6 steps to have an effective remote meeting

You’ve probably never had more meetings scheduled in your calendar than you do right now. Working remotely means you’re accessible all hours of the day because travel, time and costs are no longer factors at play. With such a high frequency of meetings happening over video or phone call, it’s easy to become fatigued and lose interest in your discussions. At the point where your meetings become unproductive, it’s time to take a step back and focus on quality over quantity.

Connecting with one another, whether it’s clients, employees or customers, is the goal with any meeting. Businesses are quick to set up meetings and assume they’re automatically more productive than emails. This isn’t always the case. Meeting doesn’t always mean connecting. To have an effective remote meeting, your focus should always be on creating meaningful engagements and interactions. Here’s our take on how to have an effective remote meeting to ensure you’re connecting with your participants.

The difference between meeting and connecting

The terms meeting and connecting are often used interchangeably though they have very different meanings. A meeting is considered a gathering of people for a certain purpose or exchange of information. The issue with this definition is that it’s extremely vague. The simple exchange of information offers no real value to participants if neither side can extract meaningful notions from it. When asked by a colleague if you had a good meeting, you’ve almost definitely replied: “No it was pointless, we didn’t get anywhere.” Your meetings shouldn’t have to be this way if you know exactly how they need to serve you.

Connecting has a different definition entirely. Connecting refers to bringing people together to establish a real or notional link. It’s clear that meeting is simply the practice of bringing people together but connecting goes a step further to form a genuine relationship with your participants. Connecting tends to happen when you discuss on a deeper level, sharing stories and experiences that unite one another. In the work context, connecting occurs when each participant shares an idea and you discuss the reasons behind the thought, what context it’s in, whether you agree or disagree, if you have additions or amendments to it and how you can implement the idea practically. This in-depth level of connection shows how much you’ve interacted and engaged with an individual, way beyond a yes or no answer.

6 steps to have an effective remote meeting

Keeping these distinctions in mind, having an effective remote meeting is much easier than you think. Here are some simple tips you can implement within your meetings to ensure you develop genuine connections and make your time valuable.

  • Choose the right technology for your team

There are so many tools out there that help you have an effective remote meeting, you just have to find the right one for your team. Think about the purpose of your meeting and what you’ll be doing during the call. If you need to share a presentation, video conferencing tools like Zoom and Google Meet are ideal. If you all need to collaborate on a document, Google Docs will be the one for you. It may be worth setting up a test meeting with a colleague before the real thing to make sure the software serves the purpose and will be accessible for all participants.

  • Arrange a suitable time for everyone

If you’re meeting with people in the same country as you, this won’t be such an issue. However, you should always arrange your call for a time that allows all your participants to be engaged. Around lunchtime, people tend to become distracted because of hunger and the need for a break. Avoiding these times will make sure everyone can give their undivided attention. Similarly, towards the later hours of the day, people become fatigued after a long day working. Opt for hours between 9 am and 12 pm, or 2 pm and 5 pm to make sure everyone is refreshed and ready for a productive meeting.

International meetings call for a bit more thinking. Time Zones can be challenging when trying to arrange a slot that’s available for everyone. The only way to do this is to communicate with your colleagues and check which time is best for those required on the call. If someone can’t make it but others can, you could find a software that allows you to record the meeting and send it to those not present.

  • Make a detailed agenda

Going into a call with a clear and defined plan will make sure you get exactly what you need from the meeting. You should ensure each participant knows exactly what the purpose of the meeting is so everyone is on the same page prior to connecting. When setting up the meeting, add a note outlining the structure of the call well in advance. This could include an overview, aim, topic areas, open discussion or Q&A. This allows people to think of questions, goals, queries and resources they want to share with the wider team. Think one step further about the next steps you need to take after the call has been made. What do you need to know to be able to move forward?

  • Audio and visual are essential

Audio and visual access should be non-negotiable. Being able to see and hear your participants is the key to having an engaging meeting. Communication is made up of body language and tone of voice so your call software should have these two functionalities as a minimum. With your camera and sound on for the duration of the call, it ensures you can respond to physical and vocal expressions just like you would in a physical meeting. It creates a collaborative environment virtually so no one person feels like they’re making the most effort during a meeting.

  • Take concise notes

While you’re engaged in a call it’s easy to forget to take notes throughout your discussion. Your notes don’t have to be detailed, just concise enough to remember the important points and ideas made. With so much going on during your working day, you may think you can recall exactly what was said earlier but this isn’t likely. Make sure you have a notepad next to you so you can jot down the key bits of information that will be useful. Taking notes also prevents miscommunication as you have written the relevant action points for your future reference.

  • Send a follow up email

A great tip for closing a session is to send a follow up email to all the relevant parties. Taking notes will help you with this stage of the meeting process. The email should list the participants, points covered, additional points not on the agenda, the understanding you’ve taken from the meeting and what each participants’ next steps are. It may be a long email but don’t worry, it will ensure that everyone remains aligned and knows who needs what by when. If anything was miscommunicated, it will be evident in the follow up and can be amended before moving forward to prevent wasted time.

Running a successful meeting that ensures you actually connect with your participants can seem overwhelming but it’s easier than you think. Choosing the right tools and a suitable time for everyone is a great start. Sending an agenda well in advance of the call will allow everyone to prepare points and goals they want to achieve from the interaction. Keeping your audio and visual on enables your team to feel engaged and connected to one another through body language and tone of voice. Taking notes and sending a follow up email ensures you retain all the relevant information brought up in the call and prevents miscommunication. Following these points will ensure you have an effective remote meeting that inspires connection, confidence and collaboration every time.