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09 aug

How can you ensure a group is communicating effectively in a virtual meeting?

When you’re working with remote developers from around the world, there are quite a few issues that can come up when trying to plan a discussion. From time zone differences to technical struggles, it’s important to make sure that your group is communicating effectively in each virtual meeting.

Telecommuting employees aren’t going anywhere; in fact, the number of people working remotely is greatly increasing. While this hiring trend is expanding, it’s important to discuss the potential struggles as well as the numerous benefits to hiring remote workers.

One of these issues could be effective group communication. Have you ever been in a virtual meeting where everyone apart from the boss was too afraid to contribute? What about those times when the technical difficulties just made the online session impossible?

We’ll talk about each of these problems and how to solve them so you can take full advantage of working with virtual teams.

 

Communication technology

All of the other tips in this article won’t matter very much if your Internet won’t work well enough for a clear video. If you have one or multiple remote employees, it’s very important that they can all talk to each other without breaking up or cutting out.

Every remote developer from Distant Job is confirmed to have appropriate hardware and software to ensure easy, clear communication. So, luckily for you, the only investment will have to be made at your end.

To understand how to make sure that your connection is up to speed, check out our article, “How to Set Up your Internet to Ensure a Smooth Agile Video Conferencing Experience.”

After you’ve got that on track, think about the other technology you’ll be using for the meeting. For example, maybe you’d like to use specific software to set weekly agendas and keep everyone on the same page.

One note on this is to remember that the newest technology isn’t always the best. Sometimes that brand new task manager complicates things more than it simplifies them.

In general, make sure the communication technology you’re using is understood by everyone on the virtual team and that it’s a reliable product. After all, there’s nothing worse than trying out a brand new group video conferencing tool for the first time during a scheduled meeting to learn that it doesn’t work.

 

Establishing rules

One thing that’s important to keep in mind about remote developers is that they don’t work on a typical 9 am - 5 pm job. This means that you can’t stop by their desk and ask them to join in a meeting if they’re needed last minute.

Instead, you need to set some rules about the meeting to make sure everyone attending is informed and at their best. First, establish a normal time.

This should be the same time every week (or however often you have your meetings) so your telecommuting employees can plan ahead to be available. When you’re establishing the best hour to have the meeting, be careful to take everyone’s time zone into consideration.

Although 4 pm might be best for you, it could be the middle of the night for some telecommuters that are far away. Even if a remote developer agrees to have a meeting very early or late in their day, they likely won’t be at their best and can’t contribute as necessary to the conversation.

The next important thing to consider when establishing rules for the meeting is to make sure that an agenda is given to everyone who will be joining in with, preferably, at least 24 hours notice.

It’s all too easy for remote developers to become very disconnected with their co-workers if they don’t have to communicate on a regular basis. This agenda helps to make sure everyone is clear about the topics and has prepared any necessary comments or questions.

The remaining important standards that you should implement are small ones, such as always reminding participants to turn off their cell phones or to wait an extra three seconds before speaking in case the sound is slightly delayed.

Additionally, it’s great to have a note-taker who can then post these notes to a shared, online file to guarantee that the most important parts of these meetings are remembered.

 

Be aware of cultural differences

Sometimes, it can be slightly challenging to communicate among different cultures, both because of a difference in language and in customs. Every employee that Distant Job recommends will already have a solid grasp of English.

So, their communication with your team shouldn’t require any extra thought. However, sometimes the combined stress and ambiguity of things like debugging might lead to confusion among developers.

Some things that you can do to help with this are to have a moderator in place during meetings to make sure everyone is on the same page. This moderator can not only make sure that the meeting is following its agenda, but also that each person speaks up and confirms that they’ve understood.

Also, be sure to educate all of your employees about relevant cultural differences. For example, while some cultures might not mind interruptions, others consider them to be extremely rude.

Agreeing on a common language, double checking that each person is listened to and understood, and educating your remote developers on important cultural nuances. This can all lead to more effective communication during meetings.

 

Don’t be too strict

It’s great to have a set agenda for a meeting, not start late, and not waste anyone’s time. In fact, Hubstaff works to have productive remote meetings and will do things like pushing the agenda to the following meeting rather than going over the allotted time, as well as other methods.

However, it’s nice to work some team-building exercises into your virtual meetings. For example, everyone could quickly introduce themselves and give an ‘elevator explanation’ about what they’re working on at the moment because virtual team building is important, too.

If you follow the above tips, make sure you have developers vetted by Distant Job so they are confirmed to have the proper equipment and skills for remote work, and add in a bit of fun, then effective communication in your virtual meetings will become second nature