With coworking spaces and shared offices becoming a norm, remote virtual meetings are also becoming standard business practice. People are choosing to either work from home or get on a conference call from a cafe in a foreign country. Eitherway, remote meetings present their own set of unique challenges. We take a look at some of the hacks you can implement to ace your next remote meeting, whether you’re an organizer or an attendee.
- Set an agenda
Whether you’re holding a physical meeting or a remote one, it is imperative to set an agenda beforehand. An agenda helps participants of the meeting know what to expect from the meeting and what is expected of them as well. The agenda of the meeting should include what the meeting is about, time allocation for each of the items, and a statement of purpose. A statement of purpose basically lets participants know why the items on the agenda are important. This will help the meeting stay focused on the relevant topics without distractions. It also helps everyone stay on course and clarifies how the participants need to prepare for the meeting in advance; for example, whether they need to come in with ideas or prepare a presentation, etc.
- Have a format ready
Much in line with having an agenda, you also need to have a format ready for your next remote meeting. It’s crucial to establish basic things such as what needs to be accomplished at the end of the meeting and what participants are expected to bring to the meeting. Once you’ve established this, choose the right format for your meeting. For example, if you’re looking for visual ideas or need to discuss a complex problem, it’s best to conduct the meeting with the help of a shared screen where you can write down points that people make. This helps everyone stay on the same page regarding the agenda. It is also beneficial in not letting anyone stray too far away from the topic at hand. You can ensure everyone logs in via a visual software such as Adobe Connect or WebEx. However, if your meeting is essentially a quick chat with your team members to update them, a conference call will do. Choosing the right format for a remote meeting informs attendees of what to expect and sets the tone for the meeting as well.
- Login time
Besides the meeting time, it is essential to also set a “login time”. With remote meetings, participants could be in any part of the world or may be set up at a coworking space. Sometimes, it is possible that they run into some issues right before a meeting. Maybe they’re out of wifi range or their computer is facing a glitch. Anything could go wrong. In such cases, it helps to be aware of the time they need to log in. The login time should be set at least 5 minutes prior to the meeting time. This way attendees will ensure they’re present before the meeting and the meeting starts right on time.
- Speaking order
With virtual meetings, especially conference calls with no visual reference, it can be challenging at times to know who’s talking and who’s expected to listen. It can very easily go from a polite conversation to multiple people talking over each other. This is when setting a speaking order comes in handy. You can opt for a circular order where everyone in the room gets a chance to speak. It is also best to include this in the agenda. Right before the meeting starts (between the login time and the meeting time), call on people to ensure they’re on call and ready to go. During the meeting though, stick to the speaking order. Communications expert Dr. Rick Brinkman suggests letting people working remotely speak first as opposed to those in the same room. This will let them feel more included.
- Muting when required
This is an extremely simple and important hack to know if you’re someone who gets in on remote meetings and calls often. We’ve all been in situations where conference calls have been filled with the sounds of dogs barking or people shouting in the background. Ensure you and your attendees mute themselves when it’s not their turn to talk. If someone forgets, feel free to remind them to mute their call. One can do this using the meeting software, or if someone is using their phone to call in, they can use the mute function on their phone.
- Avoid multitasking
As much as remote meetings are great to improve connectivity with say a team member sitting in a cafe in Paris, it’s also all too easy for people to get distracted by doing other things. However, if they’re multitasking, the meeting definitely doesn’t have their full attention. If you’re organizing the meeting, mention clearly that multitasking during the meeting is not allowed and ensure everyone agrees. This is important to get everyone’s full attention during the meeting, help the meeting be more focused, and ensure every item on the agenda is checked off.
- Incorporate strange timings
Weird timings are memorable and force people to actually stick to them. For example, mention that the meeting will start at 9:07 am precisely and that attendees need to log in between 9:02 and 9:06 am. The result will be more people logging in on time and also having a good laugh. It can also set the tone of the meeting. Sticking to unusual timings for each of the items on the to-do list will ensure everyone is paying attention and respecting the time held for the meeting.
- Ensure webcams are on
While most conference calls and remote meetings take place with an audio-only format, implementing a policy that requires all attendees to have their webcams on will create accountability and help people feel more connected. It will also ensure people stay focused and that no one is multitasking. With shared office spaces, participants could be easily distracted with their coworkers or the facilities provided. Having participants’ webcams on ensures they’re paying attention to what is being said and respond accurately. It’s a much better choice than an audio-only virtual meeting.
Whether you’re an organizer or an attendee to a remote meeting, it is essential to follow the rules and decorum of such meetings. Sure it’s not the same as actually having a physical face to face meeting with the rest of the group; however, it is imperative to treat it with the same respect as an in-person meeting. These hacks will help you make the best of your remote meetings and impress your participants. It is also a helpful guide to getting work done, and ensuring your meetings start and end on time. It’s studied that when a definite time is set for a meeting, members participate more enthusiastically and are more engaged. So the next time you’re looking to attend a remote meeting, implement these hacks to ensure everyone is on the same page and make the best of your meeting each time.