These are difficult times! Now with more and more teams working remotely, there’s more dependency on remote meetings via web or tele conferencing, but they’re often not as productive. What happens is that we try to have the same meeting we could have if they were all there in the same room, but it’s a totally different medium, a different experience. OK some of the same basic rules apply, but remote meetings have some very different characteristics. How often do we sit on conference calls with no idea why we’re there or how we can contribute? And we find other things to occupy us! So, here are some tips to make your remote meetings more engaging and productive.
Even before you set the agenda make sure the right people are on the call, only the ones that NEED to be there. Get in touch with them individually, explain what you’re trying to achieve, and make sure they can be there, want to be there and need to be there. Sure, you can insist that people join, but that isn't a great motivator is it?
On a conference call, it’s hard to know if people are really on the same page. The Harvard Business Review conducted a survey about what people get up to during conference calls, and the answers probably won’t surprise you:
So best get people onside first.
But this is remote meeting so make it short, sharp and punchy, this will increase focus and save time. Make sure the call details are logged clearly, the web address, or the phone number, dial in protocols, pin numbers, so that you make it easy for people. Don’t expect them to remember that the details were on that other email chain from 3 weeks ago!
In remote meetings it is more difficult to focus for long periods, so if you try to get too much done, then your team’s attention span will wane, and they’ll drift off. All of those involved must be bought in to all the items on the agenda and so this is why we keep it short and focused, otherwise people will drift off when it’s not relevant to them. And if it’s not relevant to them they shouldn’t be on the call.
Sure, conference calls are not social gatherings, but these are strange times and it’s important that the meetings, with more and more people are working remotely, aren’t just transactional. So, don’t forget the human element. Check everyone is OK, allow a bit of social ‘catch up’ time to understand how people are doing and build a bit of morale.
If it’s just you doing all the speaking then people’s energy levels will deplete and they’ll get distracted and find other stuff to do. So, make sure they HAVE to and WANT to contribute. Set this out in the agenda:
“John to speak for 5 minutes to update us on the Lute Project”
“Sarah to take us through the progress on the ERP implementation”
And you can ask ‘round robin’ questions to keep the team engaged and alert:
“Martha what do you think of the point John made earlier?”
“Over to you Tom, how do you think we should approach this?”
This will help them stay focused, all of them will contribute, you’ll achieve your goals, and the team will be OK about having another dial-in meeting.
It’s also helpful if you have a visual aid that you send everyone, so you can make sure you’re all on the same page. This could be an agenda, or a PowerPoint or a set of figures, just a focal point that you can all follow together. Then you can say: “If we look at last year’s sales figures,” or “Let’s get to item three on the agenda,” or “Let’s all focus on slide four,” and everyone can have it in front of them and see where you’re up to. This allows you to draw attention to the key points and ask specific questions, and that will focus everyone’s mind, just in case they’re asked next!
During these difficult times, more people will be remote working and so will be having conference and video calls to keep in touch. It’s really important to make these as worthwhile as possible, both in terms of being productive, and keeping the team together.