Just because your team is not at a table in front of you doesn’t mean you can’t communicate with them and guide them during a project. As with a normal meeting, there will be the issue with setting a good time, ensuring everyone shows up and making sure you deliver all the right information. The key is learning tools that can help you run a successful meeting, in person or virtually!
Scheduling Will Always Be an Issue
Virtual teams have a harder time scheduling meetings because the team members are not in the same location. Some team members are in different time zones, others work different hours while the rest may be constantly traveling. One tip for managing the team’s time schedules is to keep a log or chart of a team member’s location, working hours and where they could be assigned later. With this tool, you can determine prime times to hold virtual meetings that won’t conflict with someone’s schedule.
If different meetings need to be held, plan a schedule with the team regarding a rotation of team members staying late or coming in early to cover meeting times. Many team members are happy to abide by a schedule in which they can give their opinions. Be sure to remind the team of any consequence that can occur for not sticking with the schedule or not participating in the meeting, such as written warnings and disciplinary actions on their record. Understand that some team members may still be hard to schedule even with adjustments. So have an alternate solution handy in case a team member cannot attend group meetings. Be flexible with team members that attend meetings outside of their normal work hours, offer the next day off or maybe a half day.
Have a Clear Objective and Agenda
An agenda is very important to have in any meeting and is more so in a virtual meeting because it keeps everyone on the same track. Outline what you want to discuss and accomplish from the meeting and jot down ideas on how you can make them happen. Include specific topics that need to be reviewed and events that have happened with the team. The team needs to know there is a clear objective of the meeting and that it is not a waste of their production time. Share your agenda with the rest of the team so they can be aware of the purpose of the meeting and what they can contribute.
Tips for sharing your agenda:
- Include it in a mass email so the team members can read it ahead of time.
- On video calls, have the agenda displayed at all times on the screen.
- For conference call meetings, read over the agenda first and allow the team members to take notes.
Solicit Additional Topics in Advance
Soliciting ideas before the actual meeting is an important tool to use when creating your agenda for the meeting. Speak with your team and ask if they have any additional topics they would like included in the meeting agenda. Sometimes after the team members are aware of the original agenda, ideas or topics are added to the plate, either by management or other team members. However, don’t leave these new topics as a surprise for the other meeting attendees.
It is important to share these additional topics with the team before they ‘arrive’ at the meeting so that they can be prepared and don’t feel as though they were blindsided. When the team knows of the meeting topics ahead of time, they are able to research the topic ahead of time and be able to make a meaningful contribution when they participate in the next meeting.
Discourage Just Being a Status Report
Status report type information can be sent through email or other electronic messages because it often does not include much of a response from the team. It is generally one-sided information that is meant to be informative, not discussed in depth. One of the problems of a virtual meeting is that the moderator will do most of the talking and presenting, leaving the other team members feeling as though they are only there to hear the latest status report. The same can go for team members that come to the meeting to share their information and then sit out for the rest of the time. Encourage team members to ask questions and take notes on the information given. Set aside time for team members to share ideas with one another and engage in conversation or debate about the meeting topics. These meetings are meant to be a time of learning and interaction, not just one-sided information sharing.