This is a guest post by Rachel Go, who is a content strategist, SEO writer, and inbound marketer. She loves writing about remote work, productivity, and workplace culture. Connect with her on Twitter @rgo_go or on her website.
Meetings are widely regarded as a giant waste of time. Many times, everything that was said could have been summarized in an email. Meetings also cost the time of multiple members in a team, which means if you have a pointless 30 minute meeting with 10 people, it cost your business five hours (30 minutes x 10 participants).
In fact, unnecessary meetings in the United States resulted in a $37 billion loss in salary cost, according to Atlassian.
In a remote team, it may seem especially necessary to have virtual meetings for team building and discussion, since you don’t see your co-workers in an office every day. However, it’s important not to overdo it. Paul Graham of Y Combinator talks about the difference between a maker’s schedule vs. a manager’s. Whereas managers can compartmentalize their days and move efficiently between meetings and work, makers often need long periods of undisrupted time to produce work. If you pull your creatives away from their task just to attend a meeting, you’ll be disrupting their workflow, causing lost productivity. This is one of the many reasons you should put your focus on having effective meetings with your distributed team, and only when necessary.
Here are a few ways you can ensure effective virtual meetings.
#1 Make sure there is a need
Don’t call a meeting if the information could be as easily disseminated through an email. Not only will you be saving time by sending a message instead, you’ll also give your team members the option to look over the info when it fits their schedule.
If you want to discuss and brainstorm, consider doing it through chat apps like Slack or in your project management software. That way, everyone will be able to look through past messages to catch up.
#2 Don’t automatically schedule an hour
For many people, the default time they allot to a meeting is one hour. When we schedule something in our calendars, they automatically allot one full hour for it. However, an hour is a long time to spend in a meeting, and some of your team members may feel pressured to fill the entire hour with discussion points.
Change your calendar settings to default to 30 minutes per meeting, and let your team know meetings shouldn’t go past it.
Another tip; stick to the schedule. If you don’t get through everything, summarize the rest in your project management tool or put everything into a shared Google doc.
#3 Be selective about your invites
Only invite the people who are absolutely necessary. Sometimes we default to inviting an entire department, or the same people who were there at the last meeting, even if not everyone is necessary.
Evaluate who truly needs to be present at the meeting before sending out the invitations. That way you won’t waste anyone’s time and you can keep the meeting small and intimate.
#4 Work with your team’s schedule
When you meet with people from all around the world, there are special considerations; timezone, platform, and Internet connection are only a few.
Before your meeting, find the best times for everyone to meet. This is easily done through a shared calendar. Don’t forget to take local holidays into consideration.
#5 Test your gear beforehand
Before you have your meeting, make sure all of your gear is working and ask your team to do the same. They should be checking the quality of their Internet connection to determine if they can handle video meetings or it’ll be a voice-only call. They should also make sure their cameras and microphones are all working properly, and they have the necessary software installed.
#6 Send out the agenda in advance
Give your attendees enough time to review the agenda prior to the meeting. Showing everyone what topics are going to be covered in the meeting will give them an idea of what to expect, which will help keep everything on track. It will help them gather their questions and think about what they want to say.
#7 Record it
Virtual meetings can be even better than meetings in an office, because you can record everything that is said for future reference. Not only will your team members be able to attend the meeting from wherever is most convenient for them, they will also be able to play back recordings to make sure they didn’t miss anything.
Plus, if someone wasn’t able to make the meeting, you can just send a copy of the video!
If you want more tips, this infographic from Hubstaff lays out exactly how to run a remote meeting.