Communicating with a remote team can be tricky, especially when face-to-face communication isn’t an option. Good business communication means effective listening, active participation and clear speaking. These virtual presentation tips will make communicating with your remote team members easier, whether you’re giving a presentation to the entire team or just meeting one-on-one with a coworker who works at another location.
1) Have meetings at the same time each week
You might think you’re being super flexible by having meetings every Tuesday and Thursday at 1 p.m., but your remote team members probably aren’t taking it that way. To help them feel more comfortable, have meetings at some set time each week—say, on Tuesdays at 10 a.m. Remind people of when those meetings are and encourage them to show up to those that they can attend in person. Doing so will help everyone know what to expect from their work day (and what to expect from one another). Plus, sticking to regular meeting times (at least during business hours) allows employees who attend in person to better coordinate their schedules with colleagues who can’t meet as frequently (or even at all) in real life.
2) Set Clear Agenda – let everyone know what’s expected before the meeting starts
If you’re communicating with a remote team or planning an important meeting, let everyone know exactly what to expect. Setting clear expectations is key to running successful business meetings, regardless of how many people are in attendance or where they’re located. This can be as simple as sending an agenda before each meeting, setting clear start and end times and letting team members know what they can and cannot bring into a call. In fact, if you follow these tips and still find that your meeting isn’t productive, you might want to rethink its purpose—that will make communicating more clearly easier next time around.
3) Always be on time
It’s tempting to walk into a business meeting just as it is starting, but running late has real consequences: It shows disrespect, says you didn’t think enough of your meeting partner to start on time and likely impacts how people perceive you in general. If you have trouble making meetings on time, set up automated alerts or find an assistant who can email you when meetings are about to start so you can check in before things kick off. Often, that slight nudge is all we need to stay on schedule.
4) Prepare Something Interesting to Share
If you’re going to schedule a meeting, chances are that you have something interesting to share. This means your business communication should reflect that. For example, if you’re going to share numbers and plans, why not prepare an infographic or use data in other creative ways? The more unique and visually appealing your presentation is, the more likely people will be to sit through it.
5) Have 1-on-1 Meetings
In virtual communication, it’s easy to let business meetings fall by the wayside. Make sure that you hold regular one-on-one meetings, where you set aside time to talk to each team member and discuss progress, challenges, and new ideas. If your entire team is remote or in different locations, consider using video conferencing software such as Troop Messenger, Skype, or Google Hangouts—these are great tools because they allow participants to see and hear each other (and their body language) very clearly. You can also use group video calls if your team is spread out geographically; these sessions give you an opportunity to communicate face-to-face without traveling.
6) Take Notes and Follow Up After Each Meeting
It’s easy to let follow-up tasks slip your mind during business meetings. But there are plenty of ways to stay on top of things during and after any meeting—including virtual ones. For example, use an app like GoToMeeting or Google Hangouts to record each meeting, then create a reminder in your calendar based on what was discussed. That way, you can quickly follow up on tasks immediately instead of having to rely on memory later down the line. Another bonus? Going back through your notes and recording will help you notice areas where you need clarification or rework explanations.
7) Keep an Ongoing Journal of Ideas, News, and Issues That Require Attention
Keeping an ongoing journal of ideas, news, and issues that require attention can be hugely beneficial when you’re leading a remote team. You can centralize information, so it’s always available and searchable in one place. You can also have everyone in your team looking at (and contributing to) the same information on an ongoing basis. This not only creates a sense of shared responsibility among your team members, but also keeps all stakeholders involved in projects that may otherwise fall by the wayside. If you think it would be helpful to create such a resource as part of your own remote team communications toolkit, there are many easy tools available online that allow you to create your own wiki for free!
8) Address Issues as They Arise in Real Time
Communication issues always come up, so instead of letting them simmer into major problems, make it a habit to address them as they arise. Holding regular virtual stand-up meetings via online chat or video conferencing is an easy way to check in and address issues before they become real headaches. If you have remote workers on your team, be sure to remind them at each meeting that it’s okay to ask questions—and that it’s okay if they don’t know how to do something. Virtual communication can be very impersonal; taking advantage of opportunities like these can help your remote employees feel more connected and included.
9) Keep Things Simple & Easy to Understand For Everyone Involved
No matter how well-organized you are, things can quickly become complicated when you’re communicating with people who are geographically far apart. To avoid any miscommunication, focus on creating as much clarity as possible by being specific in your language and not assuming anything. If someone is unclear about something you’ve said or if they have questions about something that was discussed, ask them to clarify or explain what they don’t understand. When everyone involved knows exactly what they need to do and has questions answered in real time, you’ll have successful remote team communication.
10) Ensure that Everyone Knows Who is Responsible for What
When working remotely, it’s easy to assume that everyone is on your page—that you understand each other perfectly and there are no ambiguities. Unfortunately, not being in each other’s presence can sometimes lead to misunderstandings. Ensure that everyone knows who is responsible for what by making sure that all tasks have clear objectives and all roles have clear descriptions. Setting expectations up front will make communication much smoother down the road.
The transition to remote work can be difficult and presents a number of challenges. While there are great upsides to remote team communication, including cost savings and greater flexibility, there are also challenges. The main difficulties arise from people communicating remotely through emails and chat, which lack body language and vocal tones that make verbal interactions more effective in clarifying information. There are simple ways to mitigate these risks through effective team communication practices.