All the usual in-person meeting tools such as flip charts, overheads, video projectors, laptops, whiteboards, etc.
Until artificial reality becomes so good you can actually shake someone’s hand over the Web, face-to-face meetings will continue to be important for team building. Because face-to-face meetings are generally expensive and time-consuming, they should be used only for the most critical parts of a project. For mature teams, where teamwork and a history of high performance already exist, face-to-face meetings are not often needed. For teams that are just getting established, and especially for time-critical projects, a kick-off meeting where everyone is brought physically together is generally a very good idea.
For all face-to-face meetings, don’t lose sight of the primary benefit for remote team members: team building. Here are some things to you can do to facilitate team building in your face-to-face meetings:
- Unscheduled time—Provide ample time in the daily agenda for downtime. This is unscheduled time when people can meet each other and chat about work and nonwork-related topics. No doubt you have heard people comment that the best part of face-to-face meetings is the time between the scheduled tasks when they have time to chat with other participants.
- Team activity—Do something as a team, such as dinner out or a group activity, to maximize the team-building aspects of the meeting time.
- Buddies for remote folks—For team members attending via phone, be sure to assign people in the room to act as buddies to ensure that they are not forgotten and their comments are heard. In these cases, a video feed from the room to remote participants can be extremely useful.
But, above all, make them count! As for all meetings, think carefully about whether a face-to-face is really necessary. Poorly run meetings where travel is needed wastes more than the meeting time itself. You must include the wasted prep and travel time, cost of transportation, hotel and food as well as loss in productivity for each of the participants, time they could have spent on project work.