Now that we are all working from home, with team members and managers also working from their respective homes, there may be times when you may need to conduct client meetings without their participation or direction.
Normally, you are in the office with your team. Normally, you see your team everyday, face to face. Normally, you eat lunch together. Before quarantine, you would commute to work together. You would also be able to have water cooler talk at an actual water cooler. While your local team is indeed local team, now a days it feels like everyone is far away and maybe not as accessible as in the recent past.
Up until recently, when you attended virtual client meetings, your team was with you in the same room or building. While you were a participant in the meeting and status updates, you were not responsible for scheduling the meeting, sending the calendar invite, gathering the team on time, connecting in with time to spare, or maybe speaking that much.
But, today is different.
Your Manager or Team Lead has asked you to work from home (WFH) due to the Coronavirus. Maybe your city or state has shut down. You may be asked to self-quarantine. But, you still have to work.
But, this time is different.
Because the Manager or the Team Lead is also working from home and their schedule is a bit different than it normally is, maybe they want you to take the lead on the next call. They will not be able to schedule or attend the call.
It’s your turn to step up and take charge.
But, you’re freaking out because you don’t know how to do it. No one has showed you or told you what to do.
Guess what, I am here to help you!!
Now, as we say in the US, you are left holding the bag!!
What do you do?
You never had to organize and schedule a virtual meeting with the client or offshore colleague before…. What do you do? How do you do it?
Rather than bite the bullet and go in without preparation, let me walk you through it. These tips apply most to those in India (or maybe other offshore/non-US locations) who work with US Americans as some are culture tips.
Step 1: Confirm You Need to Handle This
First, do confirm that either your manager or senior team member or team lead is not handling this. Do not assume. Keep in touch while working from home. As you are now not seeing each other for tea or lunch, ping them on Slack or call them on WhatsApp. However you can, get in touch by call to confirm if they are organizing the meeting. Do this at least 2 business days in advance due to the time difference between the US and India.
|There are four time zones in the continental US. Identify the
city and state of your client to identify the right time zone.
Let’s meet Tuesday, March 17 at 6pm IST/8:30am EST. (This is not a request. This will be read as a demand by most US Americans.)
Instead write, “When will you be free next week for our meeting?” Or turn the statement above into a question using polite question words and a question mark at the end.
If the meeting is one that happens pretty much the same day and time every week, it still may be good to write something like this to the client, “As you now Madhu is out this week. I will be coordinating the meeting this week. Would you like to meet the same day and time as usual (note day and time in parenthesis)? In case a different day and time is more convenient, feel free to suggest an available time slot.”
[Don’t forget the opening and closing to your email to make it more formal, and not looking like a text message.]
If you are not sure about the time differences, use websites to convert the time or type in Google “6pm IST to EST.” It should output something like what you see in the image below.
Step 3: Send a Calendar Invite
The US counterpart will respond. As soon as you get a confirmed date and time, set up the calendar invite. Just as with your meeting request email, assure the calendar invite has a catchy title that will make sense to your client when seeing it quickly. Vague titles like “Meeting” or “StandUp” may not work as we don’t know if your client has other similar meetings with other colleagues or stakeholders.
This may be the first time you have ever sent a calendar invite. Take your time, assure that the calendar invite assigns the correct time zone.
Tip: Though I have been sending calendar invites for years, I still sometimes get confused and practice on it by sending one to myself in the client’s time zone schedule to see how it renders in my calendar before even suggesting a time.
Even in Google Calendar, it is often necessary to select your local time zone. When recipient opens and sees your invite, it should display in their time zone. The calendar invite should be accepted by the recipient to show on their calendar.
Take a look at the tutorials below that will help assure your calendar settings are correctly configured. Though these are gmail tutorials (many startups use a branded Google email and calendar), the same should apply for your email client.
How to say no when a client wants to continue the meeting
Podcast: Top 5 Pronunciation Tips for Virtual Meetings
Read about a client program we held: Building Culturally Competent US-Client Facing Teams in India
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Select Industry > Learning Level > Skill, to see 1-3 suggested programs.