HR Insights 4 min

A Video Conferencing Guide for Remote Teams

January 24, 2019
Updated April 24, 2020

Make the Most Out of your Online Meetings

The modern workplace has progressed to a great extent with remote meetings making it possible for individuals from different parts of the world to connect online. Organizations with remote staff or teams use virtual meetings for regular interactions and employee performance management. This is why you need to understand how the system works to make it work for your outfit.

The question now is how to maximize the efficiency of remote meetings considering that participants come from different parts of the world. Since distance is the primary challenge, hosts of online meetings must see to it that everyone is on the same page; the team stays focused during the entire conference; there is a clear format and agenda with fixed expectations; and, the time of each participant is not wasted. The remote meeting becomes successful if each member of the team is clear on what needs to be accomplished after the call.

Choice of Right Tool

How do you choose the most effective tool for remote conferencing?  According to the most recent video marketing stats, more than 50% of marketing professionals globally consider video as the form of content that guarantees the best Return on Investment. Thus, meeting organizers must put in place computers with functional video cameras and technology for streamlining processes as well as online meeting tools with features for screen-sharing and recording. This platform spares attendees or taking notes manually and focuses on the discussions instead.

Consider the right number of participants. Remote meetings via certain live chat software can be effective only for small groups of two up to 10 individuals. Otherwise, more people on the call can limit the capability of participants to effectively contribute to the discussion. Likewise, select the proper software and key functionality needed for a successful virtual collaboration. This includes the ZOOM screen sharing program, attendee attention-tracking feature, and waiting room feature which allows hosts to control attendees joining the meeting. As a host, you can admit participants individually or invite them to a waiting room before admitting everybody simultaneously.

Proper Scheduling of Meetings

When working remotely, you need to schedule virtual meetups properly considering different time zones and conflicting schedules of participants. The time zone refers to the local time of a particular country or region. There are more than 24 time zones with some only 30 or 45 minutes away from each other. For example, the Eastern Standard Time or EST is five hours behind the UTC or Coordinated Universal Time. Many US States and Canada use EST. Pacific Standard Time (PST), on the other hand, is eight hours behind UTC.

Some tools that can assist you in choosing a suitable time frame for team meetings are the following:

  1. Every Time Zone which contains a useful slider so you can see the current time across various zones.
  2. World Clock Meeting Planner courtesy of timeanddate.com which enables the user to input locations of team members and come up with a table of proposed meeting times.
  3. World Time Buddy which allows adding attendees’ locations and creates a table that indicates the time in each location.

At the same time, agree on the online meeting guidelines, prepare the talking points or topics, updates and well-defined tasks to maximize your conversations. Decide on an agenda before the meeting so attendees will know the topics for discussion. Aside from talking points, formulate a structure and time allotted for each point, team members in attendance, and relevant files, research and documents.

Guidelines or parameters refer to the directions and expectations on how each team or member will contribute to the discussion. The host must be well-versed in managing the virtual space. For instance, is the discussion free for all or will the host call on the person when it is his or her time to speak? Is everyone allowed to turn on the camera or microphone or should it just be the presenter?

Ideally, participants must mute their mics while someone is speaking to prevent technical interruptions. Ideally, the agenda and standards must be sent to all participants at least 24 hours before the scheduled meeting.

Ensure Perfect Audio and Visual Experience

Nothing less than perfect audio and video experience will certainly keep participants engaged in a remote meeting. With the use of video conference tools, it sometimes becomes easier to get distracted if other team members see one scrolling through social media sites. Try to follow these tips to build the necessary connection with your group and avoid distractions that can ruin the online meeting’s outcome.

  1. Use your video camera. Seeing eye to eye and reading body language makes it easier for you to understand colleagues better. And you can keep their attention for much longer.
  2. Eye contact is vital. Look at the camera directly to convey to the other person the feeling that you are looking straight into their eyes. In the case of multi-person calls, the other persons cannot tell that you’re looking at them. Therefore, mention the person’s name if you are speaking to someone.
  3. Be aware of your background. Your working space should be quiet and have proper lighting. Minimize the noise by closing your window, turning off or putting your mobile phone in silent mode and turning off the radio or television. Mute the microphone if it is not your turn to speak. Through these measures, your peers will not hear unnecessary noise like breathing, coughing or banging of objects.
  4. Do not multitask such carrying on side conversations, browsing the web, easting, and drinking. That would be considered a form of rudeness to other participants.
  5. Give everybody the chance to talk. Do not interrupt anyone (or attempt to speak over) who is making a presentation or giving reactions.

Correct Protocol for Remote Meetings

As a practice, online and face to face meetings follow different rules and benchmarks. However, it is necessary to prescribe fundamental decorum to facilitate a smooth and hassle-free virtual meeting experience while managing workplace stress.

  1. Introduce each participant formally before starting the presentation and discussions. Give each member the chance to talk and contribute ideas.
  2. Do not use or look at your phone or tinker with your social media account while other participants are talking. Avoid interrupting the speaker.
  3. Test your audio, camera video, screen-sharing capability and wi-fi or Internet connection prior to the meeting.
  4. Review the agenda carefully. Do not come to the meeting unprepared.
  5. Refrain from working on other tasks such as writing, typing, and checking emails while the remote conference is ongoing.
  6. Turn off your phone and computer notifications.
  7. All team members should be advised to stay in a quiet room free from any disturbances.
  8. Be punctual just as you would be in a physical meeting. Wear the appropriate office attire and not the ordinary clothes you would sport at home. It does not have to be too formal or expensive but clothes that would command respect from other attendees.

Practice common rules of courtesy. Just like in formal and person to person meetings, everyone has the right to be heard and respected during a virtual meeting.

Important Meetings for Remote Teams

Apart from scheduling a meeting to solve a specific challenge, it’s good practice to establish recurring meetings. This will help your team stay consistent and centered around a shared goal. It’s more important than ever to show that your customer service is still impeccable even while working remotely.

Essential meetings that remote teams can perform include the following:

  1. Stand-ups refer to daily meetups for updating with the team and identifying possible problems. The remote stand-up makes sense for those working on projects with strict cut-off dates or targets which call for effective planning and rehearsals.
  2. Weekly meetings refer to spring planning sessions held weekly or every two weeks. The purpose is for team tracking of projects, reporting on Objectives and Key results or OKRs, and observance of team achievements.
  3. One on One meets represent an effective approach for managers to develop a strong connection with their team members thereby creating a culture of confidence and trust. This type of meeting creates flexibility for managing remote teams and dealing with the growth of subordinates, long-term plans and providing personalized feedback.
  4. Retrospectives are usually conducted at the end of major projects representing a brief evaluation so team members can talk about factors that could have made the project or sprint better. The objective of a retrospective is to give the team an opportunity to contemplate on the sprint and find out how to use the experience in making improvements for the future.
  5. The last is called Design Sprints. This platform has gained plenty of interest among designers, product managers and individuals who work in the area of innovations and solving problems. Google Ventures introduced Design Sprint although many companies have adopted this process integrating the system into their workflow for prompt creation and validation of ideas.

Additional Pointers Worth Considering

The creative and well-informed host or facilitator can transform the challenges of online meetings into advantages. These remote meetings call for more preparation compared to the traditional conferences in offices. However, you can always exert more effort to make sure that this activity turns into a complete success. The remote working tips can be cost-effective, save time and help the team in meeting its goals and targets.

Guest Blogger