It’s an all-too-common scenario: You’ve been asked to join a project that involves co-workers in one country and stakeholders in another. Meanwhile, you’re stuck in the middle, time zones apart.
Although in-person, telephone and email interactions have their place for projects like these, the ability to meet together online, see each other via webcam and collaborate on documents can speed up the process substantially.
Here are our 5 steps to efficient meeting management with distributed project teams.
Step 1: Get the right technology
When selecting an online meeting tool that fits you and your organisation, there are a number of features available. Good solutions should at least have the following:
- Telephone and VoIP audio options. Integrated audio through VoIP is by far the easiest and fastest way to communicate in an online meeting. And by having a solution that offers both telephone and VoIP options, users have the flexibility to select one over the other, which is particularly handy if you forget your headset!
- High-definition video. All you’ll need is an HD webcam to clearly see each other — no other fancy tech needed.
- Recording function. This is useful if you want to go back and listen to a particular discussion. You can also share the recording with those colleagues who weren’t able to join.
- Customer support. If someone on your team is having technical difficulties, being able to contact support staff can make a real difference, especially when it comes to technology adoption.
- Security. You want the peace of mind of knowing that only you and your colleagues will be in the meeting and that your documents and ideas are safe. Choose a solution that comes with embedded security.
- A consultant available during the evaluation phase. Whether internal or customer-based, projects are critical to your business success. Having a consultant available will help you get the most out of the tool.
- The ability to join and host meetings from mobile devices as well as a desktop. This is essential for offering your team the flexibility to join from wherever they choose. This will also improve the tool’s adoption rate.
Step 2: Encourage technology adoption
Most online meeting tools are self-explanatory and easy to use, but you must make sure that your team mates are comfortable using them. If they need help, provide them with an introductory session to online meetings and be sure to use your chosen tool to host that session.
Provide a how-to document, covering key questions they may ask about using such software. And be sure to spend some time getting familiar with its functions so you can assist them where you can.
Step 3: Use webcams to build relationships
If your meeting solution supports video conferencing, you should make the feature mandatory to use. Your distributed project members should feel like they are in the same room, and showing webcams really does break the ice and help build stronger relationships. I recently met with a new web development agency in Germany, and in our initial meeting, we showed our webcams. It was so nice to actually see who I would be working with.
Seeing the facial expressions of an individual makes a massive difference in getting to know someone, and seeing how they react to what you’re saying also helps to illuminate misunderstanding.
Step 4: Meet regularly
Schedule a regular update meeting with your team. Meeting frequently can help your team bond and generate assurance. It’s also an opportunity to discuss progress, and knowing that there is a weekly meeting will increase momentum as people prepare to feedback on their achievements.
Step 5: Meet intelligently
Share your project document on the meeting. Go through it together and make updates in real time. If someone needs to show you something they’ve been working on, ask them to share their screen.
Keep a record of the most important points discussed. If some actions are required, make sure you write down:
- What needs to be done
- When it needs to be completed
- Who’s responsible
Forward a list of all these action items to all meeting participants. Either send them by email, which carries the risk that it will go unnoticed in the daily flood of email traffic, or save them to a central location accessible for all project participants. We use Podio as a “virtual project office” for managing all of our work online. It helps us effortlessly work on tasks together, no matter where we are.
Now bring it all together
Nearly every manager and employee is faced with project work on a daily basis. But often not all project members are present in the same location, which makes effective communication difficult and project delays common.
Tools such as online meetings, video conferencing and virtual work platforms help people to effectively communicate with each other across different time zones and geographic locations. These solutions reduce project time, save the customer money and lead to a greater competitive advantage for the company. A win-win for everyone!
For more information on successful communication tactics for project teams, check out our eBook.
Have you got any further tips for project teams? Feel free to add a comment below so we can share ideas!
Recommended Reading: Successful Communication Tactics for Project Teams [eBook]