Tag Archives: how to run better project team meetings

4 Best Practices for the Best Remote Meetings

Our previous post shared reasons why amnesty and the freedom to share opinions, observations or ideas are critically important requirements to running the most effective project team meetings.

Given the fact that a substantial percentage of all team meetings take place in a remote or virtual forum, and that the COVID-19 situation is driving that percentage up in a hurry, we thought people might find the following best practices helpful in their efforts to run the best remote meetings.

The Value of Remote Forums
Lack of visual contact, technical difficulties, equipment malfunctions, and declining attention spans are only some of the challenges associated with the typical “remote” meeting. Given these issues, it’s tempting to determine that virtual forums are not productive.

But in reality, the many cost, logistic and convenience related advantages far outweigh the negatives. Even better, by making a few key adjustments to meeting protocols and communication style, team leaders and facilitators can quickly transform remote meetings into highly productive and positive experiences.

4 Steps to the Best Remote Meetings
While all “standard meeting management” rules apply, there are a few additional requirements for virtual sessions, which can apply to any type of remote staff or project team meeting:

  1. Strategic preparation is the first step toward running the best remote meetings, as a strong leader who creates and uses an agenda and who communicates proactively is a must.

    The meeting leader must plan these virtual sessions to be more interactive than in-person meetings. Depending upon the purpose of the remote gathering, a meeting leader’s ideal “talk/listen” ratio will range between 30/70 and 60/40. Therefore, the advance plan must include both “speaking points” and “questions.” Both open-ended and closed-ended questions should be included in the plan so the leader will be able to more easily promote interaction or curb the discussion to keep it on track.

    A roll call form with space for making notes during the meeting should also be created, which will also be a useful tool for engaging participants during the session.
  2. The next step involves effectively running the remote session. The leader should call-in or log-in a few minutes early and greet participants as they arrive, thus beginning the engagement process. During these early minutes it’s best to ask questions about subjects that are NOT on the meeting’s agenda. The goal is to connect with the individuals, make them feel comfortable and promote their active participation in the remote meeting.

    It’s important to start on time, even if everyone has failed to call in or join. If people join late, it’s appropriate to offer a brief welcome but continue with the meeting’s discussion. Stopping to bring late-comers up to speed will diminish the experience for other participants and indirectly encourages the wrong behavior.

    Open with a brief roll call (a good way to test audio) and then identify ground-rules with respect to cell phone use, a disconnect plan, how questions will be handled, general etiquette, and how people should use tools such as chat, mute, and the hold button. Then make a clear statement of the meeting’s objectives.

    From this point forward, the leader should promote an appropriate level of interaction by incorporating questions into the discussion — as a rule of thumb, two-to-four times as many questions than might be posed in a face-to-face meeting. It’s best to direct these questions to individuals by name and avoid questions that are directed to the entire group, such as, “Does anybody have a question?” While it is common and acceptable to pose questions to the entire group in a live meeting, it is far less effective in a virtual meeting. The reason for this is simple: the visual contact in a live meeting allows everyone to easily see who has a question or who wishes to be heard. But in a remote forum, the most common result of “group-directed” questions is confusion — either no one says anything because no one is sure whose turn it is to speak, or several people pose questions or offer input at the same time.

    A notation should be made next to each participant’s name on the roll-call sheet each a question is directed their way, and some of the things they say in response should be noted as well. The leader can then use those notes to occasionally refer back to a comment or answer given by a participant — this will further engage those individuals and also promote more active participation from the group.

    If the leader detects waning attention spans or a drop in the group’s enthusiasm, the best course of action is to vary the information flow. Assigning a short (2 to 3 minutes) written exercise is a often a good way of accomplishing this. At the end, each person can be asked to share a portion of what they’ve written.
  3. Ending the session properly is very important. At the end of many remote meetings participants simply hang-up or disconnect without drawing conclusions or setting next steps. The meeting leader can avoid this “flat” ending and also improve the session’s productivity by conducting a formal wrap-up a few minutes prior to the meeting’s scheduled conclusion. A few best practices for an effective summary include:
    • End with the beginning by restating the meeting’s purpose
    • Draw conclusions
    • Assign or gather agreement on next steps
    • Debrief the session by gathering feedback from some or all of the participants
    • Acknowledge good participation and thank the group.
  4. Follow-up is the last, but certainly not the least important, step. As the meeting leader, there are several ways to promote productive outcomes and to hold people accountable for completing agreed-upon or assigned tasks. These include distributing a summary or meeting minutes (if someone had been assigned to record them), reaching out to participants for an update on or to offer support for agreed-upon next steps, and, of course, beginning to plan the next meeting!

Assess the Quality of Your Meetings

meetings3As noted in our previous post, many of us don’t recognize the enormous impact (both positive and negative) meetings have on our organizations and careers!

Yet many professionals have had no real training in devising and managing an effective meeting.  This is truly regrettable as organizations of all types can experience significant gains by running effective team or project meetings.

Conversely, if these meetings are poorly executed, it’s only a matter of time before the workforce considers them to be non-productive, unnecessary or even unpleasant; in which case, certain opportunities will be forever lost!

So, the first step is to assess the quality of your organization’s meetings… which include “live” meetings, teleconferences and virtual sessions. Here are five key areas to consider:

  1. Preparation: Do you have a strategic plan, identified purpose, goals and objectives for your organization’s meetings? Does someone (Manager, Team or Project Leader) take the responsibility seriously and allocate the necessary time for planning each meeting? Is an agenda created? If so, is it shared in advance?
  2. Scheduling: Are meetings held on a regular basis… either weekly or bi-weekly? Are meetings held on the same day and at the same time each week or every two weeks? Are your meetings conducted with sufficient frequency? Is attendance considered mandatory? Do the meetings start and end on time? Do participants consistently arrive on time?
  3. Value: Are meetings run out of “habit” versus value-added need? The best meetings must be value-added for both leaders and the team, so protocols for exchanging relevant information must be incorporated in each agenda; each meeting should include an educational component that is based on the organization’s current situation, and that educates both leaders (through feedback) and the team on issues that are pertinent to each.
  4. Measurement: Do you measure the effectiveness of each meeting? Are action items from one meeting a component of the next meeting’s agenda? If so, is there consistent follow-through in between meetings? Are team members held accountable? Does management hold themselves accountable?
  5. Continuous Improvement: How can you make your organization’s meetings better? How can you leverage the time spent in preparation and execution to enhance your competitive edge?

If you’re wondering “what’s in it for you” or how you might maximize your ROI as a leader or member of management, here are a few thoughts:

  1. Assessment: Team meetings are key opportunities to assess the team all at once, measure the group’s attitude and identify the best opportunities for leveraging their collective effort.
  2. Team building: We can’t build team spirit if we don’t regularly “assemble” the team.
  3. Team engagement, motivation and recognition: Many people will go the extra mile for the team; but we can’t leverage team motivation if we only interact with the people on an individual basis. Recognizing significant individual achievement in a public forum is a prudent component of motivation and management as well workforce engagement.
  4. Thought leadership: Driving a high-performance culture begins with helping people focus on the right things, and publicly identifying / reaffirming core activities and values.
  5. Education: As stated above, every meeting should have an educational component that is based on the status of your organization or project, and relevant issues of the day; and let’s not forget that “the wisdom is often in the room.” Sharing value-added information and best practices in a public forum not only provides highly-credible education, but also allows successful team members an opportunity to shine in front of their peers.

More Meeting Woes Emerge: Teleconference Behaviors Unmasked!

In a recent post (When I Die I Hope it’s at a Meeting) we discussed some of the pitfalls associated with project team meetings or other types of meetings, all of which tend to be less-than-productive if someone isn’t diligently prepared to take charge and make things happen!

To add some perspective, many people have not only agreed with the ideas shared in that post, but also noted that the problems are much more prevalent during teleconferences. We couldn’t agree more!

As evidence, a recent Harvard Business Review article shared a list of the most common “other” things people tend to do during conference calls.

whatelseareemployees

Clearly this list takes “multitasking” to a new level!

Maybe you have some ideas to share as to how you’ve been able to address these productivity-killers during your conference calls?

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