They say 9 out of 10 people daydream in meetings. The figure is bandied about the Internet a fair bit, and it’s not hard to imagine it’s true. It’s natural that the mind wanders when presented with information that doesn’t directly affect us – or simply when meetings are long enough.
Hillary Ferguson has already explained in a previous post the best way to host productive workplace meetings, namely:
- Be specific.
- Invite the right people.
- Have a meeting plan.
- Recap duties until the next meeting at the end.
But what if your employees do not have that base physical contact to go off? Remote meetings are especially at risk of going down the drain, because without a physical point of contact, your team members will be less sensitive to what’s going on – especially if it doesn’t directly involve them.
How can you ensure that a meeting is productive when you’re not even in the same room with all of your team members? Here are a few ideas:
1. Get Everyone Contributing
Just because you’re separated by space, that doesn’t mean that your team should give up on collaborating and communicating. In fact, remote teams need to communicate more than your standard office to ensure that they don’t become isolated and lose motivation. This should be a priority from the get-go with your employee onboarding.
The need for communication should be reflected in your remote meetings by getting every team member present to contribute something to the meeting – it’s not a lecture, after all. For example, back at Process Street, the system is that every member of the content team will have a turn to present their achievements since the last meeting, anything that requires approval, and any pitches they have. This is all done over a Skype call while utilizing a group Slack channel to store links to various resources.
By allowing each member to talk to the rest of the team, you ensuring that no member is isolated and communication outside of meetings is naturally encouraged. Not only this, but you’re also creating the framework for one hell of an efficient feedback loop with very few potential tangents: If every team member knows what they’re presenting, then there’s little room for unnecessary detours.
2. Know Your Tech
What comes into your head when you think “office meeting”? Although it may vary a little, chances are that you’ve pictured someone standing in front of a whiteboard or PowerPoint presentation, demonstrating what the latest graph shows to the rest of the room. Although cliched, this allows the rest of the participants to comment on their findings in real time very easily, without any barriers getting in the way.
Remote meetings do not have this luxury. There’s no room to stand up in, only a computer screen linking you to the other team members. While graphs can be sent to the rest of the team, watching a pie chart on screen while a voice explains what you can all clearly see is a surefire way to get everyone wandering off into their own heads.
The solution? Collaborative technology.
For example, if you have meeting notes, consider opening a shared section of Workflowy to allow everyone access. If you’re asking for approval of a blog post or marketing plan, put it in a Google Doc that’s accessible to everyone so that no content is walled off from anyone.
Not only does this allow the entire team to be aware of what’s going on, but it also instantly makes content relevant to all present in the meeting, as they have the resource available to view.
3. Re-Establish Visual Contact
Earlier, I mentioned the lack of physical contact being a problem for remote meetings and teams in general. Without being face-to-face, there’s a very serious risk of the dreaded sense of isolation setting in.
Well, who said that just because you aren’t in the same room, you can’t see each other?
By holding a meeting using a Skype video call or Google Hangouts (our preference at Process Street), you re-establish the vital face-to-face connection which naturally ensures that your team will be more alert and aware of themselves. Rather than daydream in a video call, the whole team will make the extra effort to stay focused, as everyone can see everyone else – and potentially call them out on their lack of attention.
In short, yes, remote meetings can make it much harder to keep the whole “room” engaged. However, if you play your cards right, these meetings can be as productive as their office counterparts – and perhaps even more so!
Benjamin Brandall is a writer for Process Street.