The number of people working from home tripled in the United States from 2019 to 2021, setting the highest record in the country for the percentage of people working primarily from a home-based office. With so many people working outside of the company’s main office, managers are left with the challenge of finding new ways to help teams communicate and get their work done—all while everyone’s tuning in from a different location. So instead of face-to-face conversations over someone’s cubicle or in a booked conference room, remote team meetings have taken center stage as a communication channel.
- What is a remote team meeting?
- Challenges of remote team meetings
- Tips for leading a remote team meeting successfully
- Virtual team-building activities to try
- Free remote team meeting agenda
What is a remote team meeting?
Remote team meetings are essentially any team call where you get together on video conferencing software. They are most used by distributed teams with team members who live in different areas or anyone else who can’t come into a face-to-face meeting. While it’s most common to do remote team meetings synchronously in a video call, it’s also possible to host these meetings asynchronously through meeting management or productivity software tools.
Challenges of remote team meetings
1Finding time for everyone
This is probably one of the most difficult aspects of remote team meeting management. It’s easy for everyone’s calendar to get booked up quickly, especially if you work in a middle management or sales function. Finding a time that works for everyone often involves searching through multiple calendars at once or going back and forth about availability in an email thread. To mitigate this, look for a software tool that can find team availability from their calendar automatically!
2There are more distractions
When working from home, there are plenty more distractions than at the office. For example, you might have pets and kids who need attention or support. Or you might find yourself hearing the delivery person at the door mid-meeting. When possible, you can try to mitigate distractions by finding a quiet space, muting yourself to avoid loud noises in the background, and scheduling meetings when they’re least likely to get interrupted.
Remote team meetings held via video conferencing software can tend to run into a lot of technical difficulties. This might range from your headphones losing battery mid-call or your computer somehow going on mute. Planning by setting up or charging equipment in advance is a great preventative measure. If you’ve run a recent update on your computer or you’re using a new video conferencing software, join the call a few minutes early to make sure everything functions well.
Tips for leading a remote team meeting successfully
- Decide if the meeting needs to be a meeting
- Determine a good time to meet
- Create and share a collaborative meeting agenda
- Choose a video conferencing tool
- Default to cameras on
- Include asynchronous sections
1Decide if the meeting needs to be a meeting
Meetings don’t have to be meetings as we’ve always known them to be. Instead, the same conversation planned for your meeting might be worth discussing over email, phone, or Slack. This is especially true for any particularly short topics, such as a quick request that could be easily answered in writing. Or if your meeting doesn’t have a defined purpose and goal planned for the day, consider if the meeting time is needed. Topics that are complex, highly visual, or that need a lot of feedback are well suited for meeting times.
2Determine a good time to meet
Figuring out a time that works for everyone is a challenge, so it’s best that you do this as early as possible. For example, if you know that you need a project status meeting halfway through your sprint, consider booking that time for everyone at the start of the project so you’re sure everyone will be able to attend. Remember to consider the working hours and time zones of other team members, and be respectful of any blocks they’ve included in their calendar for deep focus time.
3Create and share a collaborative meeting agenda
Collaborative meeting agendas allow all meeting participants to submit talking points for the call ahead of time. It’s ideal if the meeting host prepares the initial agenda and shares it with the rest of the attendees at least one business day before the meeting. If you’re managing multiple meeting calendars, consider a tool like Fellow that allows you to build and share collaborative meeting agendas. As a bonus, you can also track any notes or action items from the call so all your information about that topic is in one place!
4Choose a video conferencing tool
Different video conferencing tools offer unique features that might sway your decision on which one to use. For example, on one hand, Google Meet is free and works well for any teams that are using the rest of the Google Suite, but it doesn’t allow attendees to record the meetings. On the other hand, Zoom is a very popular tool but its free version is very limited and you would need to pay to have meetings over 40 minutes in length. To go the extra mile in your meeting organization, you can integrate your agenda into your video conferencing tool to make it easy to access during the live discussion.
5Default to cameras on
It’s hard to recreate the same atmosphere as face-to-face meetings virtually. One simple thing to do is default to keeping your video cameras on. Not only does this create a welcoming environment for colleagues to connect, but it also makes presenters feel like they’re being listened to. In sales calls, this also goes a long way to making you seem more personable to the buyer, which can help close a deal faster!
6Include asynchronous sections
Not everything needs to be discussed synchronously. Your meeting agenda should ideally be set up with just enough talking points to extend the time for which you’ve scheduled the meeting. If you realize that one talking point is going to need extra discussion time, consider booking another meeting or making it an asynchronous topic. For example, the meeting time could be spent reviewing a project plan and the asynchronous component could be for participants to send in feedback sometime after the call. On the flip side, you could get participants to review the plan ahead of the call asynchronously and then use the meeting time for feedback discussions.
Virtual team-building activities to try
- Virtual ice breakers
- Mystery games
- Team challenges
- Virtual escape rooms
- Holiday-themed activities
1Virtual ice breakers
Incorporate some icebreakers into a new employee’s first team meeting to help get them engaged, or just to help an old group of coworkers connect a bit further. Some ideas to try here include:
- Get everyone to share their favorite meme on Slack or in the meeting chat.
- Ask everyone to give a quick rating on a movie they’ve seen recently.
- Try to find 10 things that everyone in the group has in common.
Mystery games are a fun way to test your team’s puzzle-solving skills while improving team bonding. You can host mystery parties on your own if you’re great at organizing intricate plans, or you could hire an acting company that can host the activity for you.
There are many great team challenges to do synchronously (like who can hold the yoga pose for the longest on video) or asynchronously (like who can walk the most steps in a day). You might even choose to make your team challenge a running event that lasts multiple days or weeks!
This is a classic team bonding event because it’s very versatile for any group. There are tons of online trivia tools like Kahoot! to help you host your game. To make it more fun, try honing in on a specific, niche topic like 80’s sports teams or animals of the Australian Outback!
5Virtual escape rooms
In a virtual escape room, the goal is to work with your team to find a way “out” of a room by trying to unlock puzzles and find clues. Like mystery games, it’s pretty easy to find and hire a moderator who can host the activity for you if you’re into the idea but just unsure how to conduct it for the first time.
Get your team together for some festivities! Like team challenges, you can do holiday activities asynchronously or over a call. For example, get everyone to send in a photo of their holiday dinner or a picture of their themed decor asynchronously. On a call, try something like a themed virtual background contest!
Free remote team meeting agenda
Hosting a remote team meeting for the first time? Try this meeting agenda that you can collaborate on with your team!
If you’re new to running remote meetings, it can feel overwhelming. You’re facing the additional challenge of scheduling and technical difficulties that don’t come with face-to-face meetings or a quick pop-in by someone’s desk at the office. Hopefully, our tips for making your remote team meeting successful can help you engage with your team effectively and possibly even help you be more productive than before!