The remote working revolution has brought new challenges for meetings, particularly in keeping remote attendees engaged and ensuring cohesive communication. The new reality requires us to be flexible and efficient, no matter where we are. Having a plan and being aware of remote meeting dynamics can ensure productive and engaging discussions. Below I’ve gathered some Techstack best practices for preparing and running remote meetings.
What Is a Remote Meeting?
A remote meeting is a type of communication where participants come together via video or audio call instead of physically being in the same room. This offers advantages such as flexibility in scheduling and convenience for those who cannot make it to an in-person meeting. Remote meetings also require good planning and communication abilities to ensure they run smoothly and accomplish their goals effectively. With advancing technology, remote meetings can be just as productive and engaging as traditional meetings.
Where is the best place to hold a remote meeting?
It's important to be conscientious about where you hold meetings, especially if sensitive information will be discussed. Protecting confidential information and maintaining confidentiality should always be a top priority.
Meeting in a busy café or public park may seem convenient, but it isn't worth risking the potential damage to your company's reputation. Holding 1-on-1 meetings away from strangers' ears or using encrypted networks can prevent sensitive financial or personnel information leaks and damage to a company’s reputation.
When participating in remote meetings, it's important to pay attention to the noise around you. Not only can loud background noises be distracting, but they can also give the impression that you are not taking the meeting seriously. This can lead to negative perceptions of the company. To avoid these issues, ensure your camera is positioned at a professional angle and your background is not overly busy or colorful.
Overall, don't make the mistake of ignoring these recommendations – take steps to ensure that your remote meetings and work are secure. Your colleagues will thank you for it.
- Find a quiet, private place with a proper background.
- Make sure your screen cannot be seen by people who shouldn’t have access to the information it displays.
- Use a corporate VPN if you're working outside the office network.
- Don’t discuss personal business, financial details, and customer information in public places.
- Make sure there’s enough light to see your face clearly.
Notes on Remote Meeting Tools for Meeting Organizers
While they can offer flexibility and convenience, it's important to choose the right tool for your meeting since the effectiveness, involvement of its participants and the course of the discussion directly depend on this. In real life, for business meetings, we choose a comfortable room for holding meetings in the office; for discussing any achievements, we book a table in a restaurant or a conference room that can accommodate the required number of listeners and has the necessary attributes for a successful presentation (projector, whiteboard, audio system, etc.) The same is true for remote meetings.
When choosing software for remote meetings, pay attention to the following aspects.
Is it cross-platform?
Participants can use different devices with varying operating systems, be they powerful laptops, desktop workstations, or thin clients, or mobile phones and tablets. I have seen cases where the software chosen for holding meetings was cross-platform, but needed to be optimized for mobile phone screens. And as a result, participants who joined with mobile phones had a low level of participation during the meeting since it was physically challenging for them to unmute at the meeting due to non-optimized UI elements of the application for small screens.
Stable operation with a poor Internet connection
Different applications require different bandwidths of the Internet channel with the same number of participants and other equal parameters. This is due to the use of various codecs for compressing audio and video streams and software implementation algorithms. Not all participants always have a perfectly stable connection, especially those joining from mobile devices using public Wi-Fi or mobile Internet. Different software reacts differently to such interruptions and connection restore.
The format of the meeting
The tool you seek should have convenient functionality allowing you to conduct a session in the required format. For example, if you plan to give a slide presentation or share an application window, make sure your software can do this and has the necessary access permissions. You may want to arrange some interactive surveys, ask the participants to make the annotations, make an audio and video recording of the call, forbid all participants to turn on their microphones, and so on. If you plan to hold any meeting in a format new to you, decide on its format beforehand and test the tool's capabilities to avoid surprises.
Choosing a remote meeting software
Here is the software that covers all the above points and has comprehensive and flexible functionality. For convenience, I divided it into two categories: free and paid.
Organizational Best Practices for Remote Meetings
Virtual meetings are a powerful way to connect with your team members, but they can be difficult. To make sure you're getting the most out of them and everyone has an enjoyable experience, some things need attention before you start.
Based on numerous observations, video conferences with cameras turned on significantly increase not only the involvement of the participants in the discussion, but also improve the perception of the information presented and activate the cognitive process during the discussion of any tasks.
When communication takes place live, all the participants’ senses are involved: we hear what the person is saying, we see their emotions, gestures, and environment.
The type of perception a person has indicates what type of information they will process better – visual, kinesthetic, and digital. The dominant part of people is auditory and visual, i.e., they best perceive information by ear and, accordingly, through sight. That’s why meetings without presentations or cameras turned off for visuals fail to hold their attention.
Regular communication with cameras on establishes a more trusting relationship between people and contributes to the most productive conversations. Working most of the time remotely and not being able to see teammates in person, I recommend not ignoring such an excellent opportunity to build trust and connection.
Involvement in the meeting
There is always a temptation to minimize the meeting window and read messages or work on something important. However, a shift in the focus of concentration makes you a passive participant in a meeting, and you stop capturing the root of the problems and topics being discussed and lose the train of thought of other participants.
How many people are active during your regular meetings with 7+ participants? If you have 2 or 3 people, you have a low involvement. There are several ways to increase this. In addition to self-discipline, ensure good facilitation, inviting the right participants, following the purpose and agenda, and making eye contact.
Rules for good manners
It is crucial to establish proper etiquette to ensure a smooth and productive experience for all participants. Introducing everyone at the beginning of the meeting helps to create a sense of unity and encourages equal participation. Staring at your phone or working on other tasks during the meeting signals a lack of attention and respect for others' contributions. It is also important to prepare by reading the agenda and testing all technology beforehand. In addition, having a quiet remote environment free from distractions, such as cell phone notifications, allows for greater focus during the meeting. By following these basic etiquette practices, remote meetings can run smoothly and effectively.
The correct list of participants
The smaller the number of meeting participants, the more productive the meeting is and the higher the participant involvement. Are all the participants that you want to see on the invitation list contributors to the intended purpose of the discussion?
If it’s a recurring meeting, irrelevant participants can be identified by the lack of activity. Also, you may ask everyone to rate how useful it was for them. For example, on a scale from 0 to 10, tell why they rated the meeting this way and ask to give recommendations on improving it. People who find this meeting significantly less helpful than others are most likely redundant.
Components of Remote Meetings
Remote meetings often require additional planning and structure compared to in-person settings, including creating a detailed agenda ahead of time and ensuring that all participants are prepared and ready to contribute actively to the meeting. These key components can prove successful for teams and organizations by utilizing remote meetings.
Focus on the topic of the meeting
Suppose you gather the right participants for the meeting issues, but lack the focus. In this case, chances are that some people will turn into passive listeners with low involvement, and turning them back to active participants will be challenging. Therefore, constantly maintain onethread of discussion without deviating from the original topic. It also helps to keep everyone as synchronized on the context being discussed as possible and reduces the chance that different people understand the same items differently.
It is essential to have a meeting facilitator. Often this role is up to the meeting organizer, but in some cases, you need to invite someone else to this role. The goals of the facilitator is as follows:
- involvement of all meeting participants in the discussion
- management of disputes, conflicts, and disagreements
- making sure that a meeting follows the stated topic and agenda
- responsible for making quality decisions and outcomes of the meeting
The facilitator must set a comfortable climate at the beginning of the discussion, maintain neutrality, follow the time boxes, adequately respond to the audience's requests when deviating from the topic being discussed, and help the participants stay on the same page.
Agenda and the purpose of the meeting
Announcing the meeting agenda and purpose with invitations allows the invited participants to understand the content of the discussion or presentation and prepare effectively. The agenda might encourage people to come up with questions if it's a presentation. If this is a discussion and the solution to a task or problem, then the participants can prepare their options for solving it. One way or another, the purpose and agenda of the meeting set people up for productivity by increasing their activity during the session.
Action items and follow-ups
Every meeting must bring results. If not resolved immediately, the meeting goal and steps to resolve it should be discussed. For each step or initiative developed during the discussion, create and assign an action item with the specified deadlines; then share the action items list across all the people involved. If any agreements have been made, they must also be sent as a follow-up to all participants in a separate letter to avoid misunderstandings. Meeting notes can also be very useful to ensure every participant can access a copy of the most important issues discussed in the meeting, whether they can attend it or not.
What to do Before a Remote Meeting
Choose a remote meeting software
Regarding remote meetings, having the right software can make all the difference in communication and collaboration. Whether you opt for a free service like Google Hangouts or a paid option like GoToMeeting, consider your team's remote meeting needs before making a decision.
Invite your remote meeting attendees
When scheduling remote meetings, it's essential to consider the different time zones of all participants. Try to find a time that works for everyone involved - this might mean having a later start time or rotating meeting times between different time zones.
Additionally, ensure remote team members have the tools for successful remote meetings, such as access to conference calling or video chatting platforms. Proper consideration and planning allow remote meetings to run as smoothly as in-person gatherings.
Write and distribute a meeting agenda
A clear meeting agenda is even more important in today's increasingly remote work environment. Not only does it ensure that everyone knows what will be covered, who will present, and how much time is allocated for each topic, but it also allows remote attendees to reference their own notes and resources quickly. Besides preventing awkward situations where one person dominates the conversation or specific topics are neglected, a well-structured agenda can also help remote meetings run more smoothly by allowing participants to multi-task efficiently and stay on track.
Assign a remote meeting facilitator
The primary focus of facilitators is guiding the conversation and preventing anyone from being interrupted or talked over. Without a meeting facilitator, remote attendees may not be able to have their voices heard, causing frustrations and hindering productivity.
During the Remote Meeting
Allow time to catch up
It can be challenging for remote workers to stay connected with their colleagues scattered in different locations, so starting the meeting with casual conversation and introductions can help break the ice and build camaraderie among attendees. Giving participants a few minutes to mingle and catch up before diving into the agenda allows remote workers to feel more comfortable and visible during the meeting. In the long run, these small but impactful gestures can cultivate more robust connections between remote coworkers and lead to more successful collaborations.
Follow remote meeting etiquette
Arriving late, or even just a few minutes late, can throw off the meeting agenda and annoy your coworkers. In addition, participating in meetings with distractions such as checking email or browsing the internet takes away from productivity and can disrupt the flow of conversation for others. Being fully present and following proper meeting etiquette allows remote meetings to run smoothly and efficiently without hiccups.
After the Remote Meeting
Create a meeting summary
Remote meetings can sometimes feel disorganized and unfocused, but following up with a list of action items and assigned tasks can help keep the team on track. After the meeting, take some time to review any notes or minutes from the discussion and create a summary of the next steps and deliverables. Make sure to assign specific individuals to each task and set deadlines for completion. Once everything is finalized, send the summary to all meeting attendees so they have a clear understanding of their responsibilities moving forward.
Send out a recording of the meeting
It's common for schedules to clash or for people to be located in different time zones. In these situations, sending a meeting recording can ensure that no one misses out on important information. It also allows those unable to attend to catch up at their own convenience and stay in the loop on any action items or outcomes from the meeting. Having a recording can serve as a valuable reference in case there are any questions or follow-up discussions about the meeting.
Types of Remote Meetings
By considering these different types of remote meetings and brainstorming ways to include remote members, teams can foster an inclusive and collaborative work environment no matter the location. Here are five types of remote meetings and some tips for including remote team members.
Daily or Weekly Standup Meetings
Daily or weekly standup meetings offer a convenient way for team members to quickly check in with one another and stay on track with their tasks. During a standup, each person brings up any updates or obstacles they're facing, allowing for collaboration and helping managers keep an eye on progress. These meetings can also contribute to team building, allowing remote workers to see their colleagues' faces and feel connected.
Keeping these check-ins short (15-30 minutes) and focused is essential, maximizing productivity while still making time for communication and teamwork.
Monthly or Quarterly Progress Team Meetings
Progress meetings are essential for staying on top of projects and initiatives and keeping track of ongoing goals and progress as a team. These meetings ensure effective communication and accountability across team members by creating an agenda ahead of time and allotting each stakeholder a specific amount of time to update the team. Don't let important goals fall by the wayside – schedule regular progress meetings to stay on track.
Virtual brainstorming sessions are necessary for remote teams to gather and generate ideas. They should be kept short (15-30 minutes) and focused on a specific goal or initiative, allowing the team to develop potential solutions quickly. As tempting as it may be to let the session run longer, it's important to remember that these meetings are like goldfish – they will fill up as much time as you give them.
With clear direction and a need for brevity, virtual brainstorms can result in innovative solutions for any remote team. Encourage all team members to participate and speak up, even if their ideas may seem far-fetched initially. Writing down all the ideas on a whiteboard (visible to remote teammates) allows everyone to see them and potentially expand upon them during the session or afterward.
Having structured office hours can also promote regular communication and collaboration across teams. As a bonus, offering your skills and expertise can boost morale and improve teamwork dynamics within the company. So why not set aside some time each week for office hours?
Cross-team Collaborative Meetings
Successful cross-team collaboration requires good communication and a willingness to work together toward shared goals. And although remote meetings may not have the same energy as in-person gatherings, they can still provide opportunities for productive discussions and progress toward those goals. Sending an agenda and talking points ahead of time allows all parties to come prepared, and leaving room for questions ensures that everyone can fully contribute to the discussion. By investing effort into making remote collaborative meetings as efficient and effective as possible, teams can continue to thrive even when physically separated.
Remote meetings can be a challenge even for the most experienced professionals. Their effectiveness and participant involvement will increase by implementing tips and improving your remote meeting experiences. To learn how Techstack can help you to build a successful remote team, contact our experts.