How to prepare and run effective remote meetings

More than a year into the Covid-19 pandemic, it is safe to say that the way we work has drastically changed. Remote working has become the norm, with many businesses starting to witness an inevitable change in their daily operations and also in worker behaviour.
Probably among the most important ingredients of a successful remote working experience are meetings. Although perceived by many as a hurdle to productivity in normal times, they have proved to be the glue that holds remote teams together during the current time.
remote meetings


However, in order for remote meetings to bear results, there are a set of best practices that need to be followed.
In this blog post, we will walk through some tips and best practices that will help you properly plan and hold successful remote meetings.

1. Determine clear meeting goals

We have all been there. You receive a meeting invitation and you wonder to yourself “What’s in it for me? What’s the goal of this meeting?”. And with no surprise, you attend only to stay silent, feeling that the meeting had little to no added value and just wasted a whole lot of time.

The phenomenon of holding meetings just for the sake of it has perhaps gotten even worse with Covid. Managers often refer to meetings as their main way to try and keep their teams connected and engaged remotely. However, without clear goals, meetings are only a gathering of employees trying to figure out what to do, with different people trying to pull the meeting in their preferred direction (which often creates conflict).
A list of meeting goals are therefore quintessential to guarantee participants know what is expected from them and to keep everyone on the same page. Such goals, however, depend entirely on the nature of the meeting and, of course, on the participants. Agile teams, for example, tend to hold daily stand-up meetings in order to keep track of specific projects, to identify problems in a timely manner and to be able to act quickly and accordingly. Knowing these goals in advance, participants will have an idea about what and how to prepare, thus making the stand-up meetings brief and to the point.

2. Put in place an agenda

Now that you have established what you want to achieve with remote meetings, it is time to figure out how to conduct the meetings. A clear and concise agenda is an absolute must in order to structure the meeting, determine discussion topics and prevent the meeting from going off course.
For a remote meeting agenda to be effective and inclusive, it is important to include all the participants and to allow them to make suggestions on how the meeting should be carried out. In this way, you can guarantee that they will be willing to participate and will be engaged throughout the meeting.
Although the agenda will differ depending on the specific team, it will usually incorporate some common and essential components. The most obvious of which are the date, location and the platform to be used for quick access. Additionally, the agenda should include a list of the objectives and key talking points and should have a cohesive structure with predetermined time slots for each point.

3. Carefully select and limit the number of participants

Getting invited to the wrong meeting can be a major distraction, and can also contribute to low productivity and overall frustration in the workplace.
More often than not, employees find themselves trapped in meeting rooms with no clear reason other than just being there. The cost of unnecessary meetings can be high; indeed, recents figures suggest the cost to business is around $37 Billion in the U.S according to Atlassian.
The same report also found that unnecessary meetings lead to disengagement and push employees to completely switch off. Doing other work, daydreaming and even sleeping have been reported by employees who feel overwhelmed by the number of meetings, which have now reached an average of 62 monthly.
The most common cause for the ever-increasing number of meetings is the tendency to invite too many people, who will most likely end up silent anyway and make limited contributions. The selection criteria for participants should be stricter and should solely revolve around their roles within a team or on a project and what they can put into and get out of a meeting.
A general rule of thumb is to start with a small number of selected individuals to maintain the flow of meetings and to limit interruptions. Additionally, think of saving and sharing recordings within dedicated channels or spaces for everyone to see. In this way, employees with busy schedules can stay up to date with certain activities without having to attend the meeting. But remember, you should still give them the option to participate if they desire, which shouldn’t be mandatory of course (nobody wants to feel left out).

4. Choose the right tools

The success of remote meetings relies on a combination of best practices and of course, tools. The advancements made in telecommunications technology over the years have provided us nowadays with a large array of software solutions designed to facilitate instant communications and collaboration. In most cases, when a business is looking to facilitate remote meetings, they usually refer to either messaging apps, video conferencing or digital workplace solutions. The first couple of months of lockdown a year or so ago saw a huge demand for the  likes of Zoom and Microsoft Teams among others. The reasoning, of course, was that such solutions are enterprise ready and primarily designed to connect teams in real-time.
But how can I choose the right type of solution for my business? 

In practice, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. You can choose one tool to conduct remote meetings or a combination of tools. It entirely depends on your team’s needs. For example, if your needs are centred only around communication, then messaging apps and video conferencing platforms are the way to go. Whereas, if you are looking for a solution that can support both communication and collaboration needs and can make the remote working experience happen in one central location, then maybe a digital workplace with built-in functionalities or integrated with standalone communication tools is your best bet.

5. Establish meeting rules and roles

Once you have selected the meeting goals, agenda and the right tools, the next step is to establish a list of rules and roles that will help facilitate and organize the flow of the meeting.
When it comes to remote meeting rules and guidelines, it is crucial to prepare and share them in advance. They have to be centred around engagement and the easy flow of information.
Similar to meetings at the office, try to always start by giving everyone the floor to introduce themselves and to express how they are doing. In the context of a global pandemic, this can be beneficial to boost collective morale, connect employees and to help them feel less lonely.
Next, let participants know how often they should contribute and for how long. You don’t want speakers and spectators in your meetings. In this way, you can avoid a noisy meeting room with everyone speaking at the same time (which is far from ideal). To achieve this, think of assigning roles to specific participants. For example, a facilitator is the person responsible for keeping the meeting going forward and he/she will be the one giving the floor to the participants. The secretary, on the other hand, is the person responsible for recording the meeting notes, which will later be shared with the participants.

6. Make sure to follow up and gather feedback

Once you are done with the meeting, every participant needs to have a detailed idea about the key takeaways and the potential next steps.
Enterprise Wikis are an ideal tool to help you create and share meeting notes thanks to their rich set of features. Typically, meeting notes can be generated directly from the chat application or the video conferencing tool. These should contain the key talking points, the assigned tasks and any scheduled events.
Additionally, to effectively assess the success of your remote meetings, make sure to draft and send surveys at the end. These surveys don’t need to be too detailed, rather simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or multiple choice questions. Using the insights you gain from these can help you determine areas for improvement and may prompt you to try a couple of new rules or tools with the potential to improve the remote meeting experience.
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Here are 6 tips and best practices to prepare and run effective remote meetings:

  • Determine clear meeting goals
  • Put in place an agenda
  • Carefully select and limit the number of participants
  • Choose the right tools
  • Establish meeting rules and roles
  • Make sure to follow up and gather feedback

Find out the ultimate guide to successful remote meetings

Here are 7 ways to supercharge your productivity when you work from home:

  1. Set up the right work environment
  2. Eliminate distractions
  3. Schedule and plan each day
  4. Take the time to understand your work tools
  5. Establish instant communication channels with your team
  6. Be wary of bad health habits
  7. Make the most out of your new flexibility

Discover 7 Tips for working from home that will supercharge your productivity

Here are some tips on how to manage a good work-life balance and establish a routine while Working From Home:

  • Establish a list of objectives and priorities
  • Keep and maintain a routine
  • Time is money (learn how to manage it)
  • Healthy body = Healthy mind
  • Create a dedicated working corner
  • Learn how to switch off and unplug

Find out 6 Tips to find the perfect work-life balance when working from home

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I am a product marketing specialist at eXo. My role is to assist marketing and sales teams in their operations and present our digital workplace solution to the world. I mainly blog about the latest tech trends, digital transformation, internal communication and how to navigate through eXo Platform.
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