When it comes to meetings, it can be a real love-hate relationship. Both in the office and remote, sometimes they just have to be done. But surely we’ve all felt occasionally that they’re a total waste of time, the agenda isn’t stuck to, and there is no real outcome.
If you’re just starting with remote work, you need to be careful of trying to completely replicate the same experiences as people do in the office. The face-to-face interaction that we get from having an online meeting might feel like a breath of fresh air when you’ve been working by yourself, but that doesn’t mean they’re always necessary. That’s why we all need to get clued up on the best tips for virtual meetings.
Learning to communicate effectively in these situations is a skill in itself. When you’re sitting thousands of miles away in a whole different continent, how do you make sure that the meeting is actually effective? Keeping people engaged and concentrated, and knowing that they aren’t multi-tasking at the same time, is much more difficult for us in the remote office.
To combat these challenges, we have to prepare, run, and follow up our meetings in a way that is geared towards the remote world. We’ve broken it down into 3 simple phases so that you can make your remote meetings totally worth it.
Phase 1: Prepare
The first step to take isn’t too dissimilar to what you would find in an office. You need to send out a calendar invite with all the correct details in, so that no further explanation is needed. Whatever tool you are using needs to be included, along with an agenda that needs to be thoroughly prepared in advance.
Your agenda really needs to cover two key points of the meeting: the purpose and the objectives. When creating the document, it’s also a good idea to keep in mind how much time you have and whether you really will be able to cover all the topics.
You can even allot time slots to each particular point to try and keep on track. By thinking seriously about how much you can cover, no one wastes time preparing themselves for topics and conversations that don’t get to happen. Once you’ve got this together, a quick link in the description of the calendar invite should make sure everyone has access to it.
The last step in preparing a successful remote meeting is assigning roles to participants. You will need someone to lead the meeting, someone to take notes and a person for each topic discussion if necessary. If you put time slots in your agenda, have someone keep track of when you are running over. And finally, if you need to share your screen at some point it might be best to dedicate someone if it’s more practical.
Side tip: Don’t forget to have some fun!
A top remote meeting tip from us at Remote-how is to factor in a 5-minute buffer zone at the beginning to ease into the meeting and have some fun. Think of it as a virtual meeting icebreaker. This gives everyone time to chat to each other, talk about what they’ve done so far, or anything else that is on their mind. This will help everyone to take more interest and care in other teammates, building up more than just a working professional relationship. A team that bonds well together socially, works harder for each other professionally.
Phase 2: The Actual Meeting
Once you’ve ticked off all the steps to thoroughly prepare for the meeting, it’s time to start. Hopefully, you also gave everyone enough time to prepare themselves too. Make sure you’re punctual, and encourage everyone else to do the same. You don’t know everyone’s schedules, so you need to make the most of the time that you have allotted.
Once you begin, ask people to minimize their other apps and give their full attention to the meeting. This is one of the biggest of bad habits in remote meetings, as it’s easy to think that you can multitask. You’d never do this in the office… so why do it online? You can’t really police this, but you can just give a gentle reminder.
After spending time preparing a useful agenda, make sure to stick to it. There’s a reason why you spent time and effort on creating the document. If you’re leading the meeting, then it’s you who should make sure that it’s stuck to.
Progress through your topics, stick to the times, and make sure you finish when you planned to. If you couldn’t fit it all in, then you know for your next meeting that you should assign less topics to each meeting in the future.
When you wrap up, everyone should also be clear on what the next steps are to take. Your notetaker should have written down for each person any tasks they need to complete, and what needs to be done for the next meeting if needed.
These takeaways are so important to note, because a lot can get lost and forgotten in the heat of a meeting. These tasks may even need deadlines to put in the calendar, and a decision should be made on who needs to do this. Once you have all this down, repeat what is written and make sure everyone knows what their takeaways are. Voilà!: the perfect way to run your remote meeting.
Phase 3: Follow Up
Once you’re done and have checked everyone understands what they need to do, the notes should be sent out to all participants or placed in a group folder you all have access to.
I prefer to send them, because I don’t always remember to check the folder if I’m having a busy day. But, you can experiment and see what works for you. If you need to have a meeting again in the future, now is the time to repeat the process and begin the necessary preparations for next time.
Use Your Remote Situation to its Advantage
A lot of the strategies we’ve talked about here can be applied to an office meeting, but in the remote world they become that more important. Without them, it’s easier to lose track and for meetings to lose their original purpose and meaning. It does take some more effort and doesn’t feel as organic, so that’s why it’s best to only use meetings when necessary.
We have a lot of other cool options to utilise when working remotely that actually fit other situations a lot better. You may even find that using virtual meeting software could work for you too. Nevertheless, sometimes there’s nothing better than a good old (remote) meeting, so why not make the most of the opportunity?