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    Welcome to Authentic Journeys - ഓതെന്റിക് ജെർനീയ്സ് - US-India Cross-Cultural Training

February 22, 2020

Everyone Gets Heard During Stand-Up and Remote Meetings

Helping make virtual team meetings more productive
Helping make virtual team 
meetings more productive
Distributed teams attend stand up meetings by web conferencing, con-call or other online collaborative tools. These meetings can be attended in various ways. In some cases, the entire team sits in one room and calls in. In many more cases, however, people tend to call in from different places, as many team members may work in different office locations, remotely while traveling or from their home office. 

Coordinating these meetings, especially on globally distributed teams, can be a headache as many people will join the bridge from various locations. While turning on the video camera may help us to understand other's body language, some may not turn it on due to slow connections, or there are simply way too many team members logged on, so it's not possible to see everyone clearly on the screen at the same time. Or, some call in using their mobile phone, so the small screen makes viewing people and content challenging. As we are not able to see everyone's reactions, and connections can cut people off, it can be hard to tell when any person has stopped talking. Because of this, it's common for more than one person to talk at a time. How can we handle or avoid more than one person speaking at a time during a remote meeting? 



Tips for Facilitating Stand-Up Meetings: 


  • When starting any new engagement, it's important that ground rules are set. One of those rules can relate to clear communication or interrupting and how to go about doing that to assure each individual's voice is heard.
  • For regularly scheduled stand up meetings, one could consider having an order to who speaks first, second, third and so forth.
  • Participants in the meeting must direct their questions to a particular person by name - which may be especially important after the status updates are announced, when the blockers or barriers are discussed and quickly brainstormed. (Again, if all we have to connect with others is our voice, we can't make eye contact with them, so using the name is the best bet.)
  • If you want to transfer the conversation to a particular person, use their name. Not everyone on the call can see each other, and putting a name to a voice, especially in larger teams can be a challenge. 
  • When there is no option but to interrupt, we should take care to use the right phrases to politely interrupt and avoid the rude ones. 
  • For those who do happen to be attending from the same space use that to your advantage. Look at your teammate who is talking before you start talking. Use their name to transition, such as, "Lakshmi, I'll continue from here..." (This may seem obvious, but for many teams we have coached, they have 'forgotten' this, prioritizing virtual communication etiquette where not being in a room with the person is the norm.) 
Tips for Facilitating More Complex Meetings (the previous tips can also apply): 
  • Have a clear agenda with a person assigned to each talking point. In addition, you can also prepare your talking points in advance. For some meetings, where questions may be posed to you, as Shanthi from English with a Twist suggests, "...you could email the participants an outline of the content before and invite them to submit their questions. That way you have time to prepare your answers." (Read more tips on tips to participate confidently in a virtual meeting in English.)
  • Assign a meeting moderator (which would be the Scrum Master in Agile teams) to handle conflicts in discussions.
  • Another solution can lie in the platform being used. Try the chat box, raise hands function, on demand polls, or other related functions of the platform being used. Note, that if this option is considered, coordinating these functions by the moderator alone may become challenging. Assigning a co-moderator who will inform the moderator at regular intervals about hand raises and chat or IM interruptions should be considered. This can be especially helpful for weekly demos or sales webinar demos.

(These answers assume that the equipment is working flawlessly!)

There will be other ideas that come to mind as we brainstorm this longer and as technology advances. The key here is that the meeting must be well planned and organized. Communication between as many team members on one side of the call must take place in advance. This does take preparation time for the team calling in, but will save time in actually holding the meeting and also will help in reducing these kinds of interruptions. In addition to this, individual contributors can prepare their talking points in advance (we coach you here, as well). 


Jennifer Kumar, author of this post helps Indian teams communicate more effectively with US counterparts by consulting with them, finding the gaps, and implementing simple processes to help improve communication within their team and between onsite and client teams. Contact her anytime to learn more by clicking here.


Related Posts: 

Help! My Developers Won’t Speak Up on Client Calls 
Stop talking to respond with more ease 
Mistakes Americans Make During Conference Calls 
Phrases to End a Meeting (Video Tutorial) 

Original date: Feb. 2014
Update: Feb. 2020

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.