How to Run Effective Remote Meetings

Learn how to run effective remote meetings.

Zight | February 20, 2020 | 11 min read time

Article Last Updated: July 01, 2024

How to Run Effective Remote Meetings

A study conducted by IWG found that 70 percent of professionals work remotely at least one day a week, while 53 percent work remotely for at least half of the week. Remote work is here to stay and that’s mainly because of entirely-remote companies like GitLab, Buffer and Zapier who have paved the way for others.

With the continuous rise of remote work, you’ll need to understand what it takes to run an effective remote meeting. In this article, we share 5 key considerations when running a remote meeting:

  1. Define your meeting goal
  2. Make meeting preparation as easy as possible
  3. Use a meeting agenda, take notes and assign next steps
  4. Have the right tech in place
  5. Ask for meeting feedback and iterate

So, let’s dive in!

1. Define your meeting goal

To avoid the dreaded, “that should have been an email” meeting, make sure to take the time to define the goal or purpose of your meeting. Your meeting goal will vary depending on the time of meeting you’re having and who’s involved.

How to define your goal

When asked what the purpose of one-on-one meetings are, managers reported the following:

Source

Defining a goal will set the tone for your meeting, from the agenda to the discussion itself. For example, if you’re scheduling a project kickoff meeting, your goal will likely involve any (or all) of the following:

  • Flesh out the project details
  • Outline who is responsible for what
  • Set project milestones

On the other hand, if you’re running a one-on-one meeting your goal could include any of the following mentioned above.

Share the goal

Plain and simple: Do others know why you’re meeting? Adding a meeting description is the easiest way to make sure the answer to that question is always yes.

Remote workers don’t have the luxury of things like “water cooler” conversations or having a quick 5 minute chat while you go out to grab a coffee. So, adding a meeting description becomes even more important because there’s less opportunity to share context.

Meeting goal examples

If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at some of the meeting descriptions that have been added to some of my meetings:

For a one-on-one with my manager:

Why this is helpful for meeting participants:

  • Keeps us both accountable for setting the agenda and coming prepared
  • The goal and purpose of this meeting is clearly defined

For a post-event retrospective:

Why this is helpful for meeting participants:

  • Sets the expectation of what will (and should) be covered
  • Makes it easy for meeting participants to come prepared with feedback

2. Make meeting preparation as easy as possible

We’ve already covered the first step, which is defining your meeting goal (and letting people know about it). The next is to share the agenda before the meeting even happens.

By giving your team access to a shared meeting agenda prior to the meeting, they’ll be able to:

  • Add in agenda items
  • Add any necessary context or answer existing agenda items
  • Prepare their thoughts and talking points before the meeting
  • Come ready to discuss, every time!

A shared agenda also gives everyone the opportunity to contribute to the conversation. In an onsite setting, louder voices dominate the conversation, which can make the thought of speaking up during the meeting seem daunting for others. For people joining a meeting remotely, it can be even more daunting to speak up against those loud voices.

Source

In fact, the 2019 State of Remote Work by OwlLabs found that 67% of remote workers were challenged with being interrupted or talked over during hybrid meetings (11% higher than onsite workers). A shared agenda makes it easier for all voices to be heard by giving everyone different outlets to share their thoughts and ideas. It can also play a part in minimizing the frustrations of not feeling heard. As a result, it’s easier for everyone on the team to collaborate.

Pro tip: If you’re a partially remote team, be sure to assign an onsite buddy to any remote members. Buddy’s should be accountable for including remote members into any relevant meetings and keeping them in the loop on the “in-person” conversations being had.

3. Use a meeting agenda, take notes, assign next steps and send meeting notes

An Atlassian report found that the average employee wastes 31 hours in unproductive meetings each month. So, how do you take this unproductive time and make it effective?

Follow the agenda

At this point, all of the meeting participants have put in the time and effort to add their thoughts and items for what they’d like to discuss during the meeting. During the meeting, go through each agenda item and discuss. Doing this will help you and the team stay on track to achieving your meeting goal.

Take notes and summarize items

The best way to do this is to assign a note taker. As you move through each item, be sure to make note of what was discussed and what decisions were made (and why you made them). Having a record of this will make it easier for all meeting participants to have “one source of truth” for the decisions you’ve made.

When summarizing each agenda item, be sure to repeat the summary back to the group. This ensures that everyone is on the same page during and after the meeting. If someone is confused by the summary, it’s a great opportunity to seek clarification and get it immediately.

Assign next steps

Keep everyone accountable to what they agreed to during your meeting. If one person agreed to look into something, assign a next step to them with a due date.

Pro tip: When assigning next steps, only assign it to one person. In many cases, when multiple people have taken ownership of a specific task, it’s more likely that it will fall through the cracks. Multiple people can be responsible for completing the task, but make sure that only one person is accountable for that task getting done.

Send meeting notes

For remote workers, especially those with the added challenge of managing time zones, this makes the difference between a meeting that’s effective with one that isn’t. Having access to meeting notes means that instead of messaging a teammate with, “What did we decide for this project again”, and wait until the next day to get an answer, they can just look at your meeting notes.

This also makes future meetings more effective. By having your past decisions readily available, you’ll be able to avoid having repetitive arguments or discussions in future meetings.

4. Have the right tech in place

The same OwlLabs report mentioned earlier found that:

  • 53% of remote employees struggle with preparing for meetings in advance
  • 52% experience video quality challenges
  • 52% struggle with meeting setup
  • 58% struggle with staying focused during meetings

Having the right tech stack can really help minimize a lot of the challenges remote workers face, pre, during and post-meeting. Here’s some tech that you should consider:

5. Ask for meeting feedback and iterate

It’s important to get a continuous stream of feedback when it comes to your meetings because, overtime you’ll get a sense of whether or not participants find the meeting:

  • A good use of their time
  • Effective or productive
  • Necessary to have.

This also prompts great conversations around what and how you can improve, what you need to change or if the meeting no longer serves a purpose (thus giving people 30 minutes to 1 hour of their time back).

Be sure to include all meeting participants in the discussion around what needs to change about your meetings for them to be more effective. The best way to do that? Add it to your next meeting agenda!

Consider adding any of these meeting questions to your next agenda:

For team meetings:

  • What needs to change around our team meetings?
  • Are we happy with our level of communication? How should we change it?
  • How can we communicate better as a team?
  • Is there something we’re not currently talking about in this meeting that we should be?
  • Is there anything we can improve about our meeting tech stack?
  • Do we feel like we’re meeting frequently enough? Not enough?

For one-on-one meetings:

  • Do we feel like we’re meeting frequently enough? Not enough?
  • Am I acting like the best manager you could wish for? What could I be doing better?
  • Where has our communication faltered? Can you give me an example?
  • What do you like about our one-on-one meetings? What can be improved?

Pro tip: When asking for feedback, open ended questions are great. However, you should guide what specifically you want feedback on. So, instead of asking, “How can we improve as a team?”, be more specific and say, “How can we communicate better as a team?” You’ll get better, more pointed answers.

Bonus Tips for Running Effective Remote Meetings

Remote work has become a mainstay in the professional world, bringing with it the necessity to master the art of remote meetings. Here are some additional tips to ensure your remote meetings are as productive and efficient as possible.

1. Prioritize Clear Communication

Use Clear and Concise Language Remote communication often lacks the non-verbal cues present in face-to-face interactions. Therefore, it’s crucial to use clear and concise language. Avoid jargon and be as direct as possible to ensure everyone understands the discussion points.

Encourage Active Listening Active listening involves fully concentrating, understanding, responding, and then remembering what is being said. Encourage meeting participants to practice active listening by summarizing points back to the speaker to confirm understanding.

Implement Visual Aids Using visual aids like slides, diagrams, or videos can help illustrate your points more effectively. Tools like Zight (formerly CloudApp) can be particularly useful for creating and sharing visual content.

2. Foster Inclusivity

Rotate Meeting Roles To ensure inclusivity, rotate meeting roles such as facilitator, note-taker, and timekeeper. This approach allows everyone to participate actively and gain different perspectives on the meeting dynamics.

Address Time Zone Differences Be mindful of participants’ time zones when scheduling meetings. Use tools like World Time Buddy to find a convenient time for everyone. If a suitable time cannot be found, consider recording the meeting for those who cannot attend.

Promote Equal Participation Encourage all participants to contribute by asking for their opinions directly. If someone has been quiet, invite them to share their thoughts. This can help ensure that all voices are heard and valued.

3. Optimize Meeting Structure

Set Time Limits for Agenda Items To keep the meeting on track, allocate specific time limits for each agenda item. This prevents any one topic from dominating the meeting and ensures that all necessary points are covered.

Use Breakout Rooms For larger meetings, use breakout rooms to allow smaller group discussions. This can make it easier for participants to engage and contribute. Zoom and Microsoft Teams both offer breakout room functionalities.

Schedule Regular Breaks For longer meetings, schedule regular breaks to prevent fatigue. A five-minute break every hour can help participants stay focused and engaged throughout the meeting.

4. Enhance Engagement

Use Interactive Tools Incorporate interactive tools like polls, Q&A sessions, and collaborative whiteboards. Tools like Miro or MURAL can facilitate real-time collaboration and keep participants engaged.

Gamify the Experience Consider gamifying certain aspects of your meetings. For example, you could have a trivia quiz related to the meeting topic or offer small rewards for participation. Gamification can make meetings more enjoyable and engaging.

Encourage Video Participation Encourage participants to turn on their video cameras. Seeing each other’s faces can create a more personal and engaging meeting experience. It also helps in reading non-verbal cues and fostering better communication.

5. Follow Up Effectively

Send Follow-Up Emails After the meeting, send a follow-up email summarizing key points, decisions made, and action items. This ensures everyone is on the same page and knows what is expected of them.

Set Deadlines For each action item, set clear deadlines and assign them to specific individuals. Use project management tools like Asana or Trello to track progress and ensure accountability.

Evaluate Meeting Effectiveness Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of your meetings. Ask for feedback from participants and look for ways to improve. Consider using anonymous surveys to gather honest feedback.

6. Build a Positive Meeting Culture

Start with a Check-In Begin meetings with a quick check-in to see how everyone is doing. This can be as simple as asking participants to share a highlight from their week. It helps build rapport and creates a positive atmosphere.

End on a Positive Note Conclude meetings on a positive note by acknowledging accomplishments or expressing appreciation for participants’ contributions. This leaves participants with a sense of achievement and motivates them for future meetings.

Encourage Transparency Promote a culture of transparency by sharing relevant information openly. This helps build trust among team members and ensures that everyone is well-informed and aligned with the team’s goals.

7. Address Common Challenges

Manage Technical Issues Technical issues are a common challenge in remote meetings. Have a backup plan in place, such as an alternative communication channel, and designate someone to provide technical support if needed.

Deal with Distractions Encourage participants to minimize distractions by finding a quiet space, using headphones, and turning off notifications. Establishing ground rules for meetings can also help manage distractions.

Handle Conflicts Conflicts can arise in any meeting. Address them promptly and constructively. Encourage open communication and seek to understand different perspectives. Having a neutral facilitator can also help mediate conflicts effectively.

8. Leverage Advanced Technologies

Utilize AI and Automation AI and automation tools can enhance the efficiency of your meetings. For example, AI-powered transcription services like Otter.ai can provide real-time transcriptions of your meetings, making note-taking easier.

Incorporate Augmented Reality (AR) For more interactive and immersive meetings, consider using AR technologies. AR can help visualize complex concepts and provide a more engaging meeting experience.

Explore Virtual Reality (VR) VR can take remote meetings to the next level by creating virtual environments where participants can interact more naturally. Tools like Spatial and AltspaceVR offer VR meeting solutions.

By implementing these additional tips, you can transform your remote meetings into highly effective and engaging sessions that drive productivity and collaboration within your team. Remember, the key to successful remote meetings lies in preparation, inclusivity, and continuous improvement.

Hiba Amin is the Content Marketing Manager at Soapbox, a shared one-on-one and team meeting agenda app used by over 100,000 managers and their teams.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/h5amin

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/hibaamin/

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