will offer you the most transparency.
Not only will this help gauge the success of your virtual team meeting, but you’ll also be able to identify room for improvement.
It’s no secret that virtual team meetings are essential for remote employees to collaborate with each other. And while you want to get the most out of a meeting, many virtual meetings can leave your team members feeling like they wasted a bunch of time.
Just use the tips and ideas we covered in this article to figure out what works for your virtual team meeting needs. With the right preparation, proper technology, and correct attitude, you can conduct an effective, engaging virtual meeting easily!
Liam Martin is a co-founder of Time Doctor which is software to improve productivity and help keep track and know what your team is working on, even when working from home.