Remote meetings have become a vital part of how we work, but we all know how draining they can be. Often, they run too long, are unnecessary, and take away from other important tasks. The microphones are faulty; the participants are disengaged; it is a struggle to tear our gaze away from our personal square which shows that yes, the messy closet we thought was out-of-sight is in fact very much visible to our peers. More and more businesses are trying to reimagine a remote meeting that is more focused, efficient, and effective.
In our guide to remote meetings, we’ll tackle the various types of virtual meetings, the tools and best practices to keep your team engaged and efficient, and most importantly, the remote meetings you should & shouldn't be having; we'll add a 👍 to the most effective online meetings, a 👎 to the worst, and a 👍👎 for the one's that are debatable.
Post-2020, we likely would have had to define, what are remote meetings?'. Now, everyone surely knows that a remote meeting is any kind of meeting in which participants are spread across different places, which requires them to connect through a virtual platform for the meeting to take place. There are several different types of virtual meetings, some more well known than others.
Teleconferencing is an audio-only meeting that can be held with telephones or teleconferencing software. If you were wondering, the technology for teleconferencing first debuted in 1964 at the New York World’s Fair and was quite the hit! Why has teleconferencing been around for so long? Because it works, especially for smaller meetings with just a few people. However, with 2020’s rapid shift to remote work, many businesses have found they are in need of more sophisticated remote meeting solutions.
Remote video conferencing is a type of meeting that has become the default mode of operation. Video conferencing allows remote workers to touch base and swap ideas in real-time. However, more and more workers report feeling burned out by endless video meetings, which are not only distracting them from other pressing tasks but are draining their energy. Exhausted by the unforgiving gaze of their webcam, “Zoombies” are looking for alternatives.
Hybrid meetings are those wherein some participants are together in a shared space, such as the office, while others are joining remotely. As more employees are coming back to the office, the number of hybrid meetings is on the rise. This type of meeting poses the particular challenge of simultaneously coordinating on site staff and remote workers. Besides this, a hidden downside for employees, is the potential emergence of a 2-class system, something Rich Barton, CEO of Zillow warns, could result in an uneven playing field between team members who are located in office vs. remote.
With everyone’s busy schedules, a remote team meeting isn’t always possible, which is where async methods work well within distributed teams. An asynchronous meeting is a meeting in which teams use software to brainstorm and collaborate from afar, but without having to be on another interminable Zoom call. This allows for more inclusive virtual meetings. In addition, as workers struggle to meet demands in their personal lives, async meetings allow them the flexibility to contribute their ideas on their own time.
Once you've decided which type of remote meeting suits the occasion and the group, it's time to figure out which tool to run your meeting on.
In the past year, you’ve probably heard of dozens of tools for remote meetings. When there are so many, how can you find the remote meeting technology that best suits your needs? Here are the pros and cons of a few of the top remote meeting solutions businesses are using.
Zoom is the most commonly-used video conferencing tool and for good reason. With screen-sharing capabilities, break-out rooms for creating groups, and digital hand-raising, this platform has all the bells and whistles. Plus, video meetings allow some face-to-face contact for work-from-homers feeling isolated. However, if you want to know how to use Zoom meetings more effectively, you’re not alone. Employees stuck in crowded Zoom-meetings often feel lost in the crowd. On top of this, many people tend to feel uncomfortable participating and meetings often end up reflecting only the voices of a few eager participants. If you end up using Zoom, make sure you have a plan in place on how to effectively engage those on the call. Last but not least, prior to your zoom meeting, plan ahead! Set up a collaborative meeting minutes discussion doc that you can have attendees add prior to the meeting so that everyone has a chance to pipe in on topics they want to cover.
Asynchronous collaboration tools are used by distributed, remote, and hybrid teams to better facilitate async communication and collaboration. Meeting-less by leaning into asynchronous communication is what many companies like Doist (creators of Todoist) are doing best. Above all, on top of assisting remote teams to run async meetings, teams can create simple daily or weekly check-ins, engage in real-time written discussions, draft meeting notes, monitor their progress towards goals, and gain more visibility over what everyone in the team is working on. Those tired of wasting time in drawn-out video meetings will prefer a lightweight tool like Complish.
Another popular remote meeting software is Google Meet. With this tool, those with a Gmail account can run virtual meetings with many of the same capabilities of Zoom. Participants can screen-share and send messages in the chat throughout the meeting. Many workplaces prefer Google Meet to Zoom, as it is part of the G Suite which they already pay for. However, others find the interface clunky or difficult to use.
If you are holding remote meetings by video, then you need to bear in mind some remote meeting best practices in order to get the most out of your time.
Ever heard of the meeting that should have been an email? Before you try to find time for a meeting, balancing everyone’s conflicting schedules and pressing deadlines, make sure the meeting is absolutely necessary. Instead of that remote daily meeting that eats up 30 minutes or more a day, maybe coordinating asynchronously would be a better option for the team?
But if you really, really, really do need to have a meeting, be sure to set a clear goal. What, exactly, is this meeting going to accomplish and what contributions is each participant bringing? Liberate anyone whose presence is not absolutely necessary.
Make sure to set remote meeting ground rules. Should questions go to the chatbox or will you be using a digital raised-hand? If you have the resources, make a guide for your colleagues so they can reference how to effectively conduct meetings on Zoom. People may need guidance on the best lighting for remote meetings. (Hint: no sitting in dark rooms or in front of bright windows.) Your online meetings etiquette guidelines can address eating during meetings, arriving late or leaving early, or having to step away from your desk. Set the expectations ahead of time so nothing is in question and your meetings can run smoothly.
Remote meetings can be exhausting, especially when there’s a lot of information to digest. If you want to keep everyone in the loop, it is recommended that you prepare visual aids. One of the pros of a virtual meeting is that you can share screens so that all attendees will know exactly what you are talking about. Take advantage of this to show, not tell, the team what you are explaining. This also provides good opportunities to share fun gifs that your team is sure to enjoy.
Remote meetings are here to stay. That means we all need to learn how to make virtual meetings more engaging. Here are our best tips for keeping participants tuned in during remote meetings.
Keep meetings short and sweet. Everyone has a lot of work to do and remote meetings can eat up a big chunk of the day without anyone noticing. Because workers may be juggling many different responsibilities, it’s a good idea to plan for distractions. Swap remote team meeting ideas on how to streamline the process as much as possible.
As the meeting facilitator, you know it’s important to get down to business as soon as possible. However, it’s also important to make your colleagues feel comfortable. Grab everyone’s attention by greeting participants as they enter the meeting. A quick “Hi Jane, how are you?” doesn’t take much time and it can add a lot of much-needed humanity. Pro-tip: Getting participants speaking as soon as they join the meeting is also a good way to make sure everyone’s tech is working so that you don’t have to troubleshoot muted mics later on.
Set a clear meeting agenda either verbally at the outset of the meeting or visually, with a quick slide with some bullet points. This will not only help you to keep things short (see tip #1), but will also help the team stay focused. Remote meetings can get a little fuzzy if they don’t have a clear objective.
The real key to running successful remote meetings is cultivating intentional communication. Make sure that when you hold a meeting, it is with a purpose and a plan. In the end, it’s up to you to communicate thoughtfully and accurately during your remote meetings. We can provide you with the tools and resources, the next step is yours to take.