OWN YOUR NOTIFICATIONS. Each person needs to be in charge of his/her own notifications. What information is necessary? Filter out things that aren’t useful to you, as well as your push notifications. Your team can’t do this for you.
SEGMENT TOPICS INTO DIFFERENT CHANNELS. Keep your conversation topics organized into different channels so your chats are focused. Only join channels that you really need or want to see.
THREAD CONVERSATIONS. To help keep topics within a channel organized and easy to find, thread your conversations whenever possible.
TAG SPECIFIC PEOPLE. If you want someone in particular to see the conversation, tag them (usually done with the “@” symbol. i.e., “@Dave Do you need anything for tomorrow’s newsletter?”)
LINK TO INFORMATION. If you’re referencing information in your message, make it easy for your team and send them a link to the file/channel/website/trello card you’re talking about. Include anything that will help move the conversation forward.
PROVIDE CONTEXT. Be specific about what you need and give context. Since group chat can be so fast pace, some people start their sentences mid-thought. This makes sense to them at the time, but the rest of the team doesn’t have the benefit of the full thought and the information will appear random.
USE FULL SENTENCES. Take the time to write out full thoughts. This makes context and meaning easier to read.
BE TRANSPARENT. This, of course, depends on the specific team – but most remote teams value transparency over silos. So when in doubt, post publicly. Chances are you’ll get a faster answer to your question, and someone else was probably wondering the same thing.
ARCHIVE CHANNELS. Channels will start and stop naturally. Go through and clean them up every once in a while. Archive topics that are no longer being used. Consolidate channels that have become similar.
EDIT, DON’T REWRITE. If you got something wrong in a message you sent, instead of rewriting it, consider editing it instead. This helps cut down on the number of messages coming through.
USE EMOTICONS. Instead of asking people to respond with a message, consider using emoticons as answers instead. For example, if you are asking yes/no questions, ask people to respond with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down symbol. This reduces the number of messages being sent and makes answers visual.
DON’T SEND FASTER THAN YOU RECEIVE. If you’re engaged in a back and forth conversation with someone, be conscious of your typing speed. Typing too fast can be analogous to talking over someone.
LEARN TO TYPE FASTER. Many remote teams communicate via the written word, If you’re a slow typer, do your team a favor and learn to type faster.
DON’T USE CHAT TO WORK OUT CONFLICT. Inevitably in any group, there will be conflict. And working out via the written word is probably the worst way to handle it. When things start to get heated, go eface-to-eface (or face-to-face if you can).
CREATE A TEAM AGREEMENT. Define and revisit your group chat etiquette in a team agreement.
Facilitator tip – Rather than merely trying to replicate a technique that works for in-person meetings, try to deconstruct why that technique works and reconstruct that technique for virtual meetings
Participate in the virtual meeting with the same level of attention (or more) and engagement as though it is an in-person meeting (that means no multi-tasking)
There is a self-fulfilling prophecy with regard to virtual meetings – you experience poor virtual meetings, you expect bad meetings, you get bad meetings, and the cycle perpetuates itself
Set expectations upfront – very clearly and this is how you break the self-fulfilling prophecy
Ban phone only meetings, use videos for ALL the meetings.
People get a lot of cues when seeing the face and having a video helps in non-verbal communication, not to mention that it actually engages people
Have you heard the toilet flushing sound when in conference calls(because someone forgot to mute their phone)? Bet you will not hear that when you have your participants turn on the video.
You got to be on the video, else we close the meeting right away. You join on video, else you don’t. Period.
You got to join the meeting from a quiet place, not “dial-in” it from the bus when you are on your way home. And you must be on the video. Period.
Even if one person breaks the expectations once, we close the meeting right away. We break it once, it is an excuse to break it the second time and we are back with the self-fulfilling prophecy of bad virtual meetings
Normalize the communication channels – One person is remote? Then everyone is joining remotely using their own video from their laptop. Two people cannot join using the same video. Don’t have a camera? GET ONE !!
Facilitator and participant tip – try having the video right below the camera (than having the video on a different screen) in your laptops/computer. It creates an impression that you are looking into the camera when you are looking into the video
In-person meetings and co-located teams work because we “socialize” quite a bit. Try having some “social” time in virtual meetings as well. Try “bring your own cider” (the choice of drink will depend on the timezone of the participants)
As a facilitator, you got to have everyone engaged – here are a few tips
Get everyone on video.
This minimizes the participants’ tendency to multi-task
This also prevents people from anonymously snooping in. Have you had people join a conference call and not announce themselves? Will you let someone walk into your in-person meeting with a mask on? If no, why would you have someone snoop into your virtual meeting?
Avoid PowerPoints – it is just one-way broadcast. Use tools that support “virtual” break-out rooms.
Increase psychological safety (more on this in a different blog later) so that people can actually speak up.
Facilitator tips –
Like my friend Mike Dwyer says – use the NOSTUESO rule – No One Speaks Twice Until Everyone Speaks Once. And the participant has the right to pass. This creates space for people to speak up. Also, if participants speak up in the first five minutes, they are much more likely to speak again.
Hard to pass a talking stick and figuring out who should talk next in a virtual meeting when facilitating round-robin discussion – try this idea – Have a participant speak and then nominate the next person. And repeat till everyone speaks
Prepare… prepare… prepare. You cannot wing a virtual meeting. You need more preparation. And you need a Plan B as well. What if the internet connection fails? What if your laptop crashes?
Pay attention to discomfort – participants can only sit in once place for so long
Bring psychological safety and engagement from everyone into the working agreement. What might be the few ways that we damage psychological safety (sometimes unconsciously)?
Have someone paraphrase what a speaker said. This makes people pay more attention and also ensures that the speaker’s message landed as intended
If appropriate, use tools like https://www.mentimeter.com/ or https://kahoot.com/ to increase engagement during the meeting by having participants answer questions.
When women speak first, the probability that other women speak is higher.
Remote meetings are a lot smaller than in-person meetings. It is hard to have more than 12 people in a virtual meeting (and then expect them to be engaged). If you are new start with six, then build up.
Having distributed team members is always a challenge in many aspects in a scrum team. One of the challenges is performing a meaningful, effective and with good results retrospective. Shirly Ronen-Harel created this collection which will provide some insights on the subject: http://tracks.roojoom.com/r/73149