It’s essential to create a well organized plan for remote meetings. This will not only help everyone be on track, but allow the meeting to be highly productive. Below are a few effective strategies.
Meetings are contentious, where some companies vow to abolish them, and others find themselves celebrating the fact that some of their employees are in 14 meetings per week. While it’s true that meetings are estimated to cost the American economy roughly $37 billion each year due to productivity losses, it’s impossible to gauge exactly how much money a meeting makes. Some meetings indeed provide incredible value, while others waste a quarter hour of everyone’s lives.
The differences between a great meeting and a terrible meeting are quite subtle, as both involve mostly the same things: a few people getting together and talking shop. But it’s the subtle things that make or break any given meeting, and the key to not losing countless hours a year in unproductive meetings is making the most out of them. Especially today, where a growing percentage of the workforce is going remote, and it becomes critical to remain in touch.
1. Don’t “Overmeet”
An estimated 14 percent of remote workers go through more than ten meetings a week, versus 3 percent of in-house workers. While many feel paranoid about what their remote workers are doing, and whether they’re working, all this time spent stuck in meetings is costing each worker at least another hour of trying to get back to concentrating on the tasks at hand.
“Overmeeting” is a serious problem that needs to stop, and when it comes to meetings, your company should generally adopt the rule that less is more. One of the benefits of remote work is the freedom to have a much healthier work-life balance, which in turn boosts the productivity of the hours spent working. Pulling them out of ‘the zone’ will impact their productivity significantly.
The same goes for anyone. Meetings don’t just take time to setup and execute, but also take time to recover from. Someone who gets pulled into a meeting has to be notified first, which leaves them sitting around for several minutes in anticipation of the meeting knowing they won’t be able to get anything done within the next five to ten minutes. Then leaving them with another quarter hour to half hour afterwards trying to slowly get back into what they were doing.
When scheduling meetings, make sure to sort out the technical details once, then send out a consistent schedule to give everyone involved the means to quickly and easily figure out when they need to worry about attending the conference call or head into the meeting room. Consider sending everyone a simple reminder over an hour before the meeting starts, rather than fifteen minutes prior.
2. Use Tools Everyone are Familiar With
Tool hopping can be useful when it’s clear that a set of tools isn’t working for your business, but if your setup does work, don’t try to “fix it.” Stick to tools with multiple functions like:
- Skype’s VOIP and screen sharing function
- Google Duo app (for quick one-on-one calls)
- Google’s suite of browser-based cloud document sharing and document editing tools
For bigger projects, consider software like Adobe Connect that successfully rolls a suite of functions together. Again, less is more, and the fewer things you and your team fumble with to organize through the meeting, the better.
3. Do a Test Call
Another thing that should be done an hour or so before the meeting is a quick call with each party to make sure the equipment is working properly. This means a camera check, audio check, and connectivity check. You don’t want to set a meeting for 10:00am, only to start sometime around 10:25am due to troubleshooting.
Test calls an hour or so before the meeting itself gives you plenty of time to work through issues, while also setting the test long enough before the meeting. Everyone can still continue working or finish up the task they were working on before they have to get ready for the meeting itself.
4. Consider a Meeting Coordinator (or Several)
Meetings can quickly get chaotic, especially if there is no central voice to heed. Consider assigning a single person to control the pace and direction of the meeting. This is to ensure that things aren’t going into an off-topic or senseless direction.
You should consider assigning several different important roles, such as one person to keep track of the minutes of the meeting, one person as meeting coordinator, and having a third person to keep an eye on the clock and remind everyone to finish up roughly five minutes before the meeting ends. These roles can be rotated, so everyone gets a chance to help the meeting move along more smoothly and stay engaged throughout the process.
Without anyone to jot down the ideas mentioned and progress made, keep an eye on the clock, and reinforce the direction of the meeting, things can quickly get out of hand. And what was meant to be a ten-minute recap or focused meeting can turn into a half hour team chat.
5. Write and Send Your Meeting Agenda Early
A meeting agenda is important. The easiest way to waste time at a meeting is to start a meeting that doesn’t need to happen. Meetings should be an opportunity to go over unclarified details, answer questions, and reinforce tasks. Make sure everyone is spending their time the way they should be, and make sure everyone is on board and updated with the latest information.
If you’ve got a reason to call a meeting, jot that reason down and come up with one or two major questions or points you wish to tackle – no more than that. Add a handful of supplementary points underneath that. Send it around, so everyone knows what the point of the meeting is going to be and stick squarely to those points.
6. Decide and Send Etiquette Rules to Everyone
Etiquette rules shouldn’t have to be a daily or constant reminder, but it helps to remind everyone every few meetings to uphold a few basic standards, such as avoiding talking over each other, avoiding interruptions, being physically presentable (even if you work from home), minimizing excessive body language (movement can degrade image quality for many webcams and can be highly distracting), and so on.
These etiquette rules don’t just ensure that the whole thing stays civilized and on-track, but they help everyone feel comfortable in the knowledge that they’re in a professional working environment. And this reflects how everyone is behaving. Distractions, from background noises to smartphones going off, eating, and off-topic conversations between coworkers can detract heavily from everyone else’s focus as well.
7. Use Coworking Locations to Host Remote Meetings
If you’re a smaller business and don’t have the office space, or if most of your workers are remote but in a single city, one great alternative to a remote meeting or conference is a face-to-face meeting in a coworking space. Most coworking spaces have meeting rooms or conference rooms where teams can be separate from the noise and bustle of the coworking place to focus on brainstorming sessions and such.
Even with several remote workers in other parts of the country, coworking meeting rooms often still come with the AV tech to run a high-quality conference call between the local team and everyone else in the project. This provides a great alternative to have everyone just hanging out on their laptops for businesses and startups, that don’t have their own meeting rooms and office spaces.
Remote meetings can lead to great things when they’re focused, planned properly, and concluded swiftly. Be sure to use the right tools to coordinate your meetings and make them something your team is excited to be a part of, rather than a chore to snore through each morning.