Recently, I had to shift a two-day customer workshop which was planned as an in-person event to a fully digital experience with everyone participating from their home offices. Here is, what we learned.
1. Start with a video introduction round
Ask, if it is possible and okay for everyone to turn their cameras on for an introduction and welcoming round at the beginning of each day. This helped us a lot to get to know and connect with each other in a more personal way. If the bandwidth doesn't handle all cameras being on at the same time, try only turning one camera on at the same time, from the person who is currently speaking.
2. Plan for longer lunch breaks than usual
People might not be able to the canteen to grab a bite, when working from home. More likely, they will likely have to go and cook something and gather the family for lunch, so plan for longer lunch breaks.
Recommendation: 1.5 hours
3. Be very strict on regular coffee breaks
Sitting in front of a computer with a headset on all day is a lot more exhausting than sitting in a meeting room. We learned, how important it is to have a regular 15 minute coffee breaks. Also, don't plan to have these breaks together and give people a chance, to put the headset off and relax for a little while.
Recommendation: 15 minutes every 1.5 hours
4. Start late and finish early
I have never been the biggest fan of full-day meetings. Turns out, when everyone is remote, those meetings are more exhausting than usual. Starting late gives all participants the chance to have a breakfast with their family. Finishing early doesn't burn all the batteries for that day and gives participants some time back to wrap up, prepare for tomorrow and care about their families.
Recommendation: 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM. This results in 4.5 hours net meeting time per day (6.5 h - 1.5 h lunch break - 2x 15 min coffee break).
5. Add regular open feedback rounds to the agenda
It is important to make sure, you are not talking into the void for hours. Adding quick feedback rounds (again with camera on, if possible) after each break and at the end of a day encourages to discuss, if everyone is still on track and if the day is working as expected.
6. Use different types of presentation media
Two days of Power Point slides only, can be hell. Try to switch between slides, live demos with screen sharing, whiteboard sessions and discussion rounds to bring variety into your meetings. Not only, but especially in remote meetings that can keep the flow of participation alive.
Recommendation: Microsoft Whiteboard works in the Web and on iOS, Android and Windows, has pen support and lets multiple people draw at the same time, which worked great for us.
7. Share content upfront
Shorten the meeting by exchanging section content upfront, so everyone can join prepared. Sharing content upfront also gives participants the flexibility to freely plan preparation time into their own calendars.
What are your tips and lessons learned from running long remote calls? Let me know, so I can extend the list!
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