The modern businessman collaborates with technical gurus, stakeholders, financial analysts, subject matter experts and employees, often large in number. In many instances, these co-workers/service providers/partners are located elsewhere, potentially in different parts of the globe.
As it turns out, whether you name it telecommuting, virtual meeting, or working with a distributed team, collaborating with people in remote locations is on the rise. That said, holding a successful meeting with everyone involved is challenging, but is also considered the cornerstone of success.
How do you overcome the time zone barrier and make sure your meeting turns out to be a success? Here are a few ideas to help you out:
Be considerate with planning
It is important to gain commitment from expected collaborators in advance. Find the personal stake in key meeting personnel and remind them that these personal points will be discussed during the meeting. Make an invitation that defines the expectations of the meeting, as well as how to prepare and reasons to attend.
Don’t forget to mention any links and passwords that would be used to login to the meeting. Pre-meeting confirmations should be followed up with a personal touch to ensure everyone is ready to be there on time and contribute. You can also include synchronized breaks to let everyone know they will get a chance to munch according to their own time zones.
Don’t rely on the time clock of your computer as it can malfunction at any moment. Use smarter tools such as Google Calendar’s World Clock. It enables you to see the current time on your calendar as well as time in other international places, so you don’t end up asking someone to join a meeting at 4 am.
There are also tools that let you record meetings so everyone can refer to them later. StartMeeting’s screen sharing software can be used to record meetings directly from the web controls window available in the meeting wall. This kind of screen sharing software also gives you control over which applicants to share the meeting screen with, as well as chat with participants who join the meeting.
Establish comfort and trust
Comfort and trust of interactions are vital to the success of virtual meetings. As you can’t influence the other side as you can during a face to face meeting, you have to find new ways to create a dynamic within the group and engage participants. Those conducting meetings need to establish their role and gain the trust of participants in them as the facilitator.
To do this, you need to be aware of the reactions and interactions within the meeting group without the usual visual clues. Create an environment where people can safely admit problems, point out concerns, and don’t hesitate to ask for help.
Inspire and motivate
Your role as a facilitator should be to take responsibility for the meeting; therefore you should recognize the importance of ongoing engagement and communication and come up with ways to keep in touch with participants as well as encourage them to communicate with each other.
It is always helpful to make ends meet by sharing objectives of the meeting with participants and asking for their input. You can also motivate/inspire them for greater input by relating their effort to increased profitability and chances of higher earnings in the future.