How To Master Remote Meetings
The secret behind successful remote meetings.
Remote meetings present unique challenges on top of the regular meeting problems we’re already familiar with, such as overcrowded agendas and ineffective meeting sizes. Communication difficulties also arise when visual cues are absent, leading to interruptions, misinterpretations, and potential loss of context. To make things worse, background noise and poor connection quality can compromise the quality of the communication and the ability of participants to coordinate their contributions.
Furthermore, remote meetings are susceptible to social loafing, a human tendency to reduce effort and motivation when working in a group. Anonymity increases during remote meetings due to the virtual barrier between team members, which exacerbates social loafing.
Fortunately, there is an evidence-based way forward. After two decades of research on meetings and teams, meeting science has uncovered valuable insights that can help meeting leaders, especially during this era marked by an increase in remote meetings.
Based on hundreds of interviews with meeting attendees about meeting leadership, the most effective meeting leaders share a similar mindset: they see themselves as stewards of other people’s time. They adopt a stewardship mindset, particularly when they meet with important customers or stakeholders because they would never want these individuals to leave the meeting feeling that their time was wasted. However, when meeting with their team or peers, they often disregard stewardship. Adopting a stewardship mindset means being intentional with meeting decisions from start to finish. Making smart choices doesn’t take much time – it just takes practice. I’ll share pre-meeting, during-meeting, and post-meeting practices that are designed to promote a stewardship mindset and help enhance the quality of your remote team or customer meetings.
Pre-remote meeting tips
1- Be mindful of your guest list
The quality of remote meetings decreases as the size increases. Fortunately, remote meetings can be easily recorded and listened to at double the speed by attendees who missed it. Nonessential members can be relieved of the responsibility to attend the live meeting, and they can listen to the recording at their convenience without being interrupted. However, to prevent team members who weren’t invited from feeling left out, offer them the opportunity to attend any future meetings on the subject if they choose to do so. They probably won’t take advantage of it, but they’ll appreciate the offer.
2- Manage your time wisely
Given our current shorter attention spans, don’t default to an hour-long meeting. Don’t be afraid to shorten your meetings to 20 or 25 minutes. This also creates positive pressure. Studies show that groups operating under some level of pressure perform better because of the increased focus.
3- Refine your agenda
Instead of a list of topics to be discussed, try framing your agenda as a set of questions to be answered to create focus, which is often lacking in remote meetings. By framing agenda items as questions, you can determine who really needs to be invited to the remote meeting. By framing agenda items as questions, you can also determine when to end the meeting and whether it was successful or not, based on whether the questions have been answered.
4- Utilize video
Establishing “presence” is critical in remote meetings. We want attendees to be fully engaged. Video increases the likelihood of this occurring. Video conferences are more effective when participants can see each other’s facial expressions, so consider requesting that individuals sit near their webcam to help recreate the intimacy of an in-person meeting.
Maximizing productivity in remote meetings
1- Punctuality is key
Ensure that the meeting starts on time to avoid delays and technical difficulties. Presenters should log in at least five minutes early to test their audio and video settings, and to ensure that all the technology is working properly. According to research, ending meetings late can cause significant stress to attendees, so make sure to stick to the allotted time.
2- Set the tone for a positive meeting
As the meeting leader, your attitude can have a powerful impact on the meeting’s overall mood. Studies suggest that attendees’ moods often mirror that of the leader. Therefore, begin the meeting with a positive attitude, expressing gratitude and appreciation, especially in these challenging times. This sets the tone for a positive meeting, which encourages more creativity, listening, and collaboration.
3- Establish clear expectations
Effective remote meetings require establishing clear expectations for attendees. Discuss what constitutes a good remote meeting and what to avoid. Set some ground rules such as limiting contributions to 60 seconds or requiring attendees to identify themselves before speaking. This helps to create a sense of presence in the virtual setting.
4- Facilitate the meeting effectively
Remote meeting leaders must embrace their role as facilitators to ensure a productive and engaging session. Engage attendees by calling on them by name to contribute to the discussion. Consider keeping a tally to ensure that everyone has a chance to participate. Avoid asking for general comments, and kindly interrupt if someone starts to ramble. As a facilitator, it’s your job to keep the meeting focused and on track.
5- Utilize technology
Silence does not always indicate agreement or understanding, so consider using tools such as Klaxoon, Mentimeter, or Poll Everywhere to facilitate real-time voting and achieve consensus. These apps can be used during or after the meeting. Additionally, instant messaging or chat room technology can help attendees indicate when they want to speak or clarify a point they may have missed. These technological tools increase attendee involvement and engagement, leading to a more productive meeting.
Tips for improving your post-remote meeting experience
1- Follow up on action items
After the meeting, send a follow-up email to all attendees to review what was discussed and clarify any next steps. This helps ensure that everyone is on the same page and that progress is made on action items. Assign a directly responsible individual for each item so that it is clear who is accountable for its completion.
2- Reflect and adjust
Take some time after the meeting to reflect on how it went. Consider what worked well and what could be improved. Use this reflection to adjust your approach to future meetings and make any necessary changes. This will help ensure that your meetings become more efficient and effective over time.
3- Seek feedback
Ask for feedback from your attendees on how they felt about the meeting. This can be done through a survey or by soliciting feedback during the meeting itself. Use this feedback to make changes and improvements for future meetings.
4- Lead by example
Be a role model for effective remote meetings. Show others how it’s done by being organized, focused, and respectful of everyone’s time. Encourage others to follow your lead and work together to create a positive meeting culture.
5- Celebrate successes
Don’t forget to celebrate any successes or achievements that came out of the meeting. Recognize and thank those who contributed to the success and share the positive outcomes with your team or organization. This helps build morale and reinforces the value of remote meetings