The past few weeks, we’ve talked about distributed teams and their future. One thing we didn’t mention is how these largely more fluid, distributed, often international teams communicate with one another. Maintaining clear, consistent communication can be a challenge for any team, whether its members all sit in the same office or work all over the world. As teams become increasingly distributed—often across multiple time zones and continents—it’s essential to find ways to keep everyone included, organized and working toward the same goals. Here are a few of our favorite strategies for effective meetings with international teams.

Google Docs
Ideal for creating agendas, this tried and true collaboration tool gets team members involved and invested in meeting planning. Allow access to anyone you choose, letting attendees add topics for supervisors to review or suggest points to discuss. When all additions and changes have been made to the document, it’s easy for meeting organizers to create an agenda that that represents everyone’s concerns.

Audio conferencing
Conference calls can be a helpful complement to—or substitute for—face-to-face meetings. Great for arranging schedules, determining logistics and establishing priorities; group conferencing is a quick, easy way to get input from remote teams leading up to a planned meeting. In many cases, conference calls can substitute for in-person meetings, helping teams save on travel expenses while still keeping their projects on schedule.

Planning face-to-face meetings well in advance not only gives your team plenty of time to prepare, it also ensures access to lower plane fares and many more options for booking venues and hotel space. For businesses with limited travel budgets or those that favor more green-friendly practices, a well-planned conference call will often do the trick. Voxeet’s scheduling tool allows organizers to easily set up and kick off meetings by adding or to the list of attendees in their calendar.

Sending out regular email updates leading up to meetings is a great way to keep team members motivated and on track. It’s also helpful to plan a conference call a month before the meeting to let the team voice any last-minute concerns, while leaving organizers enough time to make final adjustments. Make sure to also arrange to conference in any team members who can’t attend meetings.

Prepare agenda packets for each participant no later than a week before your meeting—or prepare them even earlier and distribute to your team, if you want to give folks plenty of time to review them. If you do send them out early, remember to make extra copies for team members who forget their packets or lose them.

There are a lot more tips and tricks for managing international teams where these come from, but in the meantime, I want to hear from you. How have you made meeting with your international teams a success?

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