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These days, many teams have quickly shifted to working remotely in order to support employee health and safety, and abide by social distancing rules. Many organizations are scrambling, having had little time to prepare to lead from a distance. An essential part of collaborating effectively in a remote work environment is maintaining connection, communication, and community via virtual gatherings, but holding meetings remotely can come with a steep learning curve.

The good news is there are simple ground rules that can make for smoother, more effective virtual meetings.

Provide the tools and training necessary.

If you haven’t already implemented video conferencing tools, checking out platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts is a great place to start. Once you’ve selected a tool and given each team member access, remember to provide adequate support to get them up to speed quickly.

Reduce the potential for anxiety, overwhelm, and “systems overload” by providing brief one-page “quick start” guide to get everyone up and running with the basics. Designate a tech-savvy in-house expert to help team members try out and troubleshoot new technology before meetings to work out the kinks in advance. Use the inevitable blooper moments that happen as you all learn the software as opportunities to share a laugh (which, let’s be honest, we could all use more of these days).

Focus on the small talk.

In-person meetings provide organic opportunities for small talk and interpersonal connection before and after discussing business. When you’re all joining online, these natural opportunities to check in with each other don’t happen as easily. Couple that with reduced ability to read body language, and you can easily misinterpret how participants are feeling. Maintain authentic connections and boost morale by establishing routines to kick-off your meetings with some structured small talk. Some suggestions:

  • A moment of gratitude – each participant shares something that happened in the last 24 hours that they’re grateful for
  • A short guided meditation / opportunity to breathe together and “ground” as a team (this one may not work for every work culture)
  • A one sentence (or one word if you’re short on time) description of how each participant is currently feeling

Establish etiquette.

Make ground rules for virtual meetings clear, so that everyone knows what to expect. If conventions aren’t communicated, online meetings are less likely to be productive.  

Send out a clear, detailed agenda ahead of time so that participants can prepare properly, and you can cover as much ground as possible. Appoint a moderator, so that everyone knows who is responsible for keeping the meeting flowing, time keeping, and getting through the agenda items. Communicate etiquette via email beforehand, so that everyone is on the same page with basics, like keeping mics on mute when not in use, raising a hand virtually when you have something to add, or identifying yourself before you share so everyone knows who is talking. Finally make sure you follow up promptly post meeting with minutes, recordings, and any action items, so that everyone is clear on next steps.

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In these uncertain times, we’re all pulling together for ourselves, for our teams, for our communities, and the world. If you need a hand getting your remote team up and running quickly, reach out to chat – we’re here for you.

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