When you’re working from home, teamwork is essential. In order to get things done, you need to be able to communicate with your coworkers, share ideas, make group decisions, and get their input and assistance.

But collaborating with your coworkers when everyone is working remotely can be difficult. It was simple when everyone could just gather together in a room and discuss a project together. But trying to do something similar on a video conference call can be more challenging. On a conference call, it’s easier to be distracted and get off track. And sometimes, it’s harder to be heard.

Luckily, there are things you can do to make these types of collaborative sessions more productive and effective. Author Ximena Vengoechea suggests that you do the following:

  • Keep it focused – Video conference calls can be very tiring and it’s easy for participants to get distracted. So it’s important to keep them focused. This can be done by controlling the scope, cutting down on the number of participants, and making sure the meeting doesn’t run long.
    • Control the scope of the meeting. Think about the purpose of the meeting. What do you hope to accomplish? Make sure you have a clear understanding of what needs to be discussed and try to keep the other participants focused on that topic.
    • Cut down on the number of participants. Only include people who are really essential to the project. If too many people are in the meeting, they may have difficulty voicing their opinions and there’s more likely to be confusion and misunderstandings.
    • Make sure the meeting doesn’t run long. Meetings should be no longer than one hour. If you are unable to accomplish what you wanted to within that hour, schedule a follow-up meeting.
  • Make sure your meeting participants are prepared – Before the meeting, make sure to explain the purpose of the meeting and what you hope to accomplish. If meeting participants need to review certain documents or materials before the meeting, make sure to tell them that this is required, and make sure those materials are easily accessible.
  • Keep people engaged – During the meeting, stick to your agenda, try to prevent the conversation from veering off course, and try to keep things moving along. Make the meeting interactive by asking people questions, or asking them to use the tools in your video conferencing software to express their opinions. You may also want to consider enlisting one or two people to help you keep the conversation going if things seem to lag. And keep people’s minds from wandering by giving them jobs. For instance, you could ask one person to take notes, and another person to watch the time.
  • Use technology to capture people’s ideas – If you were brainstorming with a group of people and you were all in the same room, you would probably write down their ideas on a whiteboard or on stickie notes. You should do the same thing in your video conference meeting (for instance, by using a virtual whiteboard). This will help participants to get creative, generate more ideas, and notice trends and connections.
  • Wrap things up – At the end of the meeting, recap what was discussed and list any important decisions that were made. You want to ensure that every participant comes away with the same understanding of what happened during the meeting. Talk about next steps, and identify the people who will be responsible for completing follow-up work. Ask participants to email you with any thoughts or ideas that they didn’t have the opportunity to share. And finally, thank them for their time and effort.

Vengoechea, X. (n.d.). 7 tips for running a successful team brainstorm – even when everyone’s remote. The Muse. Retrieved from: https://www.themuse.com/advice/remote-brainstorm-tips