Except, perhaps, their offshore partners. Here at Liemur, through close collaboration between the London headquarters and our Budapest branch, we’ve become experts at remote meetings over the past decade. As international projects and off-site teams become the norm not just for software companies in the UK but in various sectors elsewhere in the world, video and phone conferences are inevitable and their potential pitfalls endless. You can take our word for it… and follow our advice on how to keep remote meetings manageable and efficient.
Only If All Else Fails.
Meetings are bad enough, but when done remotely, distractions and the likelihood of glitches in technology or communication increase manifold, so it’s best to avoid remote meetings whenever possible. Is there a real need for direct dialogue between multiple partners; for instant feedback and consensus? If not, email, phone or IM chat will do. If you are using email intensively with major communication consequences (like project decision making), have a look at our “3 email management techniques” . It will help avoiding miscommunication mistakes.
Have a Facilitator.
Meetings tend to ramble when no one is in charge. At conference calls, where attendees have no eye contact, it’s especially important to have someone who oversees it all.
In the case of multicultural attendees, you may want to have a facilitator who is cross-cultural communication aware. See Cross-cultural leverage in offshore software development.
Keep It Exclusive.
Remote participants are tempted to multitask if they don’t feel directly involved. Rather have several short meetings with only the relevant people than waste everyone’s time with one long, joint session. As a rule of thumb, invite no more than 7 people.
Master the Technology.
Software companies know best that wherever there’s technology, there’s a chance of breakdown. Plan smart and use only what’s needed: for discussions, a teleconference is suitable; for revising materials, provide a tool that allows real-time editing. Video calls should be reserved for cases with a visual aspect. Take time in advance to test cables and connections and to make sure everyone is wired in. Have a fallback option in case something goes pear-shaped. To minimize background noise, ask attendees to mute their microphones when not talking.
Engage, Engage, Engage.
Welcome everyone and let them connect with the others. During the meeting, pause frequently to give each participant the opportunity to talk. Avoid “proxy-speak”: encourage people to contribute directly. Establish regular feedback loops to make sure everyone is on the same page. If you can’t hear or see someone properly, be blunt and interrupt them; persist until the issue is resolved.
At a virtual meeting, no matter how sharp the technology, it’s as if we were all blindfolded and slightly deaf. Participants have to overcome these limitations by being explicit and to the point. Differences in jargon or accent could be tricky; confirm terminology if in doubt. Avoid irony as some of it might get “lost in translation”. At a conference call, use names frequently and ask participants to identify themselves before speaking. Make sure they don’t interrupt each other.
That’s about it – just one of the ways the expertise of software companies in the UK, like Liemur, can be leveraged. To find out what else we can do for you, read about our services or contact us for details.