The rise of technology has changed the way we work, with remote meetings increasingly becoming the new normal.
And to no surprise. With more and more employees choosing to work online, remote meetings have become a cost-effective, more inclusive, and more practical alternative to in-person meetings.
But how exactly can you run a productive remote meeting that’s also an engaging experience for all those involved? After all, physical distance can hinder communication among participants and make the meeting less dynamic.
This is what this article is here to teach you. We will cover remote meetings from A to Z, including:
- What Are Remote Meetings?
- 5 Types of Remote Meetings
- 9 Steps to Running an Effective Remote Meetings
- Pros and Cons of Remote Meetings
- 6 Tips to Keep Attendants Engaged
Let’s dive in!
What Are Remote Meetings?
Remote meetings are meetings that use online video and audio tools to connect employees who work from different locations outside the office (e.g. their homes, shared working spaces, etc).
According to the 2019 State of Remote Work Survey, 62% of the 1,202 people surveyed work remotely, whereas 38% work on-site. Out of the 62%, 54% work remotely at least once a month, 48% at least once per week, and 30% all the time.
Virtual meetings are typically used by remote or hybrid teams, but it’s also common to use remote meetings to connect with clients or business partners in different cities, states, or continents.
5 Types of Remote Meetings
Remote meetings can serve all kinds of purposes, from touching base with team members on daily and weekly deliverables to collaborating with other departments on important projects.
Here are the five most common types of remote meetings:
- Daily/Weekly Standup Meeting: These quick remote meetings are meant to give each team member 2-5 minutes to discuss what they worked on the previous day/week and what they’ll work on next. Participants can also ask questions, discuss specific tasks or objectives, or even ask others for assistance with a specific task. Lastly, standups are great to facilitate team building and get remote workers to interact with each other on a daily/weekly basis.
- Virtual Brainstorming Meeting: Virtual brainstorms are meant to be quick (around 30 minutes) and gather ideas on a specific project or team goal. The point of these remote meetings is to encourage all ideas and share them among all team members (either through a Google Doc or a whiteboard that’s visible to all team members).
- Hackathon/Productive Work Session: These are longer meetings (up to two hours) meant to provide your team with a collaborative atmosphere to work on a particularly big or time-consuming project.
- Monthly/Quarterly Progress Team Meeting: These meetings are meant to check in on your department or team’s goals (e.g. increasing customer satisfaction ratings, improving social media engagement, etc.). Creating an agenda ahead of time and allowing time for follow-up questions at the end are essential if you want to make these remote meetings successful.
- Cross-Team Collaborative Meeting: These remote meetings help two or more teams sync up on their mutual projects or goal (e.g. sales and marketing teams syncing up on their progress and goals). To make sure there is cross-team collaboration, prepare and send talking points and agendas to the teams in advance and allow time for questions. After all, you want team members to discuss and cooperate to reach the end goal, not simply take turns in sharing achievements and updates.
9 Steps to Running an Effective Remote Meeting
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s get to the meat of this article:
How, exactly, do you run an effective remote meeting?
If you’re used to offline, face-to-face meetings, you might find remote meetings to be harder to facilitate. For example, you might have trouble including everyone in the conversation due to the physical distance, or you might end up with an unproductive meeting because of someone’s weak internet connection.
To help you with it all, we’ll go through everything you need to do before, during, and after a remote meeting to guarantee its success.
Before the Meeting
#1. Choose a Software
While all of them make it easy to set up a remote meeting, make sure to first define your team’s specific needs, do your research, and compare your options before you decide on a tool to use for the long term.
In the end, the software you pick will depend on many factors, such as your team’s size, the type of meetings you’ll be holding, etc.
#2. Pick the Right Remote Meeting Tools
After choosing software, you’ve got to pick the right hardware.
Otherwise, all your prep work might go to waste due to a low-quality camera, microphone, or bad connection.
So, you’ve got to make sure your conference room meets all the requirements for a successful remote meeting, such as:
- Dedicated video-conference camera with high a high-resolution lens and good speakers and microphone.
- Projector or HDMI-ready monitor.
- HMDI cords.
- High-speed, reliable Wi-Fi connection.
- Adequate room lighting.
#3. Invite the participants
Next, you need to invite people to attend the remote meeting.
While there’s not much to this step, there are certain things to take into consideration when inviting people to a remote meeting.
For example, you’ve got to make sure you schedule your remote meeting at a time that works for all attendants and to pay attention to different time zones, in case the attendants are located on different continents.
Some employees might have a hard time refocusing on work after a long meeting. As such, try to keep meetings less than an hour whenever it’s possible (especially weekly/daily standups and virtual brainstorming meetings).
#4. Distribute an Agenda
A meeting agenda defines the scope of the meeting and answers different questions, such as:
- Will there be enough time for discussion and questions?
- Does each topic have a specific speaker?
- How much time is allocated for each discussion topic?
Distributing a meeting agenda can help participants to get familiar with the discussion points and come to the remote meeting prepared and ready to participate.
#5. Assign a Remote Meeting Facilitator
Just like any other meeting, remote meetings also need someone to make sure the meeting runs smoothly and everyone feels included.
As such, there should always be a meeting facilitator to make sure participants don’t talk over each other or break remote meeting etiquette (i.e. prolonging the conversation or offending someone in the meeting). On top of that, meeting facilitators guide the conversation and make sure the attendants don’t go off-topic.
While the meeting facilitator can be a department/team leader with the right communication skills, studies have shown that neutral facilitators can help keep the conversation constructive.
A dedicated meeting facilitator is going to be in charge of:
- Keeping the meeting agenda on track.
- Ensuring everyone has a chance to participate.
- Creating an inclusive environment.
During the Meeting
#6. Allow Participants to Catch Up
Remote work statistics show that isolation and loneliness are among the biggest challenges for remote workers.
This isolation will only get worse if you jump straight to business every time you run a remote meeting.
To avoid this, you should let participants catch up with other team members they might not have seen in a while. Alternatively, you can facilitate conversation by asking open-ended questions and encouraging everyone to share their day-to-day experiences.
This can help the team maintain ties even though everyone’s working remotely.
#7. Follow the Right Etiquette
Following remote meetings etiquette ensures that all meeting points are covered in the allocated time and everything runs smoothly.
Some important etiquette rules include:
- Showing up on time
- Avoiding distractions
- Muting yourself when you’re not talking
- Speaking clearly
- Avoiding multitasking
- Following up with the agreed deliverables
After the Meeting
#8. Write a Meeting Summary
To make sure that everyone is on the same page, compile and send over a meeting summary to all participants once the meeting is over.
Specifically, make sure to mention any action items, goals, or deliverables discussed during the meeting. This way, everyone will know their tasks and what their next steps should be.
#9. Send Out a Recording of the Meeting
Recording a remote meeting is always a good idea. That way, if someone can’t attend due to a time zone or scheduling conflict, they can always watch the recording.
Not to mention, it can also be a point of reference for participants who want to go back and double-check what was discussed or what their deliverables are.
Remote Meetings Tools
Having a hard time deciding what the right remote meeting tools are for you? Check our selection of the most popular options out there:
- Video Conferencing Tools. Zoom, Webex, GoToMeeting, and Dialpad are some of the best video conferencing tools out there.
- Virtual White Board Tools. Virtual whiteboard tools allow team members to collaborate in real-time. Some of the most popular online whiteboard tools are Miro, LiveBoard, and Microsoft Whiteboard.
- Scheduling Tools. The right scheduling tools will help your plan and organize your remote meetings effortlessly. Some top choices include Calendly, Rally, and Google Calendar.
- Remote and On-Site Meeting Hardware. You’ll want hardware that is both cost-effective and easy to set up and use. Some of the best options include Jamboard, Meeting Owl, and Alexa for Business.
- Meeting Notes Tools. These tools make collaborating during and after meetings easier. Some of the most popular options include Google Docs, Hugo, and Evernote.
Pros and Cons of Remote Meetings
White remote meetings are practical and cost-effective they also come with their fair share of drawbacks, such as the lack of face-to-face communication.
In this section we cover all the pros and cons of remote meetings, starting with:
- Lower costs. Holding remote meetings means you don’t have to pay for traveling, accommodation, and catering expenses.
- Higher participation. Remote meetings make it much easier for everyone to connect, despite their physical distance.
- Shorter and more frequent meetings. Remote meetings don’t have to drag on for hours to count as productive. It’s totally acceptable to hold more frequent remote meetings (e.g. daily standups) that are short and to the point.
- Reduced carbon footprint. Traveling to fewer in-person meetings is beneficial for the environment, too.
- Less scheduling needs. With remote meetings, scheduling meetings is extremely easy. All you need to do is use a tool to pick a date and time, and a tool to facilitate video conferencing. With in-person meetings, on the other hand, you need to pick a place, set up a conference room, manage travel arrangements, make sure there are refreshments, and more.
- Less dynamic and personal. In-person meetings allow participants to work in smaller groups, talk over each other without being impolite, and brainstorm more effectively. Remote meetings, on the other hand, are much less dynamic and personal.
- Interaction is more difficult. Especially in larger remote meetings, it’s difficult for all participants to be actively involved. A remote meeting can get chaotic if more than one person is speaking, which in turn makes back-and-forth communication harder.
- Participants may not know each other. As remote meetings are open to more participants, it may happen that not everyone knows each other. So, it’s up to the organizer or meeting facilitator to break the ice and encourage participants to interact.
- Dependent on an internet connection. For a remote meeting to be successful, all participants need a decent internet connection. And while most remote workers have access to a stable internet connection, we’ve all been through at least one meeting where someone’s internet was acting up and making communication difficult.
6 Tips to Keep Attendants Engaged
Now you know how to run remote meetings effectively from start to finish. However, that’s not enough to guarantee that participants will be engaged every step of the way.
After all, it takes more than choosing the right software to make a remote meeting interesting and engaging.
Here are our top tips on how to keep your remote meetings engaging for everyone involved:
- Consider how necessary the meeting is. Participants will have a harder time engaging if remote meetings become too frequent, boring, or unproductive. As such, make sure there’s a practical need for a remote meeting before organizing one - and share the reason with the other participants as well.
- Minimize meetings with more than a dozen employees. The more people attend a remote meeting, the harder it will be to keep everyone engaged. As such, you should limit your meetings to those participants who are directly involved in a project or task.
- Focus on finding solutions, not discussing problems. Participants will lose all interest if the remote meeting consists of discussing a problem everyone is already aware of. Focus your remote meetings on brainstorming solutions, instead of simply discussing problems.
- Consider adding a ritual to your remote meetings. Finding a light-hearted way to start or end a remote meeting can make all participants feel engaged. For example, you can start meetings by prompting everyone to share what they see outside their window or how they’re planning to spend their weekend.
- Make sure everyone gets heard. Giving equal attention and space to talk both to the introverts and the extroverts in your team is essential in making everyone feel engaged.
- Show appreciation towards your employees. Last but not least, don’t underestimate the power of appreciation in keeping employees happy and engaged. You can start the meeting with a word of encouragement and gratitude, applaud anyone’s progress, and even reward your remote employees with a gift card, or something similar they can use in their free time.
Individual Remote Meetings - How Are They Different?
Employee isolation is one of the biggest challenges of remote work. As such, it’s important to also hold frequent individual meetings with your team members.
Individual meetings can help you keep in touch with remote employees and make sure that they feel included and are coping well with working remotely.
That said, there are certain specifics to individual meetings that you should keep in mind, including:
- Agree with employees on their frequency. Unless you’re holding an individual meeting to discuss an employee’s work performance, it’s better not to single-handedly decide how often to hold such meetings. Rather, make sure that the employee is also OK with their frequency. Some employees might feel comfortable touching base each week, while others might find frequent one-on-one meetings redundant and unnecessary.
- Don’t jump straight into business. Instead of jumping straight into business, start the remote meeting by asking the employee about their health, how their family is doing, and their general well-being.
- Pay more attention to new employees. New employees that go straight into working remotely are bound to have a harder time than older employees. That’s because they don’t have the chance to build interpersonal relationships with their colleagues. As such, you should take into account that new employees might require more attention and frequent meetings with their team leaders and with other team members.
FAQs on Remote Meetings
Do you still have some questions about remote meetings? Check out our answers to the most frequently asked questions on the topic:
How can I prepare for a remote meeting?
Before the meeting, make sure to choose the right software and hardware, invite all the right participants, distribute an agenda, and assign a meeting facilitator. During the meeting, allow some time for catching up and follow remote meeting etiquette. Write a meeting summary and send a recording of the meeting to the attendants.
How can I improve my remote meeting skills?
As an organizer or team leader, you can get better at running remote meetings in various ways. For example, sending out a calendar invite to all participants in advance and having a good notification system in place will ensure that all attendants join the meeting on time and are on the same page.
Additionally, you should adopt a video-on policy so that everyone can have a clear idea of who’s talking, avoid multitasking during the remote meeting, give everyone time to speak and keep the meetings as brief as possible out of respect for participants’ time.
What are the best alternatives to Zoom for remote meetings?
Some of the most popular alternatives to Zoom include Slack, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, and Webex.
That’s a wrap on remote meetings!
Before you go, here are the main points covered in this guide:
- Remote meetings take advantage of online video and audio tools to connect employees who work from different locations outside the office.
- Before a remote meeting takes place, make sure to choose the right software, set up quality hardware, invite all the right participants and send out agendas, and assign a meeting facilitator.
- Allow participants to catch up during the meeting and make sure to follow up with any agreed deliverables after the meeting is over.
- To keep attendants engaged, don’t call a remote meeting unless it's actually necessary, reduce the number of participants per meeting, focus your meetings on finding solutions and not just discussing problems, and make sure everyone has a chance to participate.
- When it comes to individual remote meetings, you should let employees decide when to have them, pay more attention to new employees, and allow some time to catch up before jumping to business.