“Hi, who just joined?” — no more.
In the new era of work, being in an office is no longer a reality for a lot of employees, a lot of them working from home or coworking spaces. At the same time, the need to collaborate is higher than ever. Constant innovation is as important to companies as immediate financial results, if not more. New online collaboration platforms and communication tools popping up everywhere with key leaders (Google, Zoom, and Slack among others) allowing thousands of companies co-create amazing products and services while not sharing the same physical space.
Video conference calls are new meetings rooms. It’s also no longer a comical spectacle of ‘Hi, who just joined?’ repetitions and ‘Sorry I was on mute’ lies (Oh the old times!). Now its video conferencing, where you can see the person, the name, send a direct message, collaborate on shared screen — basically feel like you’re all in the same room, while (potentially) still being in your pj's. And once you finished you can review the recording or share the transcript. Whole different game.
Video conferencing also means you can schedule them back to back and not have a luxury of staying overtime. Calls have to be efficient, productive, engaging and leave you with a positive aftertaste. How do we achieve it? Here are a few ideas!
Before the call
Technology: Assuming you have chosen the right tools for the call and the collaboration platform, make sure it works for everyone. Test your internet connection, mic, headphones etc. Don’t be that person!
Timezones: Know where your teams are and find the time that works for everyone. If someone needs to stay up late for this or wake up before dawn, you’re doing this wrong. Be considerate.
- Plan the meeting.
Plan what you need to cover during the call. Then define what would a successful outcome look like. What decision absolutely needs to be taken before the call ends?
Plan the time that the team will realistically need to achieve the call’s objective. Also, plan for a few minutes of small talk and potential sidetracking. It will happen and if not — it’s always better to finish the call a little earlier than to overrun.
2. Share the agenda, the objective and preparation work.
Share the agenda and the key goal of the meeting with the participants in advance. Attach the documents you want them to read. Let them know if you want them to prepare any data.
Allow them to be prepared, it’ll only help with the efficiency of your meeting. Then at the beginning of the call go over the agenda and what needs to be achieved. Maybe copy it into the call chat window. This way you all share the responsibility of making sure the call is successful.
3. Invite the right people.
Generally, the fewer participants the better as long as you have the right people. Everyone’s time is valuable, so if someone’s participation is not adding value let them spend their time adding value somewhere else. Share transcript or recording with people who need to listen in. These people won’t feel engaged anyway if their participation is not needed.
For those invited, if it's not crystal clear — explain why their participation in the call is important. No one wants to be on the call if they have no clue why they were invited.
4. Avoid Surprises
Avoid catching people off guard. Besides making people uncomfortable, you will not give them enough time to organize their thoughts or collect information they might need. And it’s in everyone’s best interest that we come to the meeting ready to make informed decisions.
So give people enough notice if you need something prepared before the call, share agenda in advance, provide questions you might expect answers to. Let everyone manage their own preparation in their own time.
During the call
5. Make people feel comfortable.
People who know each other personally, share experiences or fun stories, tend to feel more comfortable discussing work-related topics too. Working remotely, a lot of these experiences become a luxury not everyone has. What to do? Make people as comfortable and familiar to each other as possible in a little time that you have.
- If the team comes together for the first time, introduce everyone in the beginning. If not, skip the formalities!
- Use video conferencing if possible. Seeing faces makes someone you never met a more familiar face (pun intended!).
- Enjoy a little small talk in the beginning (budget some time for this too!). Tell a quick funny story to lighten the mood.
Share a few basic tasks with the participants. Not only because it’ll keep them focused, but also you won't have to do everything yourself. Someone should make sure the meeting runs on time, someone can take notes of next steps and someone else can manage ‘the parking lot’ (questions and topic you don't have time to discuss now, but will come back to later).
Saying this, don’t create unnecessary work. Not everyone needs to have a role.
7. Stick to the plan
Following the plan is one way to show the team you care about their time. Don’t be the crazy timekeeper, but do keep your eye on the watch.
Going off topic is ok as long as we’re coming back to it. If you’re on track — it’s ok to get slightly sidetracked. If you’re behind — remind the team of how much you all need to accomplish.
8. Be inclusive.
People come to the call to participate and if they don’t participate, maybe they shouldn’t be on the call! Make it easier for them to feel comfortable to contribute. Avoid making it a lecture or a conversation between 2–3 most engaged people.
Get people talking during the call, ask questions, encourage contributions by making it clear you value each opinion. Ask direct questions. Try to avoid asking about ‘everyone’ or questions that ask for criticism (“Is everyone happy with it?”). Instead, address specific people and make questions more positive (“Is there anything you think we should add?”).
If the conversation is overshadowed by a few very active participants, make sure you find the time to involve those who kept a little quieter. Some people find it hard to interrupt others and would appreciate if you ask their opinion directly. Even better, make sure there is a way to contribute without shouting over others’ — a chat, or a collaboration document where people can type their ideas.
9. Be respectful.
Run meeting with the expectation of being polite, respecting each other opinion, hearing the concerns. Hearing others and not just waiting to give your own opinion, which means allowing people to finish their thoughts before jumping in with yours. Losing patience will not serve the meeting or the key objective set.
Also, respect each others time — try to avoid major side-tracking, background noise, be on time, don’t pick up your phone or reply messages while on the conference call.
11. Stay positive.
We all want to be productive, but we also don’t want to be miserable while doing it. Remember you’re all here to achieve the same goal.
After the call
12. Send follow up notes.
If you didn’t send a follow-up email. Did the meeting even happen?... Just kidding. No, but seriously. Don’t forget to follow up.
For participants — send a reminder of agreed actions, their owners, timelines and next steps. For people not on the call — topics discussed, decisions made and next steps.