I work remotely and with a team eight hours away from me. Many will be in the same boat, and often the problem with this is that your meetings are late at night your time, but early for the others. Furthermore, the other team meets in a room early in the morning. This either means that they are fresh and bushy tailed or annoyed after having been stuck in traffic. Many different moods and agendas at play here. To avoid this being a frustrating experience, here are seven tips any team in the same situation should follow to ensure that everyone involved gets the most out of the conference call:
- Be on time and stick to the duration – keep it professional – of course things go wrong, but there is no joy in being in a hotel room at 11pm listening to 6 people tell each other that others are still coming as they are “getting a quick coffee first”. It’s rude to waste people’s time. The meeting time should be information and chats that apply to all, regardless of location and time. You can of course add a social part before or after the meeting for the locals.
- Have a meeting agenda and stick to it – that way people who have a hard time being part of the meeting due to time difference can decline to come to the meeting and this may make it shorter
- Have the agenda editable to everyone available during the meeting – this way people can edit and note down things that have been said. This is beneficial as it acts as a script for those who couldn’t attend and it also means that you can ensure people remotely on the call are on the ball and not watching TV
- Introduce yourself when you speak and go close to the mic – for people dialing in, this is a feature of the conference call software, but when 10 people in a room speak, remote employees who dialed in have no no idea what’s going on.
- Avoid unnecessary sounds – as someone dialing in, mute your microphone. Nobody needs your coughing, coffee sipping, or – at worst – typing sounds – on the conference call. As someone in the room, don’t have conversations with others next to the microphone. Give the current presenters the stage they deserve.
- Have a chat window open – this allows people to post extra info or give updates when something goes wrong. It is frustrating to speak when nobody hears you and you can’t even tell them that it doesn’t work. A text chat next to the conf call hardly ever fails to work and is a good feedback mechanism
- Distribute presenter materials before the call – often presenting a slide deck or web product over Skype or others fails for various reasons or people dialing in are on a very bad connection. If they have the slide deck locally, they can watch it without blurs and delays
Using these tricks you end up with a call that results in a documented agenda you can send to those who couldn’t attend. You can also have an archive of all your conf calls for reference later on. Of course, you could just record the sessions, but it is much more annoying to listen to a recording and it may be tough to even download them for remote attendees on bad connections. By separating the social part of the meeting from the official one you still have the joy of meeting in the mornings without annoying the people who can’t be part of it.