As with face-2-face meetings, online meetings also have an etiquette (“netiquette”) to make them effective. I have been working with geographically dispersed teams for over 10 years now often with the complexity of members in different countries and diverse backgrounds. As we now move to more people working from home, the scale of working with distributed teams has increased significantly.
The Agile Manifesto’s principle suggest face-to-face is the best option but in today’s world of social distancing and WFH, doing this in a physical environment is no longer a viable option.
Here are the guidelines we have found useful for having for online meetings with distributed teams and remote team members.
Overall guiding principles
“Visual plus Sound” over “Sound only” over “Text only”
Use WebEx, Zoom, Google Hangouts and Jabber (video plus sound) over WebEx (sound only) or Phone/Jabber (sound only) over Jabber/MOC (chat only)
Be aware of likelihood of bandwidth constraints and limitations with everyone dialing in remotely so if a video call breaks down, find a way to progressively wind back from video. Throttle the video quality, switch video off next, and then dial-in.
Preparation is the key
Be aware of your surroundings:
- Find a location where there is a minimum amount of background noise.
- Find a location with minimum visual distractions in the background.
Use the right tools:
- Use a headset with a microphone if possible. Test it before the meeting.
- Use a camera (can be one integrated into your device). Test it before the meeting.
- Dress appropriately, you could be on camera.
If you are the facilitator, do extra prep before the meeting
- Make sure each meeting has a facilitator.
- Facilitator sends out an meeting invite with a link to the virtual location of the meeting and details on how to get onto the meeting.
- If one person is remote, then everyone remotes in. This levels the playing field for everyone to get equal space to talk and chatting in the background.
- Be the first one in the meeting (5 mins before start to check the tech and links).
- Have a backup plan for if the technology doesn’t work and send this out ahead of the meeting so everyone is aware of the backup options.
During the meeting
At the start of the meeting, do a roll call and check who is present. The facilitator does a recap of the “Netiquette”:
- One person talks at a time.
- Do not interrupt each other, only the facilitator has the right to interrupt to ensure the meeting stays on-point.
- Enable your video when joining the session, reduce movement if possible.
- Mute your microphone when you are not speaking.
- When speaking, speak into the microphone.
- Stay focused on the meeting: Do not stare or do other things during the meeting.
- Do not have offline conversations unless facilitated: it distracts others if you do.
- Sharing your screen will help to create focus on the topic you are discussing i.e. if you are talking about a specific document, share you screen with the relevant document.
- Start with stating your name before you start speaking.
- If your meeting takes longer than 1 hour, consider scheduling a mini break of 1 minute to let people stretch.
The facilitator will facilitate taking turns talking during the session This will help ensures the quiet people have a voice, and ensures the people in the meeting are adhering to the Netiquette.
- Consider using visual cards such as “ELMO” cards (“enough-let’s-move-on”) (need to print cards) or “Seethinkdo” meeting cards (on your smartphone). These cards help the participant signal potential issues during the session to the facilitator or to other participants. You can always draw your own cards.
- Have a group chat ready with all the participants to catch conversations if required. This might be useful for quiet people as well.
- Have a private chat set up for those who want to directly chat to the facilitator in private.
- Appoint a backup facilitator. They should be able to also add people to your online meeting and host or set the setting to let anyone host the meeting
Download ZXM’s Netiquette Cards
We’ve produced a range of cards to help our own teams to engage over video. We hope you find them as useful as we do.