As your company transitions into remote and hybrid work models, growing pains are inevitable. Teams that work together in-office have some undeniable advantages in meetings. Being in the same physical location makes it easier to communicate more naturally, read each other’s body language, and collaborate.
Remote meetings can be difficult to adjust to, but once you get the hang of them, they can be just effective. Let’s explore a few virtual meeting tips that will help you capture the feeling of an in-person meeting with your remote team.
How to plan the perfect remote meeting
A solid plan can make or break your team’s remote meeting. Before you send your team members an invitation, ask yourself a few questions to help guide your plan in the right direction.
Be selective with meetings
Remember that as a team leader, you’re deciding how team members should be spending their daily time. Too many meetings can distract workers from their essential job functions and leave them annoyed and starved for time to complete projects. Too few meetings can mean some team members might be left in the dark about certain aspects of a project or feel disconnected from the rest of the team.
If you only have something simple to say, try presenting it as an email. Encourage team members to respond with any questions they might have. However, if your email runs long or feels ambiguous, go ahead and call for a meeting.
Be selective with invitees
When more invitees attend a meeting, the meeting becomes less effective. Harvard researcher J. Richard Hackman spent almost fifty years studying work performances and concluded that optimum teams had between four and six members, and that no teams should have more than ten people.
Hackman’s conclusions illuminate the problems with large meetings. When too many people are present, conversation quality quickly deteriorates. Not everyone has a chance to speak, and rich discussions are replaced by shallow talking points. Attention tends to wane, and more time is wasted overall.
Remote meetings pose further challenges to productivity. It’s more difficult for team members to find the right moment to speak when they’re unable to use body language cues as easily and conversation doesn’t always flow as naturally. You can help prevent this erosion in quality by only inviting those absolutely essential to the matters at hand.
How long should a virtual meeting last?
People love even increments. Something about a half-hour or hour-long meeting sounds ideal, even when it isn’t. If you only have fifteen minutes worth of matters to discuss, there’s nothing wrong with setting a fifteen-minute time limit for a meeting. The feeling of the ticking clock will make attendees use time more efficiently. If that same meeting were set to half an hour, attendees would likely fill the excess time with unnecessary filler.
There’s no exact answer as to how long a virtual meeting should last, but some careful observation into a few meetings should give you a good idea. Next time you lead a thirty-minute or hour-long meeting, ask yourself if you could have done it in less time. Effective remote meetings can be any length.
Plan a specific agenda (with questions)
Having a sharp plan when approaching a meeting will make it far more effective. Instead of using a list of talking points, consider writing a list of questions that need to be answered. This helps avoid unneeded repetition or wasted time. If there is nothing to be answered on a topic, you may not need to bring it up.
Test your technology ahead of time
Nothing kills the momentum of a remote meeting like a bad internet connection or an outdated program. You can’t always account for your team member’s technology, but as the host of the meeting, you are the glue that holds it all together. Hop online five or ten minutes before the meeting is supposed to start so you can troubleshoot if needed. Encourage your team members to do the same.
Best practices during remote meetings
Knowing how to run an effective online meeting is half planning, half execution. Let’s explore how to maximize productivity while a meeting is happening.
Open with an icebreaker
Let’s face it: remote meetings can be awkward, especially when your team is new to them. It can be difficult for people to get a feel for when to talk and how to interact naturally. Instead of jumping straight into the matters at hand, take a quick thirty seconds to a minute to ask how everyone is doing or bring up a light topic.
Once everyone is feeling a little more at ease, you can move on. So long as you don’t let the icebreaker go on for too long, it won’t feel like wasted time. A positive tone will also set the mood for the rest of the meeting and encourage more creativity and engagement.
Ask everyone to turn their cameras on
Many people are hesitant to turn on their cameras for remote meetings. Maybe their home office is dirty or they’re self-conscious about their appearance. Regardless, it’s very important to urge people to do so anyway. Inform them in the meeting invite you’ll be asking them to participate with video. Being able to see each other’s face will make meetings feel much more personal and engaging, and being able to view body language will help discussion flow more organically.
Make sure everyone gets a chance to talk
We’ve already discussed the value of smaller group sizes in meetings, but sometimes large meetings can’t be avoided. When meetings are large, some members may get lost in the background. This is especially true of soft-spoken and introverted personalities.
Before a meeting ends, review all of the participants and make sure they’ve all had a chance to make their views known. If someone got left out, invite them to share their thoughts. Alternatively, ask someone to keep track of participation so you can focus on content. Have them send you the names of people who have not participated in a private chat message.
Review the key points at the end of a meeting
Before you end your virtual meeting, make it crystal clear to everyone what was accomplished during that meeting. Review key points and talk about next steps in the project. Make sure everyone is on the same page. Thank everyone who participated for their work, and end on a positive, productive note. Be sure to ask if anyone has any questions. If anyone looks or sounds dissatisfied or confused, help clear up any concerns. Leave time in your schedule for this conclusion.
Ask for employee feedback
You can do everything right when it comes to running a remote meeting and still miss something essential. It’s important to follow up on your meetings with an email to your team members, asking if they have any concerns with how a meeting went or suggestions for future meetings.
You can do this after an individual meeting or once every so often to check in on the state of meetings overall. Not only will you get valuable feedback from your employees, you’ll let them know you care about how they feel.
Let Corporate Chaplains of America care for your team
Running meetings and leading a team are difficult acts to juggle. Even when you have the best intentions, some things are bound to slip through the cracks. You can do your best to improve employee attitude and engagement at work, but sometimes there are personal problems that seep into your team members work lives. A third-party care provider can help.
Corporate Chaplains of America offers 24/7 chaplain services to you and your team members, so your people can get the care they need when they need it most. Contact Corporate Chaplains of America today to learn more about what we can do for you.