Remote meetings have become a normal part of a team’s daily workflow since businesses are adapting to the rise of remote working. For those starting to familiarise themselves with the concept of remote work, it can be a daunting task: what are the best platforms to use? Will we be able to cover all the necessities? How do we conduct ourselves in front of a camera?
If these are just a few of the many questions racing through your mind, take a deep breath — you’re not alone.
While distance can be considered a challenge for businesses, remote meetings allow for open communication and collaboration between team members regardless of where they are in the world.
Remote meetings also help team members to stay aligned, accountable and on top of their work.
What is a remote meeting?
A remote meeting is a digital gathering of team members who are not in the same physical location. These types of online meetings are often conducted over video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Skype or Google Hangouts.
While the format of a remote meeting may be different from an in-person meeting, the goal is still the same: to achieve a specific outcome through discussion and collaboration.
Read more: Comprehensive guide to remote working
Why are online meetings different to in-person meetings?
In in-person meetings, participants can read each other’s body language and cues, which can be helpful in gauging the mood of the room and understanding what people are thinking.
In-person meetings also allow participants to voice their opinion without the latency and delay that comes with online meetings.
In a remote meeting, team members need to rely on verbal communication to express themselves and their ideas. This can be difficult for some people as they may not feel as comfortable speaking up in a remote setting.
Additionally, it can be challenging to build rapport with team members when you’re not having face-to-face meetings.
However, there are several advantages of remote meetings over in-person meetings.
Advantages of conducting a remote meeting:
- Having virtual meetings means there is no need to worry about the logistics of getting everyone in the same room at the same time.
- You can easily record and transcribe the meeting, which can be helpful for reference later on.
- You can invite guest speakers or participants who are located in different parts of the world.
- It’s a more eco-friendly option as there is no need to travel to attend the meeting.
Read more: Does remote work help with accessibility?
Which remote meeting software should you use?
Thankfully remote team meetings aren’t entirely new to the scene, meaning there are a plethora of technology platforms designed to make online meetings as collaborative and streamlined as possible.
However, with so much variety on offer, it can be difficult finding the right remote meeting software that works best for your team. Therefore, deciding on the right team meeting tool is dependent entirely on your team’s individual needs.
It’s important to ask yourself:
What level of connectivity do I need?
Video conferencing platforms like Google Hangouts or Zoom are great for teams needing to communicate face-to-face. Both platforms also offer screen sharing, which is a great feature that allows everyone to be able to view a particular presentation, product pitch or demo during video calls.
On the other hand, if you want to work collaboratively on a piece of content or sales spreadsheet, both Google and Microsoft offer collaborative document management solutions.
How many people are involved?
It’s important to consider which tool to use based on how many people will be present during the meeting. Specific software caters best to one-on-one interactions, whereas others are designed to accommodate several attendees.
Once again, choosing the right remote meeting platform will come down to understanding what it is your team needs to collaborate and communicate effectively.
Basic virtual meeting etiquette
Like any physical meeting, meetings done in a virtual setting also have a series of standards and guidelines that need to be followed. Although remote meetings may seem less formal, they’re still just as important as gathering face-to-face and are an essential part of a team’s daily communication.
First and foremost, the most important rule in the virtual etiquette handbook is to join the call on time. Remote meetings often follow a tight schedule, so arriving late can have a significant impact on productivity levels.
The last thing a team member wants to do is to go back over previously discussed material because someone slept in a little too late. Updating latecomers can be a repetitive and painstaking task for the meeting host.
While not all meetings follow the same rules, there are many basic practices attendees should follow to make the most of the experience. An example is equipment testing before the session commences, such as checking the Wi-Fi connection, video cameras and microphones.
Team members should also choose a quiet and (if possible) private area for the meeting that is free from external noise. Removing distractions such as mobile phones or irrelevant tabs on a computer will also prevent everyone from being disengaged.
When others are speaking, avoid staring off into the distance or working on other tasks (like responding to emails). If you are unsure, practice the same common courtesy you would do if you were talking face-to-face.
How to run effective virtual meetings
While there are a number of different elements that make up a successful remote meeting, how you run the remote meeting will be the most important factor in its overall success.
There are three key stages to every effective remote meeting: before, during and after. By following the steps below, you can plan and deliver an impactful virtual meetup for your team.
1. Before the meeting: Set a meeting agenda
The No. 1 thing businesses worry about most when shifting meetings to a remote environment is whether it will be a productive meeting or not. If you want to ensure these meetings are successful, you’ve got to plan.
As they say, ‘by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’. For every virtual meeting, it’s essential to set a clear and cohesive meeting agenda ahead of time for the topics you would like to be discussed. Having structured meetings allows remote meeting attendees to know what to expect before joining such meetings.
If no pre-planning has occurred, you risk losing around 15 valuable minutes just sorting out what it is you need your team to do. Essentially, this time could’ve been put to better use. We strongly suggest mapping out several critical factors of the team meeting.
This includes detailing who will be involved and any key points you wish to discuss. Look at how long you intend to discuss each point, the responsibilities of each team member and any other important documents or material that are relevant to the meeting.
Assigning a meeting host is also an essential part of ensuring the call runs smoothly and on time.
The host is responsible for directing the conversation and providing everyone with an opportunity to be involved while simultaneously keeping things on track. Their role is to be both structured and inclusive.
Read more: How to host brainstorming sessions virtually
2. During the meeting: Keep meeting participants engaged
Teams need to not only be present but actively engaged and listening for a virtual meeting to be successful. This can pose quite a challenge, especially when you cannot control the surroundings in each team members environment.
Perhaps their mobile phone is within reach, or the TV is on in the background… so if the online meeting is dull and repetitive, it’s easy for the eyes to wander.
Here are some of our hot tips for keeping your team awake and engaged:
Introduce remote team members
With a number of people in attendance, it’s easy for remote team members to lose track of who’s doing what and how they intend to contribute.
Allocate a small amount of time for everyone to introduce themselves to other team members and state their goals for the day; that way entire team feels better connected and in sync with one another.
Allocate individual roles for meeting attendees
An effective way to boost attendee engagement is to provide each team member with a specific role in the remote meeting to encourage remote collaboration.
Perhaps someone can be in charge of managing the slides; another can take notes on any critical discussion points or jot down any relevant questions asked.
Whatever the role, ensure each team member is responsible for a specific aspect of the meeting. That way, they feel they are a part of the action and have an apparent reason for attending.
3. After the meeting: Following up
Once a meeting has finished, be sure to follow up with a specific list of actionable points, discussions and deliverables. So each team member understands their role for the day, make this information available to all meeting attendees.
It is also crucial that everyone is aware of who is responsible for following up on a particular item or task and when the next meeting will occur. If someone is unable to attend, provide them with a recording of the call; that way they have an opportunity to catch up.
Be sure to clearly state their role for the day and any relevant outcomes from the meeting. Don’t forget to check in with your team for any questions or feedback they may have regarding the call.
Advice from attendees can be used to provide ideas on how to improve future virtual meetings. That way you can ensure they are more productive and engaging for everyone.
4. Encouraging and allocating time for casual conversation
When you work in an office, there is an abundance of opportunities to interact and connect with your colleagues informally. Stopping to chat about a funny experience or to discuss a common interest helps colleagues build a rapport with one another
In turn, team members feel more comfortable and engaged during meetings or brainstorming sessions. Unfortunately, remote teams lack this personal connection with their co-workers.
This can lead to feelings of discomfort when openly sharing or discussing ideas. We encourage team leaders to create fun and engaging opportunities for teams to connect and communicate virtually.
An excellent resource for teams to interact informally with one another is via a Slack channel. If groups prefer meeting via video call, try a weekly virtual ‘happy hour’ as a fun way to relax, unwind and catch up on each other’s personal lives.
Read more: 39 free games for team building
How to host remote meetings across multiple time zones
The beauty of remote meetings is they essentially allow for teams to connect anytime, anywhere. However, coordinating everyone to be exactly where you need them to be at an exact time for a structured online meeting can be a considerable challenge in itself.
This is especially poignant for teams who are spread across the globe. To make sure all team members are on the same page, try to find a time which suits everyone best. Finding a balance between time zones is essential; if you have one worker in Sydney and another in New York, neither will be pleased with the idea of an online meeting at 4 am after only a few hours of sleep.
Try using a tool like World Clock Meeting Planner, which allows you to add all your team members’ locations and then lists the time in each area. At the same time, try to be inclusive.
If one team member has to pick up their kids from school every afternoon, schedule meetings for the morning. For large meetings, it’s impossible to cater to everyone’s schedule. If so, make sure you’re mixing it up, so no one continuously misses out.
Ensuring your meeting is a success
We can all agree that hosting a virtual meeting can often feel like a daunting task. With the help of this how-to guide, we hope you feel better prepared to confidently run an engaging and productive call.