Looking to host a remote meeting?
Remote meetings have always been used by companies to keep in touch with their remote employees. And with the arrival of COVID-19 and subsequent rise in remote work, remote meetings have never been more popular.
So if you’re looking for tips on hosting productive remote meetings, you’ve come to the right place. This article covers everything you need to know about remote meetings and the tools that can help you conduct your team meetings efficiently.
Here’s what this article contains:
- What you should do before the meeting
- What you should do during the meeting
- What you should do after the meeting
Let’s get started.
What is a remote meeting?
Remote meetings or virtual meetings happen when geographically scattered teams use audio or video conferencing to connect. These meetings can be project discussions, performance reviews, or even team-building sessions.
However, while remote meetings are typical for companies that embrace remote work, they aren’t just limited to remote teams. You can even use them to connect with clients, partners, and suppliers from around the world!
How to host efficient remote meetings easily
While hosting productive remote meetings can seem challenging, it’s actually pretty simple.
Here are the steps you should follow before, during, and after a remote meeting to make the most of it:
A. What you should do before your remote meeting
Here are three things you can do to ensure your meeting gets off to a solid start:
1. Decide on the best remote meeting software for your team
What’s the one thing that’s essential for a remote meeting?
A good video conference tool.
Luckily, there are tons of video conferencing tools that you can use to communicate with your team, with each one having its own unique traits.
For example, some apps are free, while others have paid plans. Additionally, some conference call apps also provide added functionality like screen sharing and call recording.
Here are four of the most popular video call apps today:
- Zoom: Offers screen-share features and lets you connect with up to 500 participants.
- Skype: Allows you to hold video calls and make domestic and international calls.
- Microsoft Teams: Great for teams that use Office365.
- Google Meet (formerly Hangouts): A popular, easy-to-use video calling and live stream tool.
2. Prepare a meeting agenda and send out invites well ahead of time
Agendas decide the order of topics to be discussed during the meeting.
They clarify who speaks about each topic and how much time is allocated per speaker.
While preparing an agenda can help keep your meetings short, it also ensures that you stick to what should be discussed — without going off-topic.
These agendas should also be shared with all the participants to ensure that they’re all on the same page over the meeting.
Additionally, sending out meeting invites well ahead of time also plays a significant role in making your meeting more efficient.
Your meeting invite should ideally go out 4-5 days before the event, with reminders sent 1-2 days prior and around an hour before the meeting. Schedule management tools like Google Calendar and Calendly can help you go about this smoothly.
3. Pay attention to your team members’ timezones
Having a globally distributed workforce is one of the biggest perks of running a remote team. You get access to the best talent around the world, unlike most other organizations.
However, this means that all your employees live across different time zones — something you should consider when scheduling a remote meeting.
The best time to hold a remote meeting is when your employees’ work schedules overlap. If that doesn’t work, go with a time that suits the majority of your team.
B. What you should do during the meeting
Here’s a list of things you can do during the meeting to ensure it runs smoothly:
1. Let your team catch up first
You want your team to be productive, but you can’t expect them to work like robots, right?
Since they work from home or another isolated environment, your remote employees can find it challenging to maintain relationships with their colleagues. So it’s always a good idea to let your team catch up with each other at the start of the meeting.
Asking your team how they’re doing and starting your meetings off with an icebreaker, some engaging activities and even just small talk can do wonders for your employee relationships.
2. Stick to the agenda and use meeting goals
Writing down a list of talking points is easy, but following them can be challenging.
To avoid long and inefficient meetings, stick to your agenda, and decide on a meeting goal.
For example, in a marketing team meeting, you could set a goal like “finalize next month’s campaign plan.” This will be the key topic that the meeting will revolve around.
This way, everyone will focus on achieving the goal during the meeting and not get carried away with other ideas. Sticking to this strategy will also help you finish your meeting on time and minimize any inefficiencies.
3. Record your meeting
What’s the best thing about remote meetings?
You don’t have to manually write down what everyone said like you’d do in face to face meetings.
Instead, just record the whole meeting!
Maybe someone came up with a brilliant idea during your meeting’s brainstorm session, or perhaps some employees couldn’t attend the meeting due to time zone restrictions. Whatever reason it is, recording a meeting allows remote employees to catch up and stay up to date.
You can also go back to these recordings from time to time and see if you’ve overlooked any great ideas that can boost your business.
However, always remember to let your remote workers know when you’re recording the meeting. This will help you avoid any privacy issues later on.
4. Allow time for suggestions
Your team members have different perspectives about the work they do.
These perspectives can bring out some truly great ideas that can help your business achieve more growth.
So your meetings shouldn’t be all about pushing the business vision to your remote employees. If you want your business to grow, leave some time at the end of every online meeting to listen to your employees’ ideas about how things should work.
These can be small ideas like automating specific repetitive tasks or significant changes to your process structure. Discussing these possibilities will help your business grow and also help your employees understand that you value their input.
C. What you should do after the meeting
Once you finish your remote meeting, follow these steps to ensure your team is implementing the decisions made during the meeting:
1. Create a summary of your meeting
Planning tasks out during the meeting can seem easy as everyone’s on call at the same time. However, the difficulty lies in implementing them.
Once your team meeting is over, draft a summary with the list of action items that were discussed during the meeting and send them over to the meeting attendees.
This way, you can ensure everyone in the team knows what the next steps are — and each person is aware of what they’re responsible for.
2. Send out the recording of the meeting to everyone
Your team may come up with a thousand ideas during the meeting.
But it’s impossible to keep all of them in mind, right?
Ensure you send out a copy of the recording not just to the employees who missed the meeting, but to everyone who attended the meeting as well.
After all, video recording is more efficient than just taking down notes.
A video recording allows the viewer to understand the whole context behind their assigned tasks.
This way, when team members are working on the tasks created during the meeting, they can always go back to get a clear idea of precisely what they need to do.
3. Follow up on the action items created at the meeting
Your team can forget to follow up on certain decisions made during your meeting. So it’s important to check in on the progress of your employees and ensure that they’re sticking to the plan.
Send messages asking for updates around a week after the meeting. Talk to your team and rectify any problems they may have when implementing the action items. Constantly follow up for progress updates as it’ll help your team implement the decisions efficiently.
Four tools that make remote meetings more productive
Following the tips above can help you make your meetings more efficient, but that’s not enough. You also need to equip yourself with tools to streamline remote meetings.
Here are four key meeting tools for remote teams:
1. Task management tools
In a traditional office, you’d physically check-in on your employees and their task progress. All you have to do is go over to their desk and see how things are going on.
However, in a remote work setting, it’s hard to know what your employees are currently working on, and keeping track of all of your team’s tasks can be confusing.
But you don’t have to stress so much over something you can manage easily!
Instead of trying to manually manage your organization’s task schedule remotely, get all your employees to use a task management system. These task management systems help you keep track of everything your employees are working on.
The information you obtain from these tools can quickly be brought up during remote meetings, like a project planning or review discussion. You’ll also know which employees are meeting their deadlines and which ones are behind schedule.
2. File sharing tools
It’s easy to keep track of important documents at the office. They’re all saved in the central server and easily accessible through the office network. And the physical copies are always safe in storage.
But that’s not possible with remote teams, right?
So how do you share files with your team to make your remote meetings more efficient?
Just use a cloud-based file-sharing system.
These file-sharing tools allow your team to exchange all types of files with each other.
You can use them during meetings to share presentations and reports with your team. You can even use these platforms to store backups of important files. This way, you’ll never lose access to essential files as they’re saved on the cloud.
Some of the best file sharing systems you can use are Google Drive, One Drive, and Dropbox. Tools like Google Drive even integrate with its own suite of collaboration tools (Google Docs, Sheets, etc.) and third-party apps like Slack for more efficient workflows.
3. Calendar management tools
When you’re in an office, it’s easy to schedule meetings. As everyone is already physically there, you can quickly get the message out and conduct a meeting in no time.
However, when you’re working with a remote team, you can’t expect everyone to be ready for a meeting at a moment’s notice, right?
Additionally, you can integrate these apps with your go-to video tool to streamline your video calling process.
Once you integrate them, all you have to do is schedule a meeting, add the attendees and the meeting will automatically appear in their calendars!
4. Noise cancellation tools
Participating in a remote meeting is very different from attending a face-to-face meeting.
From family members and roommates to loud TV, you’ll have noisy distractions that make it hard for your team to listen to you. That’s why a noise cancellation tool is a great addition for your remote meeting setup.
Noise cancelling apps like Krisp can help eliminate all background noise (from you as well as from other call attendees) in real-time, making your meetings much clearer.
While hosting a remote meeting may seem harder than hosting in-person meetings, it doesn’t have to be the case.
Just follow the tips and use the meeting tools we’ve mentioned here to host effective remote meetings easily. This will help you have productive discussions with your team, allowing you to focus on growing your business.
Liam Martin is the co-founder of Time Doctor—one of the world’s leading time tracking software for remote teams. He is also the co-organizer of Running Remote, the world’s largest remote work conference.