In pre-pandemic times, remote meetings were an alternative to face-to-face meetings in the office. But the coronavirus pandemic flipped the world upside down and what used to be an alternative has now become the new normal. With the worsening crisis, we expect remote meetings and remote work to be around far longer than anticipated.
For this reason, owners and managers of businesses should learn how to make remote meetings more effective and efficient. Even when the stay-at-home orders have been lifted and businesses are reopened, these tips are still useful. Keep in mind that remote meetings can be just as productive as face-to-face meetings when these are done right.
1. Use Great Technology
Most remote meetings mean that every person uses his or her own device at home. Every person’s technology then has different systems and capabilities that may not work in your favor as a meeting moderator. You may have high-speed Internet and high-capacity laptop, for example, but some of the participants may not be as lucky.
You must then check that every participant has the technology, particularly the Internet connection and hardware/software component, to fully participate in the video conference. You have two options in this regard: first, provide everybody with a standardized laptop and ensure high-speed Internet connection; and second, set minimum standards for everybody’s technology on their end.
2. Enforce a Dress Code
Just because everybody’s working from home doesn’t automatically mean being sloppy during remote meetings! We have heard and seen of remote meetings – or remote broadcasts from home, for that matter – were one of the participants was just wearing boxer shorts! It’s like a business on top, party at the bottom dress code.
But it shouldn’t be. Everybody should treat the remote meetings as if these are office meetings! This means no tank tops, boxer shorts and other clothes that you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing in the office and little else. If necessary, everybody should be in smart casual attire from top to bottom.
3. Use the Video and Chat Functions
Many video conferencing apps have a chat function that should be maximized during remote meetings. The chat function can be used for jotting down important details, asking questions and exchanging brief ideas while allowing the presenter to continue. Just be sure not to abuse it by making small talk in it instead of focusing on the presenter and the discussion at hand.
Of course, it’s important to use the video feature, too, in remote meetings! The video aspect adds a more social component to the meeting, a way of decreasing the social distance while maintaining the physical distance. Plus, it’s a great way to keep the participants more engaged.
4. Set the Goals of the Meeting
Small talk, side conversations, and chit-chat are normal in face-to-face meetings. But in virtual meetings, these are distractions that will only waste the time of everybody involved.
While small talk before a remote meeting formally starts is welcome, it should be minimized once it’s underway. Remote meetings will also be more productive if there’s a formal structure – the meeting’s agenda, and assigned facilitator, and time limits for speaking, among others. You can also add the desired result, such as a decision or an output when setting the rules for the meeting.
5. Incorporate Socialization Activities
Remote meetings should primarily be about sharing information, coordinating activities and timelines, and brainstorming solutions, among other work-related goals. But these meetings should also have a socialization aspect incorporated into them!
Keep in mind that people who get along well and who build social bonds outside of the work environment tend to work better together. This is one of the reasons for team-building activities outside of the work premises, such as a family day or a company outing.
In these times when people are more likely to feel isolated, the socialization aspect of remote meetings are needed more than ever. It doesn’t even have to be complicated – a simple yet fun icebreaker before the meeting and a few minutes of small talk after the meeting usually does the trick.
6. Hit the Mute Button, When Necessary
Just as with face-to-face meetings, background noises will distract the participants from full participation in the remote meeting. The participants should then be instructed to hit the mute button in certain cases. These include typing on the keyboard when the presenter is still speaking as well as kids, pets, and television in the background.
7. Share Your Reactions
Due to the limitations of the technology, you and your fellow participants will be less likely able to use body language and facial expressions in communication. You should then encourage each other to share your reactions, such as saying out loud, “That’s funny” when somebody cracks a joke.
8. Give Everybody the Opportunity to Speak
The facilitator should ensure that every participant has the chance to speak up at certain points of the meeting. If you’re the meeting leader, you should call out the concerned participant by name and ask the others to listen.
This direct approach toward asking for participation is necessary since some people may be hesitant to voice out their concerns unless they are asked about them.
9. Discuss the Tough Issues
Don’t wait for the face-to-face meetings to be allowed again before tackling the tough issues! If you do, you will have to wait longer than expected and the tough issues have become a pain in the neck for the company. You have to talk about these issues and discuss their solutions during the remote meeting if these are on the agenda.
10. Be Kind and Respectful
In these difficult times, being kind to each other will see us through! During remote meetings, everybody should strive to be kind, courteous, and respectful toward each other, even when there’s stress in the air.
If you cannot say nice things, you may want to push the mute button first and take deep breaths. If you must criticize a participant for any reason, you should send a personal message instead of berating him or her on video.
Remote meetings aren’t just about getting things done for the business and company! These are also about opportunities to make the employees feel appreciated and valued, as well as to make them feel less isolated.