It all happened so quickly. Suddenly, you’re working from home with no training whatsoever on how to be effective while working from home.
How do you prevent loneliness from creeping in?
Do you continue weekly meetings or postpone them until further notice?
How do you make sure your team knows you’re available?
It’s all a bit daunting. But, if you follow this guide, you’ll be on your way to the most effective and productive meetings you’ve ever had in your career. Are you ready?
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What tools you need
Phone calls work fine, but there’s something to be said for seeing a person’s face while talking to them. Use calls for quick updates.
At ETW, we use Google Hangouts and definitely recommend it. It has high-quality video and audio, screen-sharing capabilities, and it generates real-time captions to help you understand what other people are saying. Skype is another option for those non-G-suite people out there.
Zoom is also another popular option, although you have to download software which is a bit less convenient than simply clicking a link and boom…you’re in the meeting.
If you can’t find time to have a meeting, we use Loom to record feedback or give an update.
An interactive agenda
Create an “interactive agenda” for your team to engage with ahead of time. Add 3–4 agenda items that must be discussed and allow people to comment with their ideas or feedback.
In our team, the meeting organizer will send a meeting invite with a link to the meeting agenda. Everyone reviews the agenda and adds discussion points with their ideas, questions, and feedback.
The agenda is your yellow brick road. It helps you guide the conversation and stay on track with the purpose of the meeting.
Require everyone to review the agenda and contribute to the discussion at least 24 hours before the meeting. This empowers your team to come prepared to make decisions and reduce wasted time.
We use our own software tool to create an interactive agenda, add discussion points, and list action items.
You can also use a Google doc to create a simple interactive agenda.
A tool like Doodle can help you find a common time to meet between different schedules. Everyone selects a few times that work for them and then you can see the most common time slot. If you have people in different time zones, the World Clock Meeting Planner allows you to put in multiple cities to help you find a suitable meeting time.
Etiquette for online meetings
When the team enters into the meeting, the expectations should be very clear about what everyone is doing and how to interact in the meeting. Set meeting guidelines for everyone to follow. We put this in our software tool and take a minute to review it at the start of every meeting.
Is this a meeting where everyone can speak freely or is it a meeting where one person calls on a specific person to contribute?
Should everyone have their camera turned on or just the presenter?
Does everyone need to mute themselves while others are speaking to prevent interruptions?
Should you limit each person’s speaking time to make sure everyone gets a chance to speak?
Our team chooses to mute ourselves while others are speaking to prevent any background noises, notifications, or sneezing. Remember to add a pause to let other people unmute themselves.
Another thing to keep in mind is the camera background. Things like a highway, busy doorway or playground could get distracting for the others watching you. Aim to be in front of a blank wall.
Keep the meeting to less than 10 people. In some cases, you might need to have a larger all-hands meeting, but that will change the dynamic of the meeting as most people won’t get a chance to talk and there’s more risk for background noise. For extra-large team updates, use your webinar software and enable the comment functionality to encourage questions. We use Livestorm.
Some other guidelines that are just common courtesy:
- No multi-tasking. Focus on the meeting, even if you’re just listening.
- No interrupting.
- Silence notifications on your computer and phone.
- Be online five minutes early to make sure your video, sound, and internet connection is working properly.
Make guidelines that are reasonable and make sense for your team or that specific meeting.
How to keep people engaged
Set the tone for the meeting
In our team meetings, we like to play an anthem like Eye of the Tiger to get everybody amped. We work with some teams who use the first 5 minutes as storytelling to either inspire the team or make them laugh.
If you’re hoping to deepen your relationship with the team, spend the first few minutes catching up on each other’s lives or hearing people’s perspectives on what’s happening in the world.
Once the meeting has started, keep the length of it as short as possible because the sense of urgency tends to keep people more focused.
Get everyone on the same page
For our team, this is a meeting called What’s Most Important.
All of our teams operate using an adaptation of the Scrum framework, primarily the Sprint process. We commit to complete a set amount of work within a two-week time frame. To kick off our sprint we start with a What’s Most Important meeting with the whole company to keep all the teams aligned. We set aside one hour for this meeting but we usually finish it in 45 minutes.
Our agenda consists of four items:
The facilitator gives a 5–10 minute check-in on any company updates. This might be a new strategy deck for the team to review, an updated budget plan, or any admin announcements.
2. KPI Review
Team leads share the status of their KPIs. We focus on our sales and product KPIs as that’s what is most important for us right now.
3. What’s most important as an organization
Every organization has a Most Important Number. It might be net revenue, effectiveness, or the number of lives saved. Ours is EBITDA and we review this as a team every two weeks.
4. What’s most important for each team
Each team shares an update on the 2–3 “drivers” or themes of work they will focus on during this sprint. For example, a main driver for marketing might be lead generation. This is the rest of the team’s opportunity to challenge whether or not the drivers are actually what’s most important for the organization.
How to stay emotionally connected to your team
When you’re in the office every day, you’re able to stop by someone’s office for a chat or grab lunch with other team members. This helps you feel more engaged in your work and connected to the people on your team. When you’re working from home it can be more difficult to connect and build rapport with people from behind a screen.
Showing up to the meeting early gives you a chance to connect with your team and reduce the loneliness that can come from being remote.
We have a #general slack channel where we share work and life updates, stories, jokes, articles, learnings, GIFs, and memes.
Use Donut for Slack to connect two people as “buddies” for the week. Once people are matched they can do a video chat to find out about each other’s role in the company, share their work, and get to know each other on a personal level.
Some of our clients implement fun traditions like a weekly virtual happy hour or a virtual team lunch.
Don’t let the work get lost in the wind. The follow-up is crucial to making these remote meetings effective.
Your follow-up should include:
- Positive reinforcement for good behaviors (i.e. It was so helpful that everyone came prepared!)
- Reiterate any decisions that were made
- A list of action items, who is responsible for them, and when they need to be completed
- What you can improve about the meeting next time
In your 1-on-1 meetings check in with your direct reports on what they think about the meetings and how you can improve them. You could even send a short, anonymous feedback survey if you have trouble getting real feedback.
Remote team meetings can feel daunting at first, but if you follow the steps in this guide it’ll be a piece of cake.