In the hustle and bustle of the modern day, it’s rarely feasible to host every single meeting that you might require on-site, or even in-person. Conference calls have been all the rage for decades, but can be a costly addition to your phone bill; email helps keep in touch at all times, but is only as powerful as your ability to translate your intents and needs into written words, and your colleagues’ ability to spell. That’s not even getting into non-business meetings, like distance learning endeavors and job training for remote employees.
However, as noted by Chron, managing meetings well is the only way to manage your business well; if your employees don’t know the direction your company is headed, there’s no way for them to carry out their duties with that goal in mind. Likewise, if your students can never figure out when a digital lecture is supposed to be held, then there’s not much point in signing up for your distance learning course at all.
- Start Video Conferencing
From the endeavor to “build a better mousetrap” in the remote communication sphere, companies like Blue Jeans have turned video conferencing into the best way to handle long-distance meetings, hands down. This allows you and all attendees to read each other’s body language and expressions—it could even make it possible to communicate remotely with students and employees speaking American Sign Language without resorting to writing everything down.
Video conferencing allows you to host a long-distance meeting more or less the same way you would host a meeting on-site, but without the issue of printing out information packets for everyone, reserving a board room and paying for your long-distance employees to drive in for the meeting.
- Use Email for Scheduling
When it comes to arranging remote meetings, there’s no better way than email. This gives everyone involved a written document to refer to when it comes time to attend the meeting, and can help even your most tardy employees to arrive on time by giving everyone written confirmation of meeting times. LifeHack recommends flexibility in your scheduling; don’t be afraid to postpone, reschedule, or refuse to do anything of the sort. Be understanding of remote employees’ schedules, but firm where necessary.
- Always Have an Agenda
According to Forbes, you need clear objectives in every meeting you host; this applies to remote meetings even more than in-person thanks to differing time zones, tight schedules and the necessity for clarity in direction and guidance. Spend a good amount of time before each meeting assembling an agenda for the meeting down to the minute—but don’t expect to stick to it directly. Stay on-topic as much as possible, but be prepared to spend a little time explaining confusing issues or answering questions.
- Always Have Extra Time
On that note, always schedule in extra time in your agenda. With services like Blue Jeans distance learning is easier than ever—but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a little breathing room. Whether you’re hosting a lecture or talking about this year’s profit and loss, always schedule in extra time for any questions and concerns your attendees may have. This may seem more important for bookworms than businesses,
- Share All Materials
Before the meeting, email out copies of the agenda to everyone attending so they understand the schedule at hand and know when to ask their questions without throwing off the flow of the meeting. When the meeting is over, email copies of any documents you used for your presentations and discussions, including PDFs and slideshows. If you took meeting minutes—which you should have—send these out as well within a couple hours of the meeting. Don’t wait too long to send literature to the attendees; it should arrive while the meeting itself is still fresh in their mind. If you find that you’ve forgotten to send out a key document more than 5 hours after the meeting, send it out immediately with a notice that it was long in the shuffle, and how it applies to anything else you sent.
Stay In Touch
The key to properly managing any long-distance meeting is preparation. Make sure that everyone knows the exact time the meeting is to take place, make sure everyone gets all the materials they need to make sense of the meeting’s purpose, and absolutely make sure that you know what you intend to say. Video conferencing makes it easier to host natural, comfortable remote meetings every day, but that doesn’t mean you can renege on your end of the deal and cut corners on the planning process.
As long as you know what you’re saying and everyone else knows when and how you intend to say it, managing your long distance meetings should be easy. Be flexible on when the meeting is to be held, but never start late. Before long you’ll be happier doing video conferences and hosting lectures online than in person!