Remote work and remote meetings are part of our new normal, and they are definitely here to stay. Online and remote is pretty much the only way we are even doing meetings these days. We are spending more time in workplace meetings now more than ever before.
Maybe it’s the need to connect more often since we don’t all work from the same office or building anymore. Maybe it’s to keep a track of the work and make sure everything is going according to plan. Whatever the reason, we are spending a lot of time in online meetings now.
Just like a physical meeting happening in a conference room or an office, remote meetings too are sometimes disliked by the people attending them. Many people think some of the meetings could have been simple emails or Slack messages.
Instead of an opportunity to connect and discuss with teammates and colleagues, remote meetings are now being seen as tasks and chores to get out of the way by many remote teams.
Here are the virtual meeting best practices that will help you make your meetings better and get the most out of them.
Define your agenda in advance and be prepared
A meeting without a well-defined agenda or purpose will end up being highly unproductive to everyone involved in it. It will in fact waste time and take them away from actually getting work done.
It is best not to host a remote meeting if there is no clear agenda. To make it easy for the attendees of the meeting, make a proper agenda that includes everything that is to be discussed in the meeting.
Make sure to share the agenda with the people attending the meeting well in advance, so that they are aware of what the meeting is specifically about and they can prepare accordingly.
Pick a good remote meeting tool
The key to any remote meeting is the use of a good video conferencing tool or remote work software that works for you. You have to figure out what you need from your remote meeting tool. Review whether you need different features like call recording, closed virtual rooms, screen sharing, chat, and more.
It is important to know how to create a work plan on communicating, as well as picking the tool that works for you. For example, Google Meet does not have a native call recording function on lower tiered or free plans. But if you don’t need your calls recorded, then this is not a problem for you.
Similarly, Zoom allows for password-protected virtual meeting rooms and requires the application to be downloaded onto the user’s machine. If you have recurring meetings or meetings with people outside the organizations, you can meet with them in these secure virtual rooms easily.
Some tools have lower bandwidth and connectivity requirements while others have higher needs. You have to pick one that works for all your remote employees and remote teams.
We are all tired of hearing ‘I can hear you, can you hear me?’ aren’t we? We can avoid that by using the right remote meeting tool that works well for our own remote teams. There is no one size fits all.
Keep hard limits on meeting length
When a remote meeting is set, it is known what the meeting needs to cover and the points that will be discussed as part of it. Staying within the set meeting time limit is a much-needed virtual meeting etiquette that remote teams often ignore.
A 30-minute meeting cannot become a 40-minute one and a 60-minute meeting cannot become a 90-minute one. Remote meetings that go way beyond their original time frame will have your teams mentally checkout and not pay proper attention to what is being said.
An impromptu extension of the meeting beyond its original end time will almost always cause frustration and resentment in the people attending it. It also shows a lack of time management skills in the organizer of the meeting.
Such remote meetings which regularly go beyond their set time will cause a drop in productivity. It will also lead to a sense of reluctance from the attendees to be a part of such meetings.
This is a virtual meeting best practice that is often given the least attention and hence needs to be kept in mind when hosting a meeting.
Avoid distractions and off-topic deviations
It is but natural to deviate from the main agenda during remote meetings and end up discussing things that do not directly relate to the topic at hand. So it has to be a conscious effort to only focus on the specific thing the meeting has been set for and avoid bringing in other topics.
When we deviate from the agenda and discuss other things, the purpose of the meeting fails. Issues of importance get lost in conversations on other topics.
Make sure to remind everyone of the agenda of the meeting within the first few minutes of the meeting. Set out guidelines for the meeting and discussion flow. Keep some time towards the end for anything else that might come up during the course of the remote meeting.
Meetings that stay on the point will make the best of the available time for everyone attending and will help have clear actionables at the end.
Everyone should have a chance to contribute
It is easy for some team members to get lost in the crowd if another team member hogs much of the meeting time. If someone is a part of a meeting, then they have been added for a specific purpose. It is important to let everyone speak and get their point across to all who are in the meeting.
Check-in with all your attending team members throughout the meeting and ask for their input or opinion. This will help in making sure that no one is left unheard and that everybody actively and equally participates in the meeting.
Always share meeting notes after it is over
Once the meeting is done, it is important that a summary of the meeting is shared with everyone who was part of it. This will help the team in not forgetting what was discussed. It will also list out the actions each member might need to take based on the discussion that just happened.
Meeting notes are a good way to revisit in the future to track progress on the meeting points discussed. Moreover, if you need more formality, you can write meeting minutes instead of notes, which are usually more formal and detailed reports, and often necessary for board members and company leaders. Whichever document you choose, both will help your remote team in being more productive and make for good virtual meeting etiquette. They serve as both a reminder as well as a to-do list until the next meeting.
Remote work can sometimes be difficult for your remote teams. So it helps to make sure that the meetings are effective and lead to more productivity, not loss of it. It will reduce any frustration employees might feel about remote meetings and help them stay more focused.