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Virtual Teams

Many companies rely increasingly on virtual teamwork to accomplish critical business objectives. New travel restrictions limit the ability of team members to meet face-to-face, and conference calls are increasingly becoming the standard mode of communication. If you have a teleconference or videoconference scheduled with remote team members this month, here are some suggested guidelines you can use to ensure that the call is as productive as possible:

Communications Strategy

Establishing an overall communications strategy helps to ensure that conference calls are used most effectively. It is worth considering the amount of context provided by different types of interactions, including what can or cannot be communicated through a conference call. This concept is illustrated in the diagram below.

Communication Strategies & Context


Special thanks to George Renwick for his contributions in creating this diagram.

Keep in mind the level of context that each communication strategy offers. As you move down the list of communication strategies in the left-hand column, the level of context decreases.

A person-to-person meeting, for example, affords a whole range of possible interactions:

  • informal contacts (in the hallway outside of the meeting);
  • direct physical exchanges (handshakes or bows);
  • environmental cues (table seating order);
  • non-verbal cues (facial expressions, hand gestures);
  • immediate feedback;
  • voice tone;
  • control over the format of a given message (with or without formal
    titles); and, finally,
  • words themselves.

Each step on the way from personal meetings to e-mail, as represented by the vertical column in the diagram, involves a significant loss of context.

If you are the person responsible for planning a team meeting, it is important that you be aware of the implications of low-context meetings, especially if your team includes members from cultures that prefer more personal, high-context forms of communication. Conference calls can be very productive, but you should ensure that you position them within a healthy mix of communications methods that offers both economy and sufficient contextual information for all members of the team.

Conference Call Guidelines

If you are hosting or facilitating a teleconference or videoconference, here are some ground rules that can help to ensure maximum participation from each member:


This material is provided through a collaborative arrangement between Diversity Resources, Inc. and Meridian Associates. Meridian Associates provides a blended solution of web tools and services to help customers leverage crucial knowledge and build key skills for working globally. The material above comes from Meridian Associates’ GlobeSmart’. GlobeSmart’ is an online tool that provides in-depth information about business practices in 36 countries, tips on evaluating people in each country, and a self-assessment tool that enables a comparison between one’s own cultural profile and that of another country using a number of the dimensions. For more information about GlobeSmart, go to http://www.meridianglobal.com.

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