Running effective remote meetings can be challenging, but it’s one of the most important skills you can develop as a leader. In order to help you with the process of transitioning your team to remote work, we compiled a list of remote meeting best practices in this post.
The importance of running effective virtual meetings 💻
In today’s interconnected world, companies have realized that they don’t have to limit themselves to one location in order to find the best talent. Hiring employees in different parts of the world isn’t only a great way to expand your recruitment horizons, but also a key factor to improving the employee experience. According to a recent study by Deloitte, flexibility in working practices correlates with employee engagement and loyalty:
“Not only do millennials appreciate not being tied to strict hours or locations, they also value the trust their employers demonstrate in granting that flexibility,” says the study.
Remote work has many benefits. However, building a distributed team comes with its challenges. According to the Remote Work Report, communication is the #1 problem faced by remote and distributed teams:
“You can’t walk over to someone’s desk, schedule an in person meeting, or give a coworker a quick call anytime you want (they might be in a different time zone, after all). With remote work, you have to be much more purposeful and planned in your communications.”
One of the best ways to foster team communication and collaboration when managing a distributed team is to schedule regular team meetings – and make them inclusive and effective for everyone on your team. These meetings empower your team to share updates, brainstorm on new ideas, and define clear priorities. The benefits of team meetings are vast – as long as they are held properly.
Let’s talk about the seven remote meeting tips you need to know in order to run effective and inclusive virtual meetings with distributed teams:
7 Best Practices for Remote Meetings
- Find the most convenient time for the meeting.
- Set remote meeting guidelines.
- Collaborate on a meeting agenda.
- Create opportunities for team bonding.
- Keep employees engaged.
- Take meeting minutes and assign clear action items.
- Follow up after the meeting.
Don’t miss the list of remote meeting tools at the bottom of the post! ⤵️
Tip #1 Find the most convenient time for the meeting
If you’re part of a remote or distributed team, you probably understand the struggle of finding a meeting time that works for everyone – especially when your teammates are in different time zones.
However, deciding on the right day and time to meet is the first step you should take if you want to have productive and inclusive conversations.
Here are a couple of suggestions:
- Choose one day of the week and stick to it. For example, you could schedule a recurring team meeting on Mondays. This will prevent future scheduling issues and provide a channel for continuous communication.
- Look for time frames that work for everyone’s time zone. For instance, if your fellow team members are in Los Angeles, New York, and London, an ideal time to meet would be 9 AM PST (9 AM in LA / 12 PM in NY / 5 PM in London).
- Use a tool to get an overview of your teammates’ timezones and schedules. We included some suggestions in the list of remote meeting tools at the end of this post!
Tip #2 Set rules on how and when the meeting will run
Once you’ve agreed on a day and time to meet, it’s very important to commit to a set of remote meeting rules that will help the team make the most of each meeting. You can send these rules as an email, or add them as talking points in your team meeting agenda.
Here are some remote meeting guidelines that you can share with your teammates:
- Be respectful of people’s time – and let everyone know if you can’t make it.
- Find a location with limited or no background noise.
- Mute your mic when someone else is speaking.
- Turn on your camera so everyone can see your facial expressions.
- Add your talking points to the agenda one hour prior to the meeting.
- Read the agenda before the meeting and come prepared to contribute.
- Don’t interrupt other people when they’re speaking. Instead, write down your thoughts and wait for your turn to speak.
- Don’t stare at your phone or work on other tasks during the meeting.
- Establish time limits for each talking point and stick to the meeting length (whether it’s 60 or 90 minutes).
Tip #3 Collaborate on a meeting agenda and send out the talking points in advance
Remote meetings can get messy – especially when one person speaks on top of another or you don’t know what the other people in the call want to talk about.
That’s why, if you manage a distributed team, you should always prepare an agenda prior to the meeting.
According to Bryant Galindo (CEO of CollabsHQ), setting a clear agenda and guidelines will help you ensure that everyone is on the same page before the virtual meeting takes place:
“The best remote meetings have a session agenda set beforehand so that people come in knowing what it is they will be talking about. If the meeting doesn’t have that, then you spend 15 to 20 minutes just figuring out what it is you are even trying to do,” says Galindo.
Collaborating on a meeting agenda with clear talking points won’t just help your teammates prepare appropriately for the meeting. It will also help you foster discussions where everyone (including the quieter employees) feels empowered to participate.
If you’re looking for some inspiration on the talking points you should include in your meeting agenda, you can check out this post on how to run your weekly team meeting (with 4 free templates).
Encourage everyone to show up prepared
It’s rare to have a productive conversation when nobody has a plan for what to talk about. With Fellow, your team can collaborate on an agenda, prepare materials in advance, and write questions to ask during the meeting.
Tip #4 Create opportunities for team bonding
Getting to know your teammates on a personal level can help you feel more engaged at work. But did you know that it can also impact your creativity and problem-solving skills?
A study by Northwestern University showed that workers who shared funny or embarrassing stories about themselves produced 26 percent more ideas during brainstorming sessions. That’s because sharing personal stories is an important part of building team rapport and trust.
However, remote employees don’t have as many opportunities to have informal conversations as people who work at the same office. That’s why you should be proactive in bringing those opportunities into your remote team meetings.
Our suggestion? Start each team meeting with a short icebreaker or team building activity that helps the team get to know each other a little better.
An icebreaker can be something as simple as:
- Playing a game such as “two truths, one lie”.
- Asking everyone to answer a question. E.g. “What’s your favourite meal?” or “What’s something you’ve done this week that you feel proud of?”
- Sharing pictures of your pets or what you did on the weekend.
Planning an icebreaker is a great way to strengthen coworker bonds, stimulate better brainstorming, and create an atmosphere of inclusivity during your remote team meetings.
Tip #5 Keep employees engaged by assigning different roles
“How can I keep remote employees engaged during our meetings?” – That’s probably something you’ve wondered if you manage a distributed team.
Here’s a tip for you: assign and rotate the roles of facilitator, timekeeper ⏰, and notetaker between all the attendees. This will help you get everyone involved and invested in the success of the meeting.
Finally, one more thing you can do to keep employees engaged during your virtual meetings is to ask specific team members for their opinion. This is a great habit you can adopt, especially when one alpha individual tends to take control of your discussions, or when part of your team is concentrated in one area.
If you have a room of 5 people and 3 people calling-in, the 5 people will naturally (and unintentionally) act like the only ones in the meeting and talk amongst themselves, not leaving much room for the people calling-in to voice their opinions. Making sure to call out those people calling-in is a great habit to avoid that issue.
“If you are a meeting organizer trying to generate ideas, make a decision, or create stronger relationships, you will get better results if you can get your entire group to contribute,” says Julie Zhuo in The Making of a Manager.
Tip #6 Take meeting minutes and assign action items
Taking meeting notes is especially important when you’re a distributed team. It helps you keep a record of the ideas that get discussed and can be very beneficial when one person has to catch up after having to miss or skip the group call.
As mentioned earlier, you can assign one person per meeting to take notes under each talking point, and another person to go over the action items at the end of the meeting.
This will empower your teammates to stay on track by having a centralized place where they can find the list of priorities and tasks that were delegated during the conversation.
Using a meeting minutes tool like Fellow.app will help your team stay in sync and know exactly what everyone should be doing – even when you’re distributed across the globe 🌎.
Tip #7 Follow up after the meeting
One of your main responsibilities as a manager is to drive accountability across your team – and since meetings are where most of the brainstorming and decision-making happens, you should always follow up on the key takeaways.
Your meeting minutes should state who is responsible for doing what, and when those deliverables are due. However, one great practice you can adopt to keep your teammates accountable for those things is sending everyone an email with a recap of the meeting.
In the book Resilient Management, Lara Hogan argues that sending out a recap email after each meeting is a great way to reinforce decisions, clarify company messages, and address your teammates’ frustrations:
“I love the practice of repeating decisions or actions after a meeting with a recap email,” says Hogan. “This communication method harnesses all of email’s power for good: it helps set the record straight, disseminates information to lots of people at once, and opens up conversation internally.
Want to make this process a little smoother? Try out Fellow’s send meeting notes feature to send a meeting recap in a matter of seconds:
Another important part of following up is asking attendees how well the meeting went, and if they have any feedback to make your team meetings more productive. You can do this during your one-on-one meetings, or use a feedback tool to collect and track all the responses.
Asking for meeting feedback is a great way to get ideas on how to make future meetings more inclusive and efficient for everyone involved!
And there you have them! Seven best practices that will help you have productive and inclusive remote team meetings!
Now, here’s the list of remote meeting software that we promised:
Remote meeting software 💻
1) Zoom.us – Organize video conferences, share your screen, and even record the meeting.
3) Fellow.app: Fellow helps remote teams collaborate on meeting agendas, assign action items, and ask for feedback. It’s the best tool to manage your distributed and remote meetings.
Fellow is the meeting management software where teams gather to build collaborative meeting agendas, record decisions, and keep each other accountable.