17 Remote Meetings Best Practices: Golden Rules
Remote meetings can be difficult. You have to avoid that your remote work culture become a nightmare.
But remote meetings are necessary when you have several offices and need to work with teams in different cities.
It's definitely not as easy as in-person meetings, because you can't read body language.
The same concept applies if there is no central space where everyone works from but instead several remote teams work from across the world.
Some people say virtual calls are lacking human connection. I say that's not true.
I think if you know the 11 Corner Pillars to Manage a Remote Team, they're great. But you have to be aware of certain things that are not possible in person.
The first step is overcoming internal rejection as well as a fear of being less productive because face-to-face interactions are seen more favorably by management.
To help you smooth the process and establish an engaging and productive atmosphere we collected an extended list of 17 remote meetings golden rules and also asked remote managers to share their experience on remote collaboration.
Preparing the remote meeting
This is one of the biggest remote meetings best practices and you should not neglect it. If you're not prepared well for the virtual meeting you are going to have a difficult time.
So, before you pick up the phone or call meeting participants via Skype it is important to be sure that they are all prepared for this specific conversation and enough time has been set aside so they can focus on what needs to get done during the remote collaboration session.
Here are 8 tips on how you can prepare for the remote team meeting:
#1 Make sure you have a remote meeting strategy
Your strategy should include the goals of your meeting as well as how you plan to achieve those goals. It's important that every single member of the meeting attendees is on board and they understand what remote team collaboration means for them.
Set a clear goal for the meeting, the team members, and the agenda.
The rule of thumb is to have a maximum number of items on your agenda – it’s not an in-person boardroom so you don't need as many points to be covered during the virtual business collaboration session.
Also, set a time frame for each agenda item and stick to the time, just like you would do for a normal in-person business meeting.
Remind participants about the goals of your remote team collaboration session before it starts so they're more engaged during the call. It's also important that everyone on the line is aware of this but doesn't feel stressed out by it.
Make sure you know all people attending the meeting, their roles on your remote team collaboration, and how they can help you achieve the goal of this particular session.
Bonus: No one loves boring meetings that go on and on in a non-productive manner. No one ever said: "Give me more meetings I can't stand!". Never.
#2 If you are the meeting leader, be sure to have a clear meeting agenda
If there's no agenda, participants will never know what exactly they should expect from the remote collaboration session.
When you prepare your agenda, make sure it is as clear and straightforward as possible so that everyone in the virtual meeting room knows exactly where to look for information on how the virtual meeting flows and when their time comes.
Provide all necessary background information about each item in case people need further explanation. This will improve virtual meetings a lot.
Before starting a meeting, write down your agenda bullet by bullet.
This will allow you to stick with the time frame for each item and not go over it so that your remote team collaboration session doesn't get boring or long-winded.
Keep in mind, you're the leader of this remote meeting and everyone is watching how well prepared and professional you are when leading a virtual business collaboration.
At the same time, show them that it's not hard to be organized. Manage your time properly, set an agenda with clear goals for each item on the list - these are all great ways to establish trust in your leadership abilities.
#3 Be mindful of the time zone difference between participants
Does your meeting involve remote employees from different time zones?
Then try to plan the agenda accordingly and make sure everyone participating CAN attend.
Think about it.
If there's a time difference of 8 hours or more, that means that one person in a time zone is waking up, while other attendees are going to sleep during your virtual business collaboration session.
You don't want them falling asleep while you're talking, right? Or worse, can't attend the meeting time because they're already sleeping.
Sometimes, there's no way to avoid the situation because of business logic (and sometimes it is). Then try asking participants if they can change their schedules so everyone fits in the same time zone during your remote team meeting.
If you're lucky enough to have someone at your company who knows setting up an effective virtual meeting and works remotely and has a good understanding of how different time zones work, ask them for help!
#4 Always make your phone number available to participants
Why? Easy! Not everyone has the best internet connection out there and video conference lag can be a serious issue.
So, if you want to make sure your remote team collaboration session goes smoothly, good practice to provide participants with all available contact options in case they need help or support when participating in it.
I had several team meetings where the internet connection was unstable and laggy. By providing the option to talk over the phone, we were able to move on with the meeting.
Nowadays, it's easier than ever to set up a phone bridge so you don't need complicated tools for this - just your company phone number and an app that will allow participants from all over the world to call in at once.
#5 Make sure that all team members know how many people are expected to attend
This is a biggie. A good practice is that all remote colleagues understand how many people will attend the remote meeting and what agenda items they should prepare for to avoid confusion or distraction from their work tasks.
If some don't know, let them ask before you start the meeting so there aren't any surprises! Or better yet - answer the question before it's asked.
You don't want to spend time explaining things that everyone should already know about, do you? Then make sure they are aware of all agenda items beforehand!
To sum up: always communicate with your team and share information so there aren't any surprises during virtual meetings for anyone involved.
#6 Provide a link to any documents or other materials needed for the meeting before it starts
Just like with agenda items, all remote members should know what to prepare for beforehand.
So, before starting your next meeting - make sure everyone is on the same page.
Think about the materials you want everyone to see and share them via email or Slack message (or whichever platform works best in your company).
You don't want them checking their inboxes for a few minutes during the meeting, right?
Then share everything you want them to know about before the day of your virtual meeting.
Also, don't forget that participants should be able to save or download any files they need during your meeting - no one likes wasting time on something trivial like this!
Make sure everyone has access to all resources and information they might need by sharing the links to those before starting your remote team collaboration session.
During the remote meeting
You did 50% of the work by preparing the right materials and getting your team ready for this. Now, it's time to get them engaged and involved in the conversation so everyone feels like they're a part of it.
So, for a successful meeting, follow these remote meeting best practices.
#1 Put a face to the name - use Google Meet, Zoom, or Skype
Nothing's worse than starting your meeting and not knowing who everyone is.
It can be distracting to have to try and remember names throughout the entire conversation, so put a face to every name by using any of those apps I mentioned earlier during your next virtual team collaboration session.
And if you work in a team of a couple of people, you can even use your webcam to show everyone what's going on!
Just make sure all participants know how to start video conferences in their programs.
#2 Make sure everyone sees you and hears you
There's nothing worse than running meetings where people can't hear your voice. You don't want anyone to feel like they're missing out.
When starting the meeting, ask everyone if they can hear you and if they can see you.
If one or two people say they have a bad connection, ask them to move - maybe their desk isn't near the window and that could be why it's so poor?
The same thing goes for everyone else: if there are any other problems with audio or video quality, switch places! No one wants to feel like they're missing part of the conversation.
Make sure you talk loud and clear and articulate every word.
#3 Start with an agenda and stick to it
This is probably the most common mistake people make when they start their online meetings.
Most people start with a bit of small talk, talk about a few new ideas and after that, forget about the agenda. The agenda might not be as important for virtual team collaboration sessions, but you still need to follow it closely and analyze your time with every single meeting if necessary - especially if you're working remotely!
You don't want anyone to feel like they've lost time because you spent too much time on discussions that weren't part of the agenda.
So, make sure everyone knows what's going to happen and if there are any changes due to circumstances - share them with all participants well before the meeting starts!
And as a rule of thumb: always stay focused on your main topics!
#4 Focus on what you want, not what you don't want
This is a golden rule for a successful meeting culture.
We've all been there - someone starts the conversation with something like this: "Ok, well I don't want to take up too much of your time. Just wanted to check-in and see how you're doing."
Of course, it's always good to check in with your colleagues and see what they're up to. But don't start a conversation like that - focus on the positive message you want them to receive from this.
To keep participants engaged, start by saying something along the lines of: "Hey guys, just wanted to let you know I'm looking forward to getting the project done."
This way, you're starting with a positive message and something that will encourage them to talk about themselves. This is always better than just asking how they are!
As soon as you deliberate in meeting decisions, you become more effective.
And it will help your team members feel like they're part of the conversation and know what's going on in their workplace - which is what remote meetings are all about!
#5 Write down notes of the entire meeting
This is one of the coolest best practices to help you prepare for future meetings!
You don't want to forget anything important, do you? So make sure you take notes throughout your virtual team collaboration session.
If someone mentions something that's not on the agenda - write it down and then share it with all meeting attendees once the meeting ends. You don't want to forget anything important!
You can also use these notes as a record of what was discussed for future reference. This way, you'll have all the information at your fingertips whenever there are any questions about past meetings or decisions made during them.
This is especially helpful if anyone leaves the company and then another person takes over their remote work.
And of course, there are tons of other reasons why taking notes during meetings is a good idea.
Maybe you're planning to write your blog post about it - how do you think that could help? Just make sure the things mentioned in the meeting aren't confidential!
What to do after the remote meeting
You've made it!
Now that meeting remotely is over and all participants are off to do their work now and you can go back home or wherever your desk is located.
But don't forget about what's probably the most important of all: sharing results with everyone involved in your virtual team collaboration session.
#1 Send out a recap of the meeting to your team members
Paying attention to this is a really helpful best practice.
As an example: if the Co-founder could not attend the meeting, send a recap of the meeting to them as well. Make sure to include action items and decisions made during the meeting in your recap.
This way, everyone is always informed and knows what's going on around their workplace!
It will let everyone know what you've discussed during the meeting, what the main points are, and how it will affect them. Your colleagues who couldn't attend your remote team collaboration session might want to check out these notes as well! You can use google docs for this as it will allow you to share the recap with your colleagues just by adding their email addresses.
You can also send an email to your entire team and ask for their feedback on the meeting. And of course, you should always encourage everyone to share any thoughts or questions that came up during the virtual collaboration session. This way they'll feel like part of a big remote family! This makes up for the lack of face-to-face interaction.
All you have to do is write a recap and send it out - everyone will receive an email with the content of your remote meeting in no time.
#2 Thank people for their participation and involvement
Once you've gathered all feedback and comments, it's time to follow up with a big thank-you email to all attendees.
This is just the icing on top of your virtual collaboration cake!
Write an appreciation note before ending your meeting with "see you next week" or something like that - but make sure everyone gets this final message about how much their participation was appreciated.
You should also include a sentence about how valuable your colleague's input is to you - it will help them feel more involved in the process and boost their motivation!
#3 Add any documents or files that were discussed
You might not know this, but it's possible to attach files and documents during a Google Docs (or Sheets) meeting - which is perfect for your remote team collaboration session!
It means that you can share any important presentations or reports with all participants before ending the virtual meeting. This way everyone will stay up-to-date and know what's going on in your workplace!
Many teams struggle with having remote meetings. But remote team collaboration is a powerful way to stay in touch with your colleagues and feel like you're all working together. With the right set of best practices, it's easy to make sure that everyone feels included in virtual meetings.
Even if they can't attend have an in-person meeting at the coffee machine.
One of the best ways to do this is by sending a recap email with a short project update, so make sure you remember to include one!
As a meeting leader, it's also important to thank everyone for their participation during a virtual collaboration session - it makes up for all those Skype conversations where no one says anything.
And finally, make sure to always attach any important files or documents during your Google Docs meeting - this way everyone will stay on the same page and know exactly what's going on!
By following these remote team collaboration best practices, you'll easily gain momentum for future meetings while also building great relationships with your colleagues in a virtual environment.
Do you have any tips for other remote workers?
Share with us what has worked well for you!