By Chapin Brinegar
Senior Manager of Instructional Design
Due to the coronavirus, many companies are taking precautions and having office-based teams conduct meetings remotely. At first glance, you might assume there are few differences between leading a live meeting and doing so remotely. This is simply not the case. The fact is, remote-based meetings present managers and trainers with unique social, technological, and organizational challenges—as well as unique opportunities to succeed.
In this post, we examine 4 common myths about conducting remote meetings and offer solutions that, when implemented, can improve the productivity of your remote meetings and your team, whether you always work remotely or will just do so for a short time.
Myth 1 – Remote-based meetings are essentially just like office-based meetings.
The reality is that while live meetings have their challenges, the logistical issues inherent with remote meetings are more complex. This is largely due to the fact that remote meetings depend on electronic communication and collaboration technology to succeed.
- Take time to ensure your team members are familiar with all necessary communication technology.
- Provide instructional job aids for all relevant technology, including login instructions, system information, and compliance guidelines.
- If you are preparing for your first remote meeting with your team, conduct a 10-minute remote “test session” with them to troubleshoot the system.
- Be sure team members have all contact information, including for IT, to address technology issues.
Myth 2 – The success of remote‐based meetings is driven by technology.
In reality, technology is only a vehicle to facilitate the remote-based meeting and ensure efficiency. As with live meetings, how your team functions during remote-based meetings is still largely dependent on the amount of trust, collaboration, and knowledge-sharing that members enjoy. In fact, because you cannot rely on the familiarity of face-to-face interactions to communicate, these factors have far greater impact on the success of remote‐based meetings.
- Foster teamwork and collaboration within your remote-based meetings by taking these steps:
- Allow for time at the top of meetings for participants to introduce themselves or, if that is unnecessary, catch up with each other.
- Use ice breaker activities for new teams to help participants connect.
- Integrate topic discussion, brainstorming, or other activities that enable team members to be active participants in the meeting.
Myth 3 – A hands‐off leadership style works best for remote‐based meetings.
The reality is that this is a situation where a hands‐off leadership style will cause more harm than good. As the leader during a remote-based meeting, you are the binding force for your team. To succeed, your remote meetings will demand significant communicating, expectation setting, and problem-solving.
- Tailor your pre-meeting preparation to the remote environment, including your team expectations, presentation materials, and meeting logistics.
- Take time to anticipate roadblocks—including technology-related issues, confusion over who is responsible for what, unprepared and unengaged team members, and wasted time during the meeting—and develop solutions to head these off before they happen.
- If you delegate portions of the meeting to be led by another team member, be sure to communicate expectations clearly and share your own pre-meeting process along with preparation resources (such as this blog post).
Myth 4 – Networking outside of meetings is not as important when working remotely.
The reality is that the typical break room or “water cooler” chat sessions are hard to replicate when working remotely. This leaves very little room outside of meetings to build relationships among remote-based team members.
- Recognize that informal interactions are essential to the formation of strong ties among remote‐based team members to build trust, meet expectations, and collaborate.
- Create opportunities outside of remote-based meetings, such as through company-provided intranet and social media forums, for your team members to connect.
- Provide materials—such as articles of interest, TED Talk videos, or blog posts—for the entire team to read or view in common. Shared materials can be used both during remote-based meetings and on online forums to facilitate discussion—and community.
Remember, as a manager or trainer, you set the tone for how your team responds during times of upheaval and stress. Your ability to successfully guide your team members during remote meetings depends heavily on both your preparation and your attitude. Though leading your team remotely may be unfamiliar, keep in mind that it is possible to thrive through remote-based meetings. World over, teams are doing so daily—more so every year. Seeing this challenge as an opportunity is the first step to success.
Chapin Brinegar holds a Master of Science degree in instructional technology and has more than 15 years of experience in education, corporate training, and instructional design. She has a proven track record working with a variety of clients in the pharmaceutical and life sciences marketplace. As an instructional design professional for Encompass, Chapin works closely with her clients to uncover their specific needs and to design, develop, and deploy a range of learning solutions.