We get it. Meetings are hard enough when you’re all in the same room, let alone when you’re distributed across the globe. It can be a challenge to facilitate the same level of collaboration and communication with virtual meetings. But it’s not impossible. Not when you have the right technology. Here are six tools you should be using to make your online meetings productive and engaging (along with our own best practices for each one).
A Video Conference and Screen Sharing Tool
Never underestimate the power of seeing — not just hearing — people in virtual meetings. This should be a number one priority for remote teams, so get a remote meeting software that everyone can use no matter where they are. Invest if you need to, because there’s nothing worse than hearing “I can’t dial in” or “No, can’t see you” just as you’re getting started. That means finding a tool that includes dial-in toll-free options for all countries, as well as the option to dial-in via computer and share screens.
Tool tip: Train your team. It sounds like overkill but set aside time in your first meeting to make sure everyone knows how to work the tool. Go over how to set up a meeting, how to dial in people via phone and computer, how to present, how to record and so on. Take the time up front to ensure you don’t waste 10 minutes at the start of every meeting trying to get everyone on the same page.
Our Pick: Zoom
A Meeting Agenda App
Remote teams (and all teams, really) need a single place to go to access recurring meeting agendas and notes, and emailing a doc around doesn’t cut it. Recurring meetings like one-on-ones and team meetings are sacred to remote teams. Those meetings are the opportunities to really engage with colleagues and managers. And, they’re typically at a designated time that remote teams can count on. Meeting agenda software will help you build agendas, collaborate on agenda items, document what’s discussed in the meeting and take note of next steps. All of that info is available to every team member, at any time. That way, if someone isn’t there or needs a refresher on what was discussed, they don’t have to sift through emails or calendar invites to find the key points.
Tool tip: Make it a habit to pull up your meeting agenda app at the start of every meeting, with one person leading and the rest of the team following along. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the habit forms.
Our Pick: SoapBox
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A Chat Tool
Having a reliable chat tool is essential for any team, but especially those working off-site. You don’t want to be using a chat app throughout the meeting. That’s what your video conference tool is for. Your chat tool is the first thing you’ll open if someone is running late or having difficulty joining the meeting. Plus, with many chat apps having built-in tools and bots, you can supercharge your virtual team meeting planning process.
Tool tip: There are a lot of chat tools out there. Make sure everyone knows the preferred app for the team, instead of trying to rally the troops using five different apps. Also, make sure that chat etiquette is laid out clearly. If you want the team to lay off the chatting once the meeting begins, be sure to say so.
Our Pick: Slack
A Project Management Tool
To really get your virtual team meetings on track, adopt a project management tool to refer to as you go through the meeting agenda. Use it to check in on individual projects and deadlines, and identify any potential roadblocks that are coming up along the way.
Tool tip: To keep the meeting flowing smoothly, link to your project management tool in your meeting agenda. That way, you’re clicking through to specific project or team pages easily without searching through tabs.
Our Pick: Flow
Bonus: two extra (free!) tools to consider
These tools aren’t required in the virtual meeting toolbox, but they’ll undoubtedly make your meetings even better.
Sick of the endless chain of emails asking everyone when a good time to meet is? Doodle polls your teams for ideal meeting times, no calendar dance required.
Just because you’re remote, doesn’t mean you don’t love a good whiteboard discussion. Enter the online whiteboard: design, sketch, and doodle as if you’re actually in a boardroom with your virtual teammates. Plus, you can save them and include them in your meeting agenda software notes.
And while you’re at it, check out other tools you can use to facilitate communication and collaboration in a remote team.
This guest post was written in collaboration with SoapboxHQ.
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