Anyone who’s worked on a distributed team knows the value of meetings. Not only do they serve to update your team on the current progress and ensure everyone is on the same page as to the tasks and milestones, but they also help build a strong team culture, foster collaborative spirit, and mutual understanding.
When in-person communication is technically impossible, here’s when meeting software comes to the rescue. Fortunately, there are lots of tools out there, including meeting transcription software, aimed at facilitating team interactions.
In this article, we will explore how you can boost the effectiveness of remote meetings. But first, we will briefly outline the ever so familiar teleconferencing problems and issues.
Nowadays, technologies enable cross-cultural teams to keep the lines of communication open, even in spite of different time-zones. According to FUZE research, as much as 87% of employees worldwide currently work on distributed teams, so teleconferencing has already become mainstream.
The obstacles that stand in the way of making remote communication effective, however, are not solely limited to the time difference…
Some challenges are purely technical: for example, poor connection speed may create non-synchronicity and seriously hamper the conversation. Noises in the background may interfere; and even if you use the mute button, you are still distracted by the sounds in your own environment.
Other frequent issues include:
– Undefined (or loosely defined) structure and timing.
As a result, meetings tend to take up lots of time and disrupt the work schedule. Also, some reports take up a disproportionately longer time than others.
– Clash of cultures and ethics.
This often happens in cross-cultural teams. A different attitude towards interruptions or being late may pose a serious communication problem.
– Failing to derive useful insights.
Every team meeting, especially well-structured, presents a plethora of data. Failing to make use of it stands in the way of unleashing the full remote communication potential and even contradicts their purpose.
Simply put, meetings are futile if they aren’t followed up by a concrete action plan.
– Not letting everyone have their say.
Chances are, the coworker who didn’t show up to a team briefing today was the one you neglected during the previous meeting.
Failing to include anyone may seriously impair motivation and negatively impact the workers’ engagement and overall job satisfaction.
Fortunately, with remote collaboration becoming mainstream, teams are gradually developing best practices for overcoming remote communication challenges.
Here’s our take on how you can make remote meetings more effective and use them to your benefit:
As easy as it may sound, establishing the perfect time for a conference call may require consideration and effort. Especially for remote teams with big time-zone difference – your early morning may be the time your co-workers on the other side of the globe go to sleep.
Regardless of what you eventually find most effective – daily standups or bi-weekly Friday get-togethers, take time to set up your optimal remote meeting schedule.
Setting up the structure is easy when you know exactly how much time the conference call is going to take.
The structure should outline the essential points you don’t want to miss, like, for example, your manager’s pep talk, plans and achievements of each worker, challenges and issues, clients’ feedback, etc.
Some teams give every co-worker a fixed time-span to report their plans and achievements.
At this point, you should already understand that meetings have to have an “owner” – an employee, responsible for overseeing their structure and ensuring that everyone sticks to the agenda.
His responsibilities may extend to transcription meeting minutes and send a follow-up summary and action plan after each call.
Let’s face it – working remotely makes it difficult to build interpersonal relationships. We normally tend to stick to the very essence during virtual meetings and often omit details, which seem unimportant, but may create rapport and connection.
Dedicating some time to a friendly chat will help your remote colleagues establish personal bonds. A Google research suggests that even starting your teleconference with an open question like “What are you guys working on today?” may help liven up otherwise too formal meetings.
Creating a set of rules for keeping up the team culture is also helpful. Rules like “we try to be present and focused”, “we use video-chat to see each others’ facial expressions”, and “we use the mute button to mute noises in the background” may enhance personal interactions and boost meetings effectiveness.
As for video conferencing, it’s effectiveness has been proven statistically. In fact, IMCCA has reported, 9 out 0f 10 workers say they feel a better connection towards their fellow employees if they use video.
Meeting transcriptions are among the best practices that successful remote teams use. By keeping track of what was said, they foster clarity and help eliminate unnecessary conflict. We’re only human, and it is impossible to remember everything.
Fortunately, meeting transcription apps like Audext capture exactly what was said and automatically convert audio or video recordings into text, for easy reference.
Keeping track of meeting minutes also helps the team to go back to what was previously discussed, if necessary. It also helps to create a follow-up summary and an action plan for the future.
When it comes to meeting transcriptions, examples abound: most companies now record board conferences, strategic planning meetings, and performance reviews. The records help to evaluate meetings and derive valuable insights.
As said above, every team communication contains a plethora of data, both obvious and not-so-evident. Use meeting transcription software to keep track of the dynamics and conversational patterns.
— Who tends to dominate the conversation and who’s the quiet one?
— Whose reports are often repetitive and who reports the most progress?
Further, the meetings’ transcriptions can be archived for future reference and used as a source of insights and ideas.
In terms of communication skills, not all people were created equal. Some are ardent talkers, some tend to keep quiet and only speak up when addressed to. If you let the conversation loose, you will probably end up with a few outgoing team members dominating the stage.
Encourage everyone to have their say and speak in turns to include everyone. Establishing the structure and giving each team member a fixed time-span to report, rant or ask for help, is an actionable means of motivating your team and emphasizing that you are ready to give your equal undivided attention to everyone.
It may turn out that your quiet colleagues have been waiting to offer insightful ideas and suggestions.
An anonymous survey may help you discover how your remote employees actually treat meetings: a) as annoying distractions b) as boring but necessary chores c) as important and inspirational events.
Ask for suggestions. Chances are, you will find this info revealing and learn there’s lots of room for improvement.
Some organizations go as far as running such surveys after each conference call, but it’s up to you to decide how often you want to ask your team for opinion.
Remote team meetings may differ in terms of their timing, duration, structure, and purpose.
One general rule of thumb is not letting things slide and adopting a proactive approach to ensuring the effectiveness of communication with your remote teams.
Ironically, such thing as the easy and spontaneous conversation takes lots of preparation and planning, but it’s ultimately worth the effort.
Katrin runs her own podcast show, and interested in best ways to transcribe audio recordings into text.