2 april, 2020
As the coronavirus forced many office workers and students to work from home, loud complaints started to roar all over social media. Frustrated coworkers grinding their teeth over cascading problems with communicating with team members over the internet. People who usually collaborate with each other in a meeting room or at one's desk were suddenly forced to translate their communication methods to something that works digitally.
At Datastory we are used to this. Like many other tech companies we have coworkers in different countries and cities. We do our Monday weeklies remote already, and we collaborate with each other in cloud-based tools like Notion, Slack and Figma. E-mail is something we use mainly for external communication.
For people and organizations who have not yet had the time or opportunity to adjust to a digital meeting standard, we would like to share a number of tips that are working well for us. There are also some specific actions that will improve the creative outcome of your remote meeting.
Have an agenda | Ahead of the meeting, we post a brief agenda on Notion, giving all team members an opportunity to prepare questions and ideas.
The platform | Choose your platform to make a web call. We use Slack where we create channels from which we can call all the relevant participants directly. Slack also has a fun pen tool so that anyone can draw on the screen, something that is useful when pointing out details in a presentation for example.
The facilitator | Every meeting has a facilitator who is responsible for the meeting. The person makes sure everyone gets to speak their mind and keeps track of time.
Screen demos | We focus on what's being demonstrated on the screen. It can be the agenda or a presentation. Rarely we bring up video look at each other. Saying hello on video is fun and is sometimes a good way to start a call, but in a creative meeting, we don’t want to distract our minds. When we don’t see each other, we also have to listen more carefully and choose when and what to say.
The shared notes | During the meeting, someone is responsible for taking short notes of what is being discussed and decided. We put those notes next to the agenda so that everything that is decided is available to the whole team and to those who couldn't participate. Ideas often pop up after a meeting.
Jamboard | For virtual post-it exercise workshops, we use Google Jamboard to do collaborative brainstorming.
The headphones | To create a relaxed sound environment, with the team being able to talk in a regular voice volume, wearing headphones will be your best meeting tool. After a day with several remote meetings, and without headphones, ears might fall off!
The follow-up | Right after the meeting, the facilitator posts key action items on Slack with a link to Notion for the complete summary.
Creativity thrives in an organized environment because when you can relax, and rely on a structure, there is time and space for innovation!
ps. For more practical advise, we can recommend a recent podcast episode with neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris interviewing Matt Mullenweg, a founding developer of WordPress. They talk about how to conduct meetings in a distributed organization and there's lots of learnings as Matt takes us through the 5 levels of remote work.
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