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7 Keys to Remote Meetings with Your Distributed Team

remote meetingsDistributed teams are becoming more and more popular in today’s work environment. Many people are even saying that remote teams are the future.

And it’s no surprise. With distributed teams, you can work with talent from all over the world, save money on overhead, and employees are actually more engaged.

Yes, distributed teams can work well.

But there is a distinct disadvantage: the lack of in-person, face-to-face communication.

And that makes remote team meetings all the more important. They allow you to shape the culture of the team, bridge the psychological distance between members, align members with the team’s objective, and provide an open line of communication.

This article will guide you on how to run a good team meeting, so you can accomplish all of those things. Think of these meetings as the glue that keeps your team together.

Here are 5 keys to successful remote meetings with your distributed team.

1. Keep it small

One of the most important parts of a remote meeting is that you keep members engaged (we’ll talk about how to do this in key #3). It’s difficult to keep members engaged when either their presence isn’t really necessary for the meeting, or there are just too many people on the call for everyone to give input.

Additionally, too many people can lead to distracting background noise, latecomers affecting the meeting start time, and other inconveniences. The smaller the group, the easier it is to keep people accountable, on time, and focus.

So, keep meetings small and limit the number of participants. If they aren’t sharing or getting important information, they probably don’t need to be at the meeting.

Instead of longer meetings where members only get and give a small amount of necessary information in relation to their time spent on the call, consider running more frequent shorter meetings, where each member has a bigger role.

2. Have a set topic or goal

Every meeting should have a clear objective, even if it’s just a weekly check-in meeting. And you should communicate it with team members beforehand. That way, the team understands exactly what needs to be accomplished and is focused on achieving that goal.

3. Make sure people come prepared

Another reason a goal is important is that keeps people on track prior to the meeting, working on projects that are related to, or necessary for the completion of the goal that is set.

There’s nothing worse than conducting a meeting without the information you need to make decisions. If information or analytics needs to be collected, if spreadsheets need to be filled in, if content needs to be written, you want your team to come prepared.

Every time someone says, “I need to look into that,” or “I’ve gotta do some digging,” a decision gets pushed back. When goals and topics are set, however, the digging and preparing can come beforehand.

4. Make it engaging

Keep in mind—distributed team members won’t be in an office where you can make sure they stay on task. They’ll be attending the meeting from their laptops, so at any time, they can start multitasking and get distracted. When this happens, the meeting is much less effective.

To prevent this, try to keep team members engaged throughout the meeting.

There are a number of ways to do this.

  • Give everyone an opportunity to add something to the agenda that they’d like to discuss. This involves them from the getgo, which can help keep them focused throughout.
  • Set expectations. Be explicit that you expect everyone’s undivided attention, and that that means no email, no web browsing, etc.
  • Ask spontaneous questions. Involve people, by name, much like you would in a classroom. When attendees know they might get called on any time, they’re more likely to stay engaged.
  • Have something to look at. Screen sharing technology can greatly improve engagement. It also makes information easier to process and understand.

5. Take charge and direct the meeting

As the leader of a remote meeting, it’s important to take charge and make sure everyone stays on task. So, if someone is rambling and going off on a tangent, or giving irrelevant or unnecessary information, chime in and bring the meeting back to its focus. Straying a little is okay if value is being added, but it’s important to keep the meeting goal in mind and maintain the structure.

Not everything that’s said during the meeting needs to be dealt with while everyone is on the line. Know when to say, “OK, you and Jane can work on that later” or “I like that idea, but I think we need to tackle X and Y before we start getting into that.”

6. Set a time limit and stick to it

Time is a great way to keep structure of the meeting, and maintain productive discussion throughout. Plus, it fairer to your team that they can schedule work around the meeting with reasonable flexibility.

7. Choose the right software

To successfully run a good remote meeting, you need to use the right software. What tools and features will you need for the meeting? Here are some popular features you might look for:

  • Recording. Your software should allow you to record the meeting, so you can watch it back and review your presentation, as well as send it to anyone who couldn’t attend.
  • Screen sharing. This allows you to quickly and easily share important and engaging information with the attendees
  • Easy scheduling with reminders. It’s very helpful if your platform is able to send automatic email and/or SMS reminders to participants before the meeting starts. Recurring meeting scheduling is helpful as well if you host your meeting weekly, monthly, etc.
  • Audio teleconferencing. Attendees should be able to call in, in case they don’t have access to a computer or internet connection during the meeting time.

Conclusion

There are many advantages of distributed teams, but in order to keep your team functioning at its best, you need to have a solid communication structure in place. Timely, well-run meetings, and reliable software like MeetingBurner help provide this structure and keep your remote team going strong.

What has been your biggest struggle with remote meetings? Do you have any tips that we didn’t mention here? Tweet us or comment below and let us know!