Communication is key, and in few circumstances is that truer than as it applies to online meetings, virtual workplaces or remote teams. When you’re unable to pop by a co-worker’s desk to share an update or call employees into a conference room for a face-to-face meeting, communication needs to take another route, and in lieu of sending email after clarifying email or potentially confusing chat threads via Slack, a conference call can often be the most direct and effective way to communicate for remote workers.
Video calls are a key component of our team’s communication at Team Building Hero, where we operate a 100% remote HQ staff, and we’ve been around the block enough times to know what works, what doesn’t work, and what you can do to lead conference calls with the most impact.
Read on for our top five tips for upgrading your remote team’s conference calls!
1. Start Each Call with an Icebreaker
At Team Building Hero, we make sure to kick off each remote video call with an icebreaker. This helps team members ease into the conversation, especially if it’s one with other team members they may not have met before. These questions are a helpful tool in not only, well, breaking the ice, but also in helping create bonds between team members by having them learn something fun about their teammates they might not have known before.
Our favorites range from silly (“If you were a wrestler, what would be your entrance theme song?”) to thought-provoking [“Who is the better businessman or businesswoman and why? (Example: Justin Timberlake or Justin Bieber?)”]
For more ideas for icebreakers and similar, check out our epic guide to virtual team building.
2. Assign Roles to Team Members on the Call
“Who’s taking notes?” “Did someone write that down?” When each team member on a conference call has a clearly communicated job, there’s no need to worry about whether or not the right actions were taken after the call concludes.
Try assigning a “scribe” to jot down key points and action items and a “time-keeper” to ensure meetings are wrapped up at the correct end time. At Team Building, we also like to assign a “cheerleader”; this person is responsible for calling out awesomeness on calls and keeping morale high and a “referee,” who ensures our conversations stay on track and brings us back if the topic starts to veer away from its intended purpose.
Why not add a role specific to your company’s core values or specific needs? If your team is new to the remote lifestyle, your meetings could possibly benefit from a team member whose job it is to keep the conversation on track. Or maybe you’d like to designate a team member to field questions on behalf of the organizer and present them all at a certain point in the call. No matter your team’s needs, assigning roles during your calls will give participants a reason to stay engaged and helps ensure nothing important is forgotten or lost in translation.
3. Use Good Tools
Every tip in our arsenal is of no help if you don’t have a solid platform to use for your conference call. There are plenty of great platforms available, like Vast Conference, Slack, UberConference, FreeConferenceCall.com, and GoToMeeting are other popular options, each with their own unique benefits. We recommend weighing your options and determining which has the features that make it the best fit for your remote team’s needs.
Take, for example, Vast Conference — here’s what Marketing Communications Director Jamie Davidson had to say about conference calls and virtual events for remote teams:
“With the increase in geographically displaced teams and traditionally in-office employees moving to remote work, companies are instituting new processes to ensure that work continues to get done. With this new structure it’s important to also include online team building as a “must have” practice and company policy. Creating the atmosphere of collaboration and unification is even more critical when team members aren’t under one roof. Vast Conference recommends using video conferencing to bring team building activities online. This way, employees still get together face to face, communicate, and build solid relationships. With the right kind of virtual events, though team members may be apart, they’ll always feel part of the team.”
4. Take Breaks!
If a particularly in-depth, lengthy conference call is on the docket, it’s important to build in pauses for your employees to refill water or coffee, stretch legs, or take a restroom break. At Team Building Hero, we typically build in a five-minute “body break” in the middle of meetings that run for an hour and a half or longer, giving the team a moment to turn off video (if in a video call), stand up, and have a moment to themselves.
Take things a step further by implementing a quick “chair yoga” break, a dance break, a pause to meditate, or whatever makes sense for you and your company!
5. Be Human
Nobody’s perfect, and technology certainly isn’t infallible. It’s important to have grace (and, if we’re honest, a sense of humor) when it comes to remote conference calls. There will be times when someone forgets they’ve put themselves on mute, street noise/a screeching toddler/a barking dog drowns out the response to a question, or someone’s voice goes inexplicably robot-y as the result of a connectivity issue.
At its core, remote work is all about flexibility, and while that doesn’t mean all convention should be thrown out the window, a go-with-the-flow nature is important to keep in mind when coordinating your team’s remote conference calls, too.
Above all else, two of the most important things to remember for your remote team’s conference calls is that information is conveyed clearly and that your employees come away from the call knowing what’s expected of them. We encourage you to try all (or even just a few!) of the tips recommended here to find the balance that has your team saying “hello” to conference call success.
6. Do Virtual Team Building Activities
Including virtual team building activities in your conference calls can help increase employee engagement and participation. Those are some pretty good perks 🙂
There are many ways to include a little DIY team building in your conference calls. We’ve assembled a list of virtual team building ideas that includes spreadsheet activities, tiny virtual campfires and more.