The 8 Commandments of Remote Sessions
Whilst most would generally agree that discussions are easier done face to face, the fact is that many of us now work (for at least some of the time) remotely. For the Community of Practices at the company I work for, we have teams and attendees in a number of offices around the world. Remote or cross-site sessions are tough to run, but considering the alternative would be sessions that aren’t available to all, running them can bring a lot of value. We put together these tips to try to help run them effectively so that everyone involved gets to benefit from taking part.
1 — You all use the same tool If you have some people dialled in using different tools — some using Teams, some using Lifesize — with some sitting in a meeting room, you will be battling against the technology to try and coordinate the session. The host should specify ahead of time which tool is going to be used to host the session, and all attendees are expected to use it.
2 — You all get the same experience Following on from the above, when a group of people sit in a meeting room together to dial into a remote session, the understandable temptation is to talk about it to the people in the room with you. At best this means those in the room might miss something important, at worst this isolates those who are dialling in from the conversation. Everyone should use the same tool in the same way, so that everyone gets the same experience. It may feel silly at first sitting at your desk with a headset on whilst others are working if you haven’t done it before, but the feeling doesn’t last long.
3 — When dialled in, you are wholly present Dial in on time, webcam’s are turned on, no working on the other screen at the same time. If you have to step away for a moment (call at the door, call of nature), then switch your camera off so the rest of the meeting isn’t looking at an empty chair. Rules are arguably more important with a remote session, and they should be communicated clearly by the host ahead of time.
4 — Facilitate! Have someone act as a facilitator for the session. If you’re speaking/presenting you have enough to worry about, so someone else will be there to make sure that the right screen is being displayed, tackle any technical issues, ask/coordinate questions from the attendees and (hopefully not) quietly call out anyone not following rules 1 -3.
5 — Be aware of international time zones When we run sessions, we can reasonably expect people to be dialling in from three different offices around Europe— if not places even further afield. Please be mindful when scheduling that you aren’t booking over what could be someone’s lunchbreak, their morning stand ups, or a time that might be after they go home of an evening.
6 — Easier is not always better It IS easier to talk to someone in another country over the phone, call on Lifesize or Zoom or message on Slack or Teams. It means a conversation can be had right now, today, without delaying. When hosting a remote session, it is important to remember that it is not always appropriate to do this, and there really is no substitute for a face to face conversation. Sometimes it really is better to wait until you can all sit down together.
7 — Remote conversations are different to face to face conversations Even in the best run remote sessions, a fair portion of the richness of human communication is lost. Depending on the tool used, you will lose out on body language, facial cues, and the small signals of acknowledgement that you may or may not notice subconsciously in regular everyday conversation. Even if we ignore all of this, the way we hold a conversation with someone on a video call differs from one held when in the same room — we tend to talk/respond slower, and this can have an affect on the way we communicate. In these circumstances, please remember rule 6.
8 — Work with the medium and be creative You don’t try to do a practical workshop when you can’t be there to provide side by side support. You might however decide instead to do a live demonstration, sharing your screen with the rest of the group. You might use Jira/Miro/A N Other collaboration tool to do a lean coffee or discussion based session. You might play your slides and talk over them webinar style. Be creative — try something new and find out what works.