Managing a virtual team is a damn hard challenge, and we have talked about it more than once already. But forcing a distributed team to gather at the computers at one time, taking into account time zones and different daily routines, and in such way that no one is distracted or bored at the meeting is an art.

Most people are skeptical about virtual team meetings in advance and a priori consider them ineffective. But there are winning strategies and useful tips on how to improve virtual team meetings and we are going to discuss them in this article.

It is hard to imagine how much time in important meetings was wasted because of poorly planned meetings and unlikely topics. When participants are not prepared, people get off the topic and fall behind, and the topics discussed are a waste of time for the whole team.

Concur claims that 67% of the meetings are ineffective and failure at all.  According to Harvard, among 182 surveyed managers 71% believe meetings are unproductive. These numbers can be terrifying in the ratio of a big crew, huh?

What the hell is agenda and why is it so important?

Agenda is a plan for your meeting and a list of topics you are going to discuss with your colleagues. Actually, this is your meeting, but in doc which defines the purpose of the meeting, details meeting discussion topics, assigns the meeting speakers and specifies the amount of time allotted to each issue.

A well-planned agenda gives you a clear idea of what should happen before and during a meeting. This working document, like a compass, directs the crew meeting to the correct path.

It helps team members to prepare, allocate time wisely, get a quick response from all participants on the topic, and stop the meeting in time. If problems are identified during the meeting, a well-thought-out agenda allows the team to solve them effectively and quickly.

Here are the main issues that teams face when creating an agenda for a virtual team meeting incorrectly:

– Course deflection. Speakers should remember that every ‘lyrical digression’ harms the overall meeting effectiveness. Everything the team members say should be valuable to everyone.

– Chaos. If Agenda items are not specified, everyone can bring a list of items and just speak simultaneously, right? No. Each topic should belong to a specific team member who will speak on their topic on a schedule.

– Poor time management. If you don’t keep track of time, you can be stuck in discussions until night. For a productive meeting, it is essential to observe the timing and appear on time. Don’t waste precious minutes waiting for someone who finishes the sandwich too long. You snooze – you lose.

The remoteness of the team complicates this challenge as in any case communication deteriorates. But this is not an obstacle for a quality meeting with a strong desire to work remotely efficiently.

We, as virtual crew, also went through this experience by trial and error, but eventually found his wave and now want to share it with you.

So how to create an agenda for a virtual team meeting?

Agenda is necessary for meeting your virtual team remained productive. Constant video calls and continuous communication are necessary to work on a complex project in a remote team. 80% of the information is absorbed from the sign language, so it is very important to see your interlocutor on the phone, hear the voice, and leave only the most important things.

To prepare and conduct meetings, we use Standuply Slack App. This app is able to collect and specify the necessary information in a stand-up mode, after which you will be able to make an agenda.

Want to run your virtual meetings like a pro? Add Standuply to Slack today!

Principles we’re following when creating an agenda for our virtual meetings:

– Clearly define your meeting goals

The objective can be thought of as a very brief summary of what will be discussed in a meeting. This should be stated at the top of the agenda, below the meeting title or agenda header.

Standuply will help you with gathering team members inputs asynchronously so you will be able to identify the relevant topics for your meeting.

– Engage the team in creating discussion topics

People will participate more actively in the meeting if they are allowed to influence the agenda. Listen to suggestions on what to consider and add questions to the document. Start planning 48 hours before the meeting so that colleagues can think about their concerns. And from proposed they those choose those that concern only the entire team, not 2-3 people.

Create a team survey via Standuply in Slack to find out what your team wants to talk about to determine the relevance of the topics. Just pick a schedule when you’d like to run a survey, select participants and customize questions.

Here’s how it works:

–Let your employees speak

If only you speak in the meeting, everyone else but you will fall asleep in five minutes. Prepare a general list of topics and Identify who is responsible for leading each topic.

Remind the staff of your meeting ! Yes, work first, but remember that your employees are remote. There’s always a human factor and if the dog is dying to go for a walk right now there is nothing that hooman do except just walk the dog.

Using follow-up messages, you can configure Standuply to send at the right time a message about the gathering and thus remind the employee.

– Collect feedback

We all know the fact that meeting minutes should be drawn up during the meeting.  But it’s also necessary to collect feedback from your colleagues during your meeting to verify after the meeting that the team understands its purpose and holds a meeting on a regular basis. You can do it easily via Standuply! Instead of relatively remembering all the things at the end of the Sprint, you can consistently collect team feedback via Slack. Set it up once, and the process is up and running.

– Time per topic

Nobody wants to sit in a meeting until the night, right? Evaluate your content appropriately and determine how long each topic should take. People tend to plan time on the basis of the usual 30 minutes, but all the topics are not the same – something can be solved in 10 minutes, and something will lasted an hour. As a result, poor time management can stretch an hour-long meeting to half a day.

– Supporting materials

Preparing for your meeting will not be effective if you forget to attach all the documents and materials that will support your words. Reports, important incoming emails or promotional materials – everything that is necessary for an effective discussion of the relevant topic and that you can refer to, so as not to be unfounded. Share these materials with your colleagues by attaching them together with the agenda in a letter so they have time to study them.

Other ways to create an agenda 

If you’re not using Slack (however, we advise to do so:) here’s the list of some tools you can use to create an agenda for a virtual team meeting. You can use them separately or in conjunction with Standuply App:

Agenda is a free date-oriented note-taking app for both planning and documenting your projects. This app is probably the best for creating an agenda for a virtual team meeting. You can link your notes to a specific date, event, as well as assign them the “On the Agenda” status, which simplifies their search among other notes.

Meetin.gs is an “all-in-one” app for scheduling meetings, communication, notes, and task management. It allows you to manage every part of the meeting process and definitely help you to plan your agenda. The app integrates with your Google apps, as well as with communication tools such as Skype and Google Hangouts. You can also invite people to your chosen date and time.

If you are having problems with time management, Team Meeting Timer will help you. This app visually helps you keep track of the meeting and helps you finish it on time. Just set the estimated time and watch the countdown. The application will tell you when you should hurry if you are stuck on one point.

Do you want to make the process of communication before the meeting with remote colleagues more flexible? Take a look at Team Meeting Checklist. The checklist of participants is very important for a clear understanding of their areas of responsibility by other participants. After the final check of the list, you can send the list to the participants by e-mail.

Minute is another all in one app that provides everything you need to know about meeting in one place. The meeting agenda is at the very beginning of the page and you can easily edit it by simply dragging and dropping items. You can also attach the necessary documents and notes, so as not to miss a single detail.

In сonclusion

Maybe there is nothing new in these simple tips, but at the start of a career, they will undoubtedly help to create an agenda for a virtual team meeting and make it productive and quality. Over time, observing simple tricks and continuously thinking about the team development, the product owner will be able to provide the team with an exciting and productive meeting, which will come with pleasure, and not just for the record.

Anna Vedishcheva

Content Creator at Standuply. Travel and photography addicted. You can contact me on Linkedin, also contact me via email.

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