Establishing Meeting Cadence for Remote Project Teams

Setting a meeting cadence for projects is a practice that allows a project manager to create a routine, and get their team in the habit of meeting regularly to move a project along. The goal is to determine a meeting series that sees a balance between when to meet, who to include, and how often to meet.

A recurring meeting series will reserve the same time and day on calendars over a period of time for a particular group to meet for a specific purpose. This takes planning, and is more than just throwing together meeting invites.

How to Implement a Meeting Cadence

Think about the project and ask the following questions to help map out a meeting cadence:

  • What kinds of meetings are needed?
  • Who are the key people that should be included, or invited as optional for visibility?
  • What is the best time in the week to meet and how often?

Create a meeting series based on the length and complexity of the project, and also consider the meeting purpose and team size. This may include any of the following meeting types and frequencies:

Weekly or bi-weekly team meetings to check in with leads on progress, project blockers, and next steps.

A daily team stand-up may be appropriate when there are a lot of moving parts and a high level of technical development.

A monthly status update with leadership is a good way to keep them in the loop at a high level, make decisions on key milestones and issues like project change orders, and to align on details around scope, resourcing, and budget.

One-off meetings to connect with an individual or group to check in, educate, brainstorm, or team build.

Read more: How to Read the Room As a Project Manager

Meeting Cadence for Remote Teams

Managing a project with a remote team brings unique challenges that sitting around a table together does not. Timing is important, since this is the main way teams communicate face-to-face. Keep in mind that they probably have a lot of meetings to attend for other things. If you set a series of virtual meetings that occur too infrequently, you could be delaying or minimizing opportunity for communication, unintentionally slowing down progress as teams resort to working in silos and not collaborating with others.

When working within a waterfall model (as opposed to agile), if you have too many meetings you risk losing engagement with people multitasking and not giving you their full attention.

A common solution to successfully creating meeting cadence with remote teams is adjusting the meeting format. For example, having one person or a panel speaking to a larger group, or hosting an open discussion. Also, determining roles is important — including who will lead a meeting, who will take and share notes, and who will make decisions and provide feedback.

The benefits of establishing meeting cadence for remote teams include:

  • Regularly scheduled meetings to keep everyone connected, moving forward, and on task
  • Heading off issues early, and having the right people present to address solutions and options in real time
  • Allowing the team to report on ongoing progress, identify issues, and contribute ideas and feedback related to specific work items
  • Offering help to people who are stuck or need advice on how to best overcome conflict and resolve issues

Meeting Cadence Template

You can start with a simple template that includes an agenda, and take notes during the meeting that detail:

  • The list of attendees
  • The date and time
  • The purpose and goal of the meeting
  • The topics discussed
  • The decisions made or that need to be made and by whom
  • Next steps
  • Q & A

The agenda can be included in the meeting request and then presented in a format like PowerPoint, a shared Google doc, or in a program like Confluence.

Read more: Top Remote Working Software and Tools for 2021

Tips for Establishing Meeting Cadence for Project Teams

A few pre-planned and well-thought-out details provided by project managers can give a project the best shot at running smoothly and staying on track with minimal interruption.

  • Define recurring meetings with a frequency schedule and a set length of time — usually 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Include an agenda that you share out beforehand to hit all points and keep attendees engaged.
  • Set a meeting format and share it out before the meeting, so presenters are prepared and decision makers are ready.
  • Invite leads or key players only and make it known they need to share out information to their teams instead of inviting others.
  • Determine who will be taking notes and sharing them out with everyone, and when.
  • Don’t run over time and try to end discussion a few minutes early, so there’s time for questions. This allows overscheduled attendees to log off and on to their next meeting in time.

Setting a meeting cadence for each project or program is important so those involved have their calendar set and clear for each occurrence. They can get in the habit of preparing for a specific time and day.

Meeting cadence has a more formalized presence in agile, but the concept is broadly applicable to any type of project and project management methodology. Agile has its own set of methodology-specific meetings that match the framework well.

Read next: Agile Scrum Ceremonies & Meetings

Anne Meick

Anne Meick is an author, copywriter, and digital project management consultant, leading digital teams and projects in highly regulated industries. She is the founder of Writers' Connection and blogs on writing, editing, and book publishing.