Remote meetings aren’t anything new. Companies of all sizes are embracing the remote worker, and if the necessary meetings are managed in the right way, they can be productive for every person involved.
Here are a few tips and tools you can use to make sure you’re getting the most out of your meeting time.
Invite the Right People to the Party
The classic business meeting model dictates that everyone that can be at the meeting should be at the meeting. That’s a logical line of thinking: if everyone is there, no one will miss out on information that may be pertinent. I’m not sure that it holds, though. Meetings that include remote workers are a different animal from your average meeting.
It’s one thing to be able to keep the attention of an employee who isn’t directly involved in the conversation when that employee is in the room. When that employee is in a different building, in a different country, and only present via a phone line or computer screen, keeping their attention is exponentially more difficult. So keep meetings small, and only invite the people who need to be there. It’s better to have five short, efficient meetings in one day than a long, drawn-out affair where half the people are only present in body.
Who’s the Boss?
The best way to keep a meeting on track, especially when there are remote workers present, is to have a clear chairperson who will guide the discussion and manage any disputes that may pop up (disputes always pop up). Every business has a manager, and every meeting should have one, too.
Keep It in Order
Here’s a perfect example of why every meeting, especially ones that involve remote workers, should have a clear chairperson. Take your typical meeting – everyone has a point they want to make, and everyone has to make it loud. But what about the remote workers? Not being physically present in a meeting has a profound effect on how often your voice is heard. For a meeting to run effectively, whoever is voted the chairperson has to make sure that the people on the other end of the wire have their say. There’s an easy way to make sure that happens: whenever a new subject is brought up, let the remote workers have their say first. That way each remote worker has their turn, and there is no chance that someone gets skipped over.
Tools of the Trade
There are a lot of options out there for remote meetings, enough where it would be silly to try and list all of them. Quite a few of these services have similar features, like video chatting and an audio option if someone’s Internet connection isn’t up to snuff.
I do, however, have two favorites. One is called Blue Jeans. It works through your browser and works on every platform and mobile device, so there’s no chance of compatibility issues. To make it even easier, Blue Jeans has a way of making whatever video client you’re using – Skype, Cisco Jabber, Microsoft Lync, or Google Video Chats – play nice together. Blue Jeans does cost money, but you can try it out for free with a two-week trial.
My other favorite doesn’t cost a thing and most people are already familiar with it, or at least with the people who make it run. It’s Google Hangouts. While Google+ and its chat client Hangouts may seem more like a Facebook-type instant messenger and chat service, they are well suited for use in business. And, like I said, they’re as free as free.
The most important thing to remember about choosing a program for your remote meetings is the amount of familiarity you have with the program. Whether it’s hardware or software, a web app or in the cloud, you need to be comfortable enough with the application to handle any unforeseen hiccups or troubleshooting requirements. And one more thing: always test your gear. There’s nothing worse than being called to a meeting only to sit around while someone blindly tries to fix a connection issue.