Holding an online team meeting with your overseas staff is certainly different to hosting an in-person meeting and comes with various challenges. From connectivity issues to people talking over one another, to the discomfort of seeing yourself on video while you’re talking, to different time zones, there are certain difficulties that can come up in online meetings and turn them into a waste of time for everybody.
Luckily, there are ways to deal with them before they happen and ensure your virtual team meetings are valuable. Here are a few useful things to remember to do if you’re hosting one.
Along with the usual planning you need to do before leading a meeting, such as what you want to discuss, you need to plan an online meeting with technical considerations in mind. This means:
Making sure you and those attending the meeting know how to use the virtual conferencing software (i.e. Zoom) you’ll be using
Changing the settings of the software beforehand to make it automatically admit participants with the meeting link
Ensuring your internet connection is stable and that your camera and audio work
Bearing in mind attendees' time zones
Choosing the right conferencing platform for your needs, with the highest quality and most easy-to-use features.
In addition, make sure you have a quiet space with no distractions where you can go for your online meetings.
Keep everyone as engaged as possible
First, if you’re leading the meeting, don’t drone on. No one wants to listen to you perform a monologue. Break up the information you’re delivering into short chunks of speech so you can better hold people’s focus, which may be prone to drift more in an online meeting. Consider basic communication skills
Second, don’t be the only one talking – encourage others to participate and give them room to speak. This is especially important for the introverts and new hires in the meeting. Some ways to do this are to ask for people’s input and ideas, allow time for relaxed chat to get everyone comfortable with talking, asking questions, and organising virtual activities.
Third, encourage active listening by demonstrating it yourself. This means showing you have heard people by asking them about or summarising what they just said.
Practice basic virtual meeting etiquette
While this may be stating the obvious, you should the same demonstrate common courtesy in an online meeting as you would in a face-to-face one. That includes not checking your emails and texts while people are speaking; even though they’re not in the same room, they still might notice you’re distracted. Dress as smartly as you would for an in-person meeting (that means wearing pants).
In terms of etiquette that applies specifically to virtual meetings, make sure your audio, video, screen sharing tools, and Wi-Fi are all working.
To sum up…
With remote work becoming the norm due to the COVID-19 restrictions on going into the office, companies with an overseas workforce are no longer alone in having to rely on virtual means of communication and collaboration. There are plenty of online conference platforms to choose from and lots of advice out there on how to use them and host virtual meetings well. Although it might feel difficult at first, you can hold effective, productive meetings online and keep your team on track.