Want to know how to plan and conduct a remote meeting at its best. Here is everything you must know about remote meetings. Read on!
The modern world demands to work remotely while being present in various countries and cities. The rising trends in remote working necessitate effective collaboration and coordination between the team.
Remote meetings are therefore vital to facilitate discussions, daily status updates, training sessions and any vital announcements to be propagated within the team. Managers and team leads are often in a dilemma to understand how to conduct remote meeting?
Even selecting the best remote meeting tools drives the success and efficiency of conducting such meetings. This article will guide you about the vitalities of remote meetings and the ways to conduct them, the most commonly used and popular remote meeting software and tools. Let us first understand the definition of remote meetings.
Suggested read: 9 Best screen sharing software
What is the meaning of remote meetings?
The meetings which occur virtually without any physical presence or face-to-face interactions are termed as remote meetings. The participants can be present within the office premises or at home or any co-working space in any part of the world.
They connect either through audio calls or video conferencing calls to communicate with each other. A common session or meeting is scheduled and notified to all participants for accessing at the same designated time. You can connect with your team, supervisors, and even customers through remote meetings.
What is an online video conference?
An online video conference is a means of two or more people communicating with each other through video conferencing software or devices. It facilitates remote meetings between members virtually not present face to face but located in different regions.
Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Jabber, etc. are the common software for conducting an online video meeting. Webinars, training sessions, board meetings, job interviews are the various ways to leverage video meeting online technology.
What are the different types of remote meetings?
There are different types of remote meetings that are set up and conducted based on the role of the participants and the objectives or the outcome needs.
1. Video meetings for cross Team Collaborations
Many organizations and business houses are embracing the culture of collaboration between teams of varying areas of expertise. This helps in amalgamating the knowledge and skill of different teams into discovering innovative solutions.
It essentially ensures cohesive work culture among the different departments or divisions in an organization. The practice also facilitates handling challenges and recurring issues from different perspectives.
Important Tips: While scheduling remote meetings for cross-team collaborations, ensure the AgendaAgenda is set up correctly. The time for conducting the meeting must not exceed 1 hour, the best is to set up for 30 to 45 minutes. There must be a SPOC from the respective teams to frontend the discussion to prevent unnecessary chaos.
2. Remote meeting for stand up sessions
To check the daily progress of the remote teams and to share any concerns or risks, it is essential to conduct daily stand up meetings. The remote team members need to present their work status and the next set of actions and activities.
Any anticipated delay must be communicated in advance for resolution or undertaking any preventive actions. Each member is given a time of a maximum of 5 minutes to speak on his or her assignment. Depending on the complexity of the work, the meetings are held either daily or weekly. The recommended duration is a maximum of 30 minutes.
Important Tips: Though it is ideal to conduct the stand-up meetings for not more than 30 minutes, you need to judge the duration depending on the team strength and the complexity of the assignments.
3. Monthly or quarterly video meeting online sessions
Organizations generally conduct leadership meetings or steering committee meetings monthly or quarterly once. The host of the meeting must provide a summarized version of the project or program progress along with the milestones achieved, any roadblocks, and assistance or support required from higher management.
The minutes of the meeting must be captured and action items circulated immediately mentioning the timelines for completion along with the owners. The recommended duration of the meetings is 45 minutes to 1 hour as the frequency is less in a year.
It enables CIOs, CTOs, Program Directors, Program Sponsors, Department Heads, Division Heads, or even Regional Heads to connect and discuss the company objectives and goals, risks, and mitigations, and overall progress of running programs.
Important Tips: The points discussed in the meeting must be relevant for the higher management. Minute project details or discussions must not be taken up in the leadership meetings or steering committee meetings.
4. Online video meeting for brainstorming sessions
When teams are working remotely, many times it is essential to brainstorm solutions and ideas through remote meetings. The meetings help to solve any immediate bottlenecks or anticipated risks. The sessions can be arranged for a duration as per the needs of the remote team, not more than 15 to 30 minutes.
They need not be scheduled every day, only when the situation arises. The host needs to list down the priority items to be discussed in the sessions and highlight them at the start of the meeting.
Important Tips: Care must be taken not to discuss any status or deadlines in brainstorming sessions. The sole objective must be to encourage ideas and thoughts from the participating remote team members for faster resolution of issues and problems. Online whiteboards are effective tools that can be utilized for the sessions.
5. Remote conferences and Hackathons
Hackathons are essentially workshops held remotely for a long duration and especially for a big program being conducted in an organization. The workshops are organized through video conferencing sessions wherein all participants join as per the scheduled date and time.
Major decisions and milestones of a program are decided in Hackathons, attended by subject matter experts, team leads and managers. Future roadmaps and plans are created and finalized with owners for each workstream or track.
Deliverables for each workstream are decided and deadlines assigned to each. The duration of Hackathons generally lasts for a few days and sometimes for a few hours in a day depending on the length and breadth of the program.
Important Tips: Assign the Hackathon planning to a senior PMO of your team as it involves coordination between senior members of the team. It also demands to craft an agenda to cover the important details of the program along with the roles and responsibilities of each participant.
How to conduct remote meeting?
Let us now discuss some of the key steps that need to be undertaken to conduct remote meetings efficiently and effectively. The key aspects to be covered as part of setting up up remote meetings is broadly listed under three areas,
- Before Meeting – pre-requisites for conducting remote video meetings
- During Meeting – recommended tips during virtual team meetings
- After Meeting – important items after finishing a meeting online
Before Meeting – Pre-requisites for conducting remote video meetings
Here is a list of key aspects to be taken care of before you initiate remote video meetings,
1. Select the best remote meeting tools
There are numerous remote meeting software and tools available in the market. You need to select the proper one for your needs enabling faster connectivity and seamless collaboration. Tools equipped with embedded audio and video conference calling facilities are preferable.
Screen sharing and annotation features are two other important factors to be considered while finalizing the tools to be used for remote meetings. The software must be easy to install and must be compatible with Windows, Android, and iOS devices. Additionally, if they support both browser and desktop application facilities, then it is a boon for remote professionals.
Important Fact: The daily or weekly remote meeting setup facilitates the managers and team leads for effective team management, monitoring the team progress, and handle risks.
2. Schedule sessions suited for all
Remote team members may be located at different time zones in various regions of the world. Mandatory remote meetings must be planned and scheduled at a time that can be attended easily by all the participants.
It is important to arrive at a consensus regarding the common time expecting cooperation from all. If there are contradictions in the timings then you can opt for screen recording, video or audio recording during live meetings.
The recordings can be uploaded into shared websites or send via email to the members who were unable to attend. Once the sessions are scheduled, email invites must be sent out to the required participants at least 2 days before the meeting for better planning.
3. Prepare the remote meetings agenda
Fixing and finalizing the AgendaAgenda is the most critical part of the remote meetings set up. Many meetings fail to achieve their objectives due to an incorrect agenda or incomplete AgendaAgenda. Listing down the activities to be covered with a time allotted for each helps the host in driving the session comfortably.
The AgendaAgenda must be circulated along with the meeting invite and if not should be sent one day before the meeting. The participants get the opportunity to glance through the activities or topics to be discussed and can prepare themselves for the same. You can even collect feedback and comments from the participants in case any modifications are required.
4. Nominate the remote meetings coordinator
It is very essential to nominate a coordinator for each meeting. The key responsibility of the coordinator is to drive the meeting as per the AgendaAgenda without any deviations. The person must adhere to the timings mentioned against each topic of the AgendaAgenda. You can select any efficient member from the remote team to facilitate the meeting discussions.
He or she must possess the capability to intervene and mediate in case of any conversation conflicts between the participants during the meeting. You can even outsource the activities of scheduling the meeting and sending out the invites, to the coordinator.
5. Encourage advance queries from the participants
It is a good practice to circulate a questionnaire among the participants a week before the meeting. The participants can fill up the questionnaire penning down the needed clarifications and send it back to the meeting coordinator or the host.
This activity helps to plan your meetings with the right topics. You can prepare the answers way before the meeting schedule and drive the conversations more effectively.
6. Join the remote meetings early
Both for the host and the participants, it is recommended to join the meeting 5 minutes before the scheduled time. The audio and video connectivity must be verified before, avoiding any last-minute hiccups.
Troubleshooting issues with phone, laptop, or desktop must be avoided within the stipulated time of the meeting. Participants who join late most not be encouraged and sometimes a polite warning can be imparted to them. If you are sharing a screen then ensure to test it before the meeting starts to avoid any disruptions.
During Meeting – Recommended tips during virtual team meetings
Here is a list of aspects to be considered during the meeting,
1. Check the attendees participating in the virtual meeting
At the onset of the meeting, it is important to perform a sort of roll call of the attendees or the participants. Though almost all the remote meeting software records the name of the participants, still it is one of the remote meeting etiquettes to call out the names of the attendees.
People feel comfortable and develop a sense of belonging in the discussion. You must greet all with courtesy and can put them at ease inquiring about their health or the weather conditions etc.
2. Introduce all remote meeting members
Before jumpstarting the session as per the AgendaAgenda, initiate an introductory session. If it’s a regular daily call then it may not be needed. But sometimes new participants join in hence it is advisable to introduce the person to others.
For a meeting conducted between cross teams, introductions play a vital role to understand the experience and responsibilities of the members. You must reserve 2 to 3 minutes of your AgendaAgenda for it and not more than that depending on the number of participants.
3. Briefly state the meeting agenda
Once the introductory session concludes, briefly mention the AgendaAgenda to the participants and start with the discussions. Maintain the time specified for each of the agenda topics. The meeting coordinator must perform a time check and remind in case of any deviations. Participants must respect the discipline and etiquette of the meeting, avoiding unnecessary conflicts and disruptions.
In the case of video conference calls, participants can engage in better conversations if they can see each other visually. They can observe the facial reactions and can feel the virtual connection while discussing any topic.
Share your screen only when it is essential and not throughout the session. Focus on the video instead, for effective collaboration between the remote professionals. Certain meetings may demand joint working in a particular document or presentation through screen sharing and utilizing annotation tools.
In such situations, video calls or visual interactions may not be effective. Hence it is recommended to judge the needs of your meetings and select the communication medium accordingly.
5. Engage all participants
The meeting invitees must be selected such that every single participant has a role in the discussions. Else they may feel out of place and may get involved inside conversations. They may remain inattentive throughout the discussion.
You must encourage all participants to speak out in the meetings. It may be in the form of voicing their opinion on a topic, or a question-answer session. You may even ask them to speak about their experience or ask for solutions to any problem.
6. Note down the next action points
Before concluding the meeting, reiterate the action points to ensure nothing is missed out. Specify the action closure owners with the deadlines for completion. Summarize the key discussion points to be in sync with everyone attending the meeting. The host or the meeting coordinator must note down the details and keep it ready for circulating to all the meeting invitees in email or upload into a shared company website.
Also read: Best Practices For Remote Onboarding
After Meeting – Important items after finishing a meeting online
Here is a list of key aspects to be converted after the meeting,
1. Prepare the minutes of the meeting
Capturing the minutes of the meeting is very important for remote discussions and conversations. Many important topics are deliberated and acted upon by the participants that need to be noted down as a reference for the future.
Action points must not be missed out as those are essential for the program’s success and completion. It helps to track down their completeness and provides visibility to who needs to be pursued in case the deadlines are missed. The MoM serves as the starting point for the next meetings or discussions.
2. Circulate the minutes of meeting
Many companies have shared online workspace for storing important documents. The Minutes of Meeting can be uploaded in a common folder and access granted to all the participants. The participants can view the action points assigned to them and ensure completeness as per the deadlines mentioned.
They can also comment on any topic or action point in case of any differences. The other option is to circulate the MoM via emails to all the participants. For the participants who were unable to attend, send them the recording for reference and feedbacks, and comments.
3. Follow up on the Action Items
Although in the MoM, you mention the action points specifically with the owners and deadlines mentioned. Yet it is essential to begin your round of follow-ups before the deadline ends to ensure all are on track, and there are no major issues or challenges that may hamper the completion time. You may even arrange for a status check via email or a short meeting between the action owners. In case of any risk or bottleneck, you need to highlight immediately to your higher management and seek support as the situation demands.
How to set up a remote online meeting around conflicting schedules?
Conducting an online meeting by handling conflicts of schedules and clashing meetings of remote team members is that which we are going to discuss in this section. Besides team members working remotely may have flexible working hours, personal life and hence adjustment in their timing is important for conducting remote meetings with maximum participation.
1. List out the types of virtual staff meeting that needs to be scheduled
You can set up virtual staff meeting for different purposes; for conducting training, discussions, daily status updates, steering committee meeting, research meetings, etc. List out all the video meetings so that you can plan and schedule them as per the convenient times and duration.
It is very important to fix the duration for each meeting along with the stakeholders or participants whose presence is mandatorily required. Besides, it is important to prepare the agenda for each of the remote meetings.
2. Preferred time slots for online video meetings
Once you have listed down the online video meetings that need to be scheduled, the next action item is to settle for the preferred time slots. In other words the preferred date, time, and duration of the remote online meeting.
It is suggested to select multiple time slots to avoid conflicting schedules of the remote team members. The objective is to prepone to postpone to alternative time schedules in case of any rejections or decline of the video meetings online.
3. Circulate the time slots for team conference call
It is advisable to circulate the preferred time slots to the participants of the team conference call to arrive at a consensus. Team members can check their calendars before confirming the specified remote online meeting.
This activity helps in better planning and organizing virtual business meetings and online team meeting. You can easily avoid conflicts by mutual agreement and can achieve the desired objectives and outcome.
4. Finalize the agenda for the web based meetings
Finalizing the agenda and topics of discussion for the web based meetings is very crucial. The stakeholders can decide whether to adjust the conflicting schedules or not. They can set their priorities for the remote online meeting and decide which one to attend and which one to skip.
You can also take a stock of the interested participants of the web conference meetings; thus ensuring no clash of schedules.
5. Early planning for all day conference
An all day conference needs a great deal of planning which must be done as early as possible. Since it necessitates an engagement for the entire day, hence the date, agenda, speakers, and participants must be intimated in advance to avoid any last-minute delays or confusion.
The speakers must be decided and informed way before to ensure they prioritize and prepare for the online conference meeting.
How to set up a video meeting with people from different time zones?
Nowadays many companies big or small, are encouraging remote working to harness the niche skills and abilities of professionals located in different regions of the world. They may be located at different time zones and hence while scheduling a video meeting or remote meetings, you need to cater to their working hours.
1. List out the time zones before planning for video conference online
Before planning for a video conference online, list out the time zones to which each remote member belongs. Find out a common time that overlaps and prepare the schedules for conducting an online meeting accordingly.
You need to consider the start time and end time of the working hours of each of the zones while planning for the same. Also, check certain time zones have different business hours than the others; a vital point to note while conducting virtual team meetings.
2. Rotate the recurring remote working meeting
A remote working meeting can be recurring in nature. You can alternate the schedule to accommodate all the time zones, rotating between daytime and nighttime. In doing so, you can avoid hosting recurring remote meetings for the benefit of only one but advantageous for all.
Preventing stress and fatigue are important criteria in ensuring the company’s workforce is satisfied. Therefore you must balance the time between the different regions to facilitate a healthy work-life.
3. Include key members in group meetings online
If you are not able to coincide the group meetings online across all the time zones, the recommendation is not to involve the entire team in the video meeting.
You can engage only the key members of different departments, teams, or units in the meetings may be the unit heads or project managers. The participants can propagate the information to others thus preventing unnecessary exhaustion of the entire team.
4. Record meetings leveraging remote conferencing software
Recording meetings is one of the best ways to adjust time zone mismatch. Leverage remote conferencing software and tools to record meetings. Upload the recordings in a company internal online portal with access restrictions.
You can even circulate the recordings through emails or by internal messaging services. Members who have missed attending the meetings due to time mismatch or constraints, can check the recordings and note down the critical points discussed in an online business meeting.
5. Leverage tools to schedule web based videoconference
It is advisable to use tools such as google calendar or a similar calendar tool to schedule web based videoconference. These tools allow you to check the time of the various zones where your team members are located. Besides, you can even generate awareness among the team about the time zones being serviced by the company. Scheduling video meeting online becomes easier and convenient.
Virtual meeting best practices
In this section, we will share the virtual meeting best practices for conducting effective and fruitful remote meetings. They will act as a guide on how to make meetings fun, and some interesting tips for virtual meetings. You can adapt the best practices in your company and bet you will be able to execute interactive and easy video conferencing with your remote employees.
1. Efficient online meeting management
Online meeting management is an art and must be performed efficiently with proper planning and organizing. Deciding on the date, time, duration, occurrences, and participants are some of the key considerations for conducting successful remote meetings.
Besides you must decide on the expectations from each participant, and the expected outcome. Finalizing the moderator for the meetings is also vital since the person needs to govern the end-to-end web based meeting and track the time too.
2. Leverage best market tools for video conferences online
One of the virtual meetings best practices is to leverage the best market tools and software for conducting video conferences online. You can use Zoom remote meeting, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, etc. for remote video conferencing.
They have several features for scheduling the meetings, adding multiple participants, provision for whiteboarding, web-based video conference, chatting, internal messaging, and even share documents.
3. Create an agenda for a virtual team meeting
Create an agenda for a virtual team meeting and circulate the same among the team members; one of the virtual meeting best practices.
The virtual team meeting agenda must contain the conference call topics to be discussed, the owner for the topic, the duration, and the expected outcome. This helps the participants to prepare before the meeting starts and also helps to note down the questions and any critical issues to be discussed.
4. Make meetings fun and interactive
One of the important virtual meeting best practices is to make meetings fun and interactive. You can arrange a small introduction session at the beginning of the remote meeting as an ice-breaker.
Conducting short quizzes or online competitions are some of the great interactive meeting ideas to make staff meetings fun. You can encourage the participants to share their hobbies, interests, and even vacation ideas to keep them at ease and comfortable.
5. Noiseless environment for home meeting
Maintaining a noiseless environment for the remote home meeting is very essential and one of the recommended virtual meeting best practices. Distractions if avoided will induce greater concentration and dedication in the virtual meeting agenda and the topics being discussed.
The participants can engage and interact with each other in the absence of any external disturbances and unnecessary noises. In the end, the ultimate goal is to achieve the outcomes planned from the remote digital meetings.
Remote meeting tools and software
For a seamless and smooth functioning of remote team meetings and discussions, it is essential to possess tools and software facilitating the following features,
- Audio calls
- Video Conference calls with webcam
- Fast Internet connectivity
- Microphone with zero noise disturbance
We have now discussed in detail the ways and methods of conducting a successful remote team meeting. If you follow them diligently, you won’t face any hurdles in organizing discussions and meetings with your remote team.