5 best practices for virtual developer team meetings

8 min read
June 15, 2023

Meetings are essential for collaboration, teamwork, and getting everyone to brainstorm on a big problem.

But on the flip side, they can be a huge time and money sink if mishandled.

In the US alone, unproductive meetings cost companies a collective $37 billion. And 65% of people believe it’s keeping them from finishing their tasks.

However, whether a meeting is a dangerous tool or an efficiency booster depends greatly on how you use it.

And these five best practices ensure you’re reaping the benefits.

Choose appropriate meeting cycles

Choosing an appropriate meeting cycle is important for determining when critical virtual developer meetings should be held.

Think of your meeting cycle as blocking off your team schedule for select meetings.

For instance, in traditional companies, these would include the annual team meeting and monthly huddles.

In software development and especially with virtual teams, it’s important for the meeting cycle to match your software development methodology.

This gives you a good idea of which meetings to have.

For example, look at the Scrum methodology, which divides the development process into mini-phases called sprints.

This unique approach requires an equally unique meeting cycle to help structure it.

These meetings, or Scrum ceremonies, are described below:

The 5 Scrum Ceremonies in order

Source: Parabol

For instance, at the end of every sprint, the client reviews and gives feedback on the software, which is incorporated into the next sprint.

Because of this, you should hold a sprint retrospective, where the team reviews what went well and wrong with the previous sprint so that they can do better in the next one.

Agile teams should also have daily Scrums. This is a quick 15-minute daily meeting that helps the team catch up.

You can use it to get an update on everyone’s tasks or discuss the most pressing problem the team is facing.

The point is that carefully timing your meetings to where they’re the most appropriate is the key to using them successfully.

This brings us to our next point.

Having meetings only when necessary

Holding meetings just for the sake of it, even when the same goals could be achieved through some other means, is perhaps the number one mistake most companies, managers, and software team leads make.

That’s because meetings are actually disruptive. People are forced to attend instead of just finishing their work and delivering output.

It also puts your developers out of their flow state, which lowers their productivity.

Flow state peak productivity

Source: Actitime

Thus, every meeting you hold should be worth it. It should have a clear benefit that outweighs the cost of interrupting your team.

For one, you should determine if a topic or agenda actually needs a meeting—because the fact is that a lot of them don’t.

Simple agendas, like sharing company news or making an announcement, are best done via an email blast.

Or if you only need to ask your team a question, then a message on Slack would suffice.

However, having the right judgment on when to hold a meeting is tricky. It’s not always apparent if a topic necessitates one or where other channels might be better.

Well, here’s a handy flowchart to help you out:

Screenshot 1

Source: Grammarly

Another consideration is the people you should include in the meeting.

Many managers often invite the whole team, even if the agenda involves only a select few members.

It’s best to include only people directly involved in the topic, in order to be more efficient. At most, you could have one or two outsiders give different perspectives.

Carefully planning out every meeting

Planning out every meeting ensures it has a clear direction, remains on track, and achieves its purpose.

Therefore, it is important to have a meeting agenda.

An agenda lists all the talking points in the meeting, the person responsible for it, and the exact time allotted for them.

The agenda should be strictly followed during the meeting, and all of the topics that aren’t listed within should be avoided.

Meeting structure for agenda and time allocation

Source: Slideteam

Preparing the agenda forces you only to tackle the most important points and not include unnecessary ones that could prolong the meeting and waste everyone’s time.

It can even speed up your meeting by reducing the time spent wondering what to discuss next, thus allowing everyone to return to work and be productive much faster.

Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington shares her experience with agendas:

 If we have a clear agenda in advance and we are fully present and fully contributing, the meetings do go much faster.

You should also decide on the meeting structure or how the meeting will proceed. This is important because different teams or topics will require specific structures.

Effective meeting structures

Source: Gitnux

For example, the round-robin meeting structure constitutes a more fluid approach where everyone is free to discuss and give suggestions.

This is great for brainstorming a new app feature or solving an issue, for example. However, it requires a skilled facilitator to prevent one person from hogging the limelight.

In contrast, a fishbowl meeting is more structured. Only four or five people can actively talk, with the rest of the participants as observers.

This is great for discussing sensitive issues, as it creates less tension. It’s also easier to manage.

Lastly, don’t forget to set the right meeting time. Make sure to pick a time when everyone is free, ideally not in the middle of the workday.

Assigning dedicated meeting roles

One of the best approaches for improving your meetings’ efficiency and speed is assigning roles and responsibilities to select participants.

Lisa Richards, CEO of Candida Diet, explains the benefits of doing this:

One of the most important things you can do to create a successful team meeting agenda is to make sure that you have a clear understanding of what each team member’s responsibilities are during this meeting and to communicate the same to each member. When people know what is expected of them during meetings, they are more likely to come prepared and ready to contribute and collaborate effectively.

Any virtual meeting should have four basic roles.

The first is the meeting leader, who is often also the team lead.

Leaders are responsible for arranging the meeting, including tasks like preparing the agenda, setting the venue, and sending invitations to participants.

More importantly, they also have the privilege of assigning all other meeting roles.

The next role is the facilitator.

Facilitators play a more active role during the meeting. They help ensure a proper flow by moderating the discussion and keeping people on track if they veer off-topic.

They’re also vital for resolving conflicts and dispersing tension.

As such, facilitators are often people outside the team so that they can stay neutral during the meeting.

The third role is that of the timekeeper.

Their task is simple but critical—ensuring that every item on the agenda is tackled within the allotted time.

If someone is already taking too long on a topic, timekeepers will discreetly inform the facilitator so as not to disrupt the flow.

The fourth role is the tech specialist.

Tech specialists are a must for virtual meetings because they ensure that all the virtual meeting tools work smoothly.

They also resolve issues ASAP, thus preventing the meeting from going overtime.

For example, if a participant needs to share their screen in a meeting but can’t or doesn’t know how, the tech specialist is there to save the day.

Some meetings also have a fifth role, the recorder or notetaker.

Their task is to write down everything discussed during the meeting so that it can be turned into the minutes and sent to participants afterward.

However, most tools allow you to record virtual meetings, so this role is often unnecessary.

Allowing the developer team to prepare

The most successful meetings happen when all participants—not just the facilitator or leader—come fully prepared.

The best way to ensure this is to send the meeting agenda to the development team in advance. Ideally, you should do this three days in advance.

Making the agenda available to the participants early has several benefits.

One is that it helps people clear their schedules, so the meeting has minimal impact on their work.

Second, it allows them to prepare any suggestions or anything else they might want to bring up.

For example, if the agenda is an update on the feature they’re working on, the developers involved will have time to assemble a work-in-progress app for testing.

Lastly, knowing the agenda also allows people to suggest their own talking points.

For instance, if the development team has a pressing concern they would like to address, they can tell you in advance. That way, you can prepare for it without disrupting the meeting itself.

The bottom line is that the best teams rely on teamwork to operate efficiently, including preparing for meetings.

One last caveat…

These five best practices work best when you already have the right team in place.

Because no matter how well you plan your agenda and hold your meetings, it will fall short if the team can’t execute the tasks you set out for them.

It’s why we encourage clients and business owners to choose their development agency carefully.

At DECODE, we’ll assemble a team that will meet all of your development needs efficiently.

Written by

Marin Luetic


A seasoned software engineering executive, Marin’s role combines his in-depth understanding of software engineering processes (particularly mobile) with product and business strategies. Humbly boasting 20+ years of international experience at the forefront of telecoms, Marin knows how to create and deliver state of the art software products to businesses of all sizes. Plus, his skills as a lifelong basketball player mean he can lead a team to victory. When he’s not hopping from meeting to meeting, you’ll find Marin listening to indie rock, or scouring the latest IT news.

Related articles