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How to Hold Great Meetings With Remote Workers

Make remote meetings with your team more engaging with our tips on virtual meeting etiquette, agenda setting, tools and other best practices.

Due to the coronavirus crisis, many businesses are currently working remotely for the first time in their history. With the situation expected to remain unchanged for several months, it's imperative that these businesses quickly adapt to holding effective remote meetings – and we're going to show you how.

But a global pandemic isn’t the only reason to learn these skills. As working from home – or as a digital nomad – grows more popular than ever, businesses should aim to adapt to a remote way of working in order to future proof their business.

Holding remote meetings can seem like a daunting prospect, but it really needn’t be. There’s so much brilliant technology out there to support you, and with a bit of planning, you can easily make remote meetings as effective as face-to-face ones.

Here’s our guide to making your remote meetings as seamless as possible:

1. Pick the right platform

As the chair of the meeting, this is your first decision – and it’s an important one! There’s a lot of great remote working technology out there, but you need to take the time to find your perfect match.

Here are some of our favourites:

Zoom

Zoom is great for large meetings – it can even accommodate up to 100 people! As well as the normal video conferencing functionality, you’ve got the ability to share your screen, and even to record the meeting.

Google Hangouts Meet

Google Hangouts Meet is ideal if you already use the G Suite software, as participants can easily join the meeting simply by clicking on a link in their calendar. Up to 25 people can join a Google Hangouts meeting, but the format can make it a bit chaotic if people all jump in with ideas at the same time.

MeetingRoom.io

This is the platform that best mimics the feeling of being in an actual meeting room. Up to 13 people can meet, collaborate, and draw on whiteboards, making it the perfect choice for brainstorms. To get the most out of MeetingRoom.io, you’ll need a VR headset, but you can also get by without one.


Do you even need to have a meeting?

It’s worth asking yourself at this point whether you definitely need to have a meeting at all. Meetings can be helpful and productive, but are all too often superfluous. If you’re collaborating on a project, could something like Google Docs actually be all you need? Or even just an email? It’s worth thinking about!

2. Set a clear agenda

Setting an agenda is best practice for all meetings, but it’s even more important for remote ones. Make sure you send around the agenda as far in advance as possible.

This should include:

  • The aim of the meeting
  • Key talking points
  • How long you expect to spend on each point
  • Time at the end to agree on actions

Setting an aim is crucial. It should be a clear, achievable and measurable goal, so that everyone can work on the same page from the off.

If any prep work is needed, this should also be included, along with which person is responsible for bringing which information (if applicable).


3. Make sure everyone follows remote meeting etiquette

There are a few things that your meeting participants can do to help everything run smoothly, and it’s a good idea to gently remind your colleagues of this beforehand.

  • No ‘chipping in’. In a normal meeting room environment, ‘chipping in’ with ideas or thoughts can be done carefully, and can help things move forward. In an online setting, it will make for a clunky and stilted experience for all. Make sure everyone has their chance to speak uninterrupted!
  • Pick your location wisely. For the meeting to have the best chance of going well, everyone joining the meeting should try to sit somewhere that’s quiet and has a strong internet connection. Well-lit and distraction-free is also a big plus.
  • Mute your microphone. Meeting participants should get into the habit of muting their microphone when they’re not speaking – otherwise, the feedback can make it really hard to hear the speaker properly.
  • Turn off other notifications. Tempting though it can be to reply to other messages when you’re on your computer, try to avoid this where possible.

4. Don't shy away from icebreakers

Remote meetings should be efficient, yes – but that doesn’t mean you should neglect icebreakers, particularly for brainstorm-style meetings. In fact, a study by the Harvard Business Review found that meeting attendees were 26% more effective at generating ideas after sharing an embarrassing story as an icebreaker – who knew!

If the meeting is quite formal and an icebreaker doesn’t feel appropriate, at the very least take the time to properly introduce everyone at the meeting if there are any new faces.


5. Decide on the meeting roles

When holding a remote meeting, make sure you assign a chair and a scribe. This may seem a little formal or old-fashioned, but it’s crucial to ensuring the meeting remains productive, and everyone leaves with a clear idea of what they need to be doing.

The person calling the meeting should be the chair. It’s their responsibility to:

  • Pick the most suitable platform, and make sure everyone has access to it
  • Share the agenda in advance of the meeting, and assign someone to be the ‘scribe’ (or ask someone to volunteer)
  • Ensure the meeting sticks to the predetermined agenda by moving on when the conversation gets ‘stuck’
  • Make sure everyone is given the opportunity to share their thoughts throughout the meeting, being especially mindful that some people will be more comfortable with the digital setup than others

It’s the scribe’s responsibility to:

  • Take notes on what is discussed during the meeting
  • Share a summary after the meeting via email or message, including any takeaway actions and who is responsible for completing these, and by when

6. Hold remote meetings regularly

Even if you prepare flawlessly for your remote meeting, the reality is that the first one will probably feel a little weird.

The key to holding great meetings with remote workers relies heavily on what we’ve covered above, but ultimately comes down to making it a regular thing. As people become more comfortable with the format, you’ll find your meetings run a lot more smoothly.


In a nutshell

Holding great meetings with remote workers depends on planning and practice. Take the time to choose the right platform, make sure the agenda is clear, set some ground rules, and make meetings a regular thing – even if the first one proves difficult.