Like them or not, remote meetings have become the new norm, and it’s unlikely that organizations large and small will be able to function without them anytime soon, at least not until employees are back in their offices. Instead of lamenting the demise of face-to-face interactions, it’s much better to think about the various ways in which remote meetings can be improved and made more engaging and productive.
1. Decide If Sending an Email Isn’t Enough
Every employee has a story about surviving a meeting that could have been an email. When working remotely, meetings can be called with a single click, from any place and at any time. As such, it’s much easier to forget that there are other (much less intrusive) ways information can be shared with employees.
Here are some questions to help you decide if sending an email isn’t enough:
- Does a decision involving multiple people have to be made?
- Is it a complex issue with several possible solutions?
- Does everyone you want to be involved have something to contribute?
- Is it more than a regular status update?
If you’ve answered “yes” to these questions, then a remote meeting is warranted. If your answers were mostly negative, you should strongly consider sending an email or dealing with the issue via a chat instead.
2. Use the Best Tools Available
In 2020, there’s a whole host of excellent tools for running remote meetings that organizations can use to connect employees working from their homes. These tools can be divided into several categories:
- Instant messaging software: Google Chat, Slack, and Jabber make it easy for employees to exchange text messages in real-time, either one-on-one or in groups. Since instant messaging software doesn’t require employees’ full attention, it can be run in the background and used to communicate less important status updates or maintain friendly banter.
- Video conferencing software: Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Cisco Webex Teams are three popular examples of video conferencing software that lets teams large and small meet in one virtual place. Most video conferencing solutions let participants share files, jot down their ideas on a virtual whiteboard, and send GIFs and stickers in a chat.
- Team collaboration software: Basecamp, Trello, and Asana are trusted project management and team collaboration software applications that put everything remote employees need to get their work done in one shared virtual place.
Of course, there’s some overlap between these tools, so it’s important to choose them methodically and avoid suffocating employees with applications for which they have no real use.
3. Plan the Meeting Carefully in Advance
From the employee’s point of view, there’s nothing worse than being called into a meeting, only to discover that there’s no set agenda—only a bunch of people chaotically discussing a variety of different topics, some more relevant than others. The solution? Simple! You need to plan everything in advance so that you can share the main talking points of the meeting with others before it starts.
If possible, gather feedback from those who have been invited to the meeting to see if there’s something important that you have omitted. Once the meeting has started, you need to make sure that you stick to the agenda and prevent the meeting from getting derailed. At the same time, it’s a good idea to allow some time for flexibility because it’s very likely that at least some participants will want a chance to speak about something that’s not on the agenda.
4. Discuss Remote Meeting Etiquette
For remote meetings to run smoothly, it’s important to discuss remote meeting etiquette ahead of time so that all participants have enough time to get used to the dos and don’ts of online discussions.
You can start by deciding when participants should mute/unmute their microphones. Generally, there’s no reason for anyone to click the mute button if the meeting involves just a small handful of people. During larger meetings, however, participants should automatically mute their mics unless they’re speaking to prevent background noise from ruining the meeting.
Most video conferencing software applications make it possible for participants to turn off their webcam if they don’t want to be seen, but communicating voice-only can lead to decreased engagement and, consequently, less effective meetings. That’s why it makes sense to discuss when participants can turn off their webcams before they decide to do so without asking in the middle of an important meeting.
5. Record Your Remote Meetings
One of the biggest advantages of remote meetings is that they can be recorded with a simple click, and you should make use of this feature as much as possible.
Why? Because some employees will inevitably miss meetings and need to be brought up to speed. With all meetings recorded, the absentees can watch the entire meeting from start to finish, and they can even change the playback speed or skip parts that don’t concern them.
Just make sure to let everyone know beforehand that the meeting is being recorded to avoid privacy issues later on.