Team meetings are beneficial to keep everyone aligned no matter where they're located. If you're a remote team manager or a leader within your company, it's important to consider every time you ask your team to join a meeting if the meeting is necessary, beneficial to everyone involved, and at a time that is convenient to all remote team members.
Remote workers attend more meetings each week than on-site workers. The 2019 State of Remote Work report found 14% of remote workers are dedicating time to more than 10 meetings per week (vs. only 3% of on-site workers). Even though they take up some of the workday, meetings are important and are a great space to collaborate, learn about other departments, and update your company about sales, marketing, engineering, and growth. Meetings are also a great way to build relationships and facilitate team bonding.
So, how can you make the most of their time and ensure they have the best meeting experience? Here's what you need to know.
A remote meeting, also known as a virtual meeting, occurs when a group of people, who are dispersed across different locations, use video and audio to connect online. This type of meeting is used by organizations with remote or hybrid teams. Remote meetings can also be used to connect with clients, customers, or business partners who are located in different cities, states, or continents.
Common remote meeting tools include:
Let's dive into the steps to conduct a productive remote meeting.
There are a variety of remote meeting software options to choose from, both free and paid. Remote meeting software providers like Zoom, make it easy to set up your meeting so remote attendees can participate. Research and compare your options to see which ones will work best for you and your remote team members.
In addition to meeting software, you'll need to think about the AV technology you'll need. Your video conferencing hardware can make or break your meeting experience. Poor audio or video connection can derail a productive meeting. For an all-in-one solution, try the Meeting Owl. It's 360° video camera, microphones, and speakers help remote team members feel like they're attending the meeting in-person.
Once the technical aspects of your meeting are settled, it's time to schedule the meeting. Meetings should always be less than one hour (unless they're scheduled work times or office hours) and if you're running the meeting, you should always try to end early. Some companies with lots of meetings have even experimented with "No Meeting Fridays" where one day during the week, no one schedules any meetings. Meetings break the cycle of work and cause team members to have to refocus every time they go to and come back from a meeting. Be considerate of others' time and try to be as deliberate as possible about scheduling.
Consider where your team members are located before picking a meeting time. When meeting attendees are distributed across multiple time zones, check to see if there's a time when their work schedules overlap.
A meeting agenda outlines exactly what the meeting will cover and often allots a specific amount of time for each topic or meeting point. Will one person speak about a specific topic? Is there enough time for discussion and questions? The meeting agenda will answer questions like this. Plus, it allows meeting attendees to prepare for the meeting so they feel comfortable and ready to participate.
The role of the meeting facilitator is to make sure the meeting runs smoothly and everyone has the opportunity to participate. One of the biggest meeting challenges for remote and on-site workers is being interrupted or talked over. The meeting facilitator guides the conversation and keeps things on track. They'll keep a close eye on the remote meeting participants, make sure the AV setup is working properly, and including all remote meeting attendees in the conversation.
At the beginning of the meeting, give participants some time to mingle with one another. It's challenging for remote workers to stay visible and stay connected with their colleagues who work in different locations. Allowing time for everyone to introduce themselves and catch-up will help them build stronger connections to their coworkers.
For remote meetings to run smoothly, there are a few guidelines to follow. The first rule of meeting etiquette is to arrive at the meeting on-time. Avoid distractions, like answering emails during the meeting. Multi-tasking pulls your attention away from the meeting and your typing can distract your coworkers too. Meeting etiquette ensures the remote meeting stays on track so all the agenda items are covered during the allotted time.
Once the remote meeting is over, follow up on a specific list of action items and deliverables that were discussed during the meeting. Send the summary to all the meeting attendees so everyone knows what the next steps are and who's responsible for each deliverable.
If any people weren't able to attend due to a scheduling or time zone conflict, send them a recording of the meeting. They'll be able to catch up on the things they missed and can make sure they're clear about the outcomes and action items from the meeting.
Here are five different types of remote team or hybrid team meetings and how to be inclusive of remote team members when planning.
Daily or weekly standups are a quick way for remote teams to check-in and ensure that everyone is equipped to get there promptly. Typically, standups allow each team member 2-5 minutes to discuss what they worked on yesterday or the previous week and what they will be working on today or that week. They can mention anything holding them up or anything they may need from the team and help give managers an idea of what everyone is working on. Standup meetings are especially useful for remote or hybrid teams because not everyone is in the office, casually discussing current projects. They're also a great way to facilitate team building and see everyone face-to-face at least once a day or week. Try to keep these meetings succinct and not go into too much detail.
Monthly or quarterly progress meetings are a way to check in on initiatives, sales, or whatever goals your team has. For these meetings, create an agenda ahead of time. Give each stakeholder 5-10 minutes to update the team on progress towards goals, roadblocks, successes, and failures. Leave at least 15 minutes at the end of the meeting for questions and to confirm goals and initiatives for the following period.
Virtual brainstorms are intended to gather quick ideas from the team on a given project or goal and should intentionally be kept to less than thirty minutes. Brainstorm sessions are like goldfish, they will fill up as much time as you give them. Encourage any and all ideas and write them on a whiteboard (that's in view for remote teammates.) The Meeting Owl allows remote teammates to see what's written on the board from home. You can also take notes in a shared Google Doc and project on the screen for those in the room.
These types of meetings are blocks of time meant for productive work or offering a resource to other team members. Hackathons or productive work sessions provide the time your team needs to do a huge project in a collaborative atmosphere. Make sure to have a video call for remote team members, an agenda or spreadsheet to keep track of progress in work, and order some food to keep the atmosphere energized and informal. Feel free to throw on an upbeat playlist for the team as well.
Productive work sessions can be used for projects like:
Office hours are a way to offer your skills and expertise to the rest of the company or to new team members. Set aside an hour or two every week for people to come and ask for help, talk through ideas, or brainstorm. For example, you may be a designer. You have marketers who will be helping out with designs for social posts and blog CTAs. During your weekly office hours, marketers can bring you their designs and you can walk through tips and feedback via video meeting.
Cross-team collaborative meetings are for two or more teams to sync on projects or mutual goals. Some examples of this may be product and marketing teams aligning on a product launch, sales and marketing teams updating each other on progress/goals, or HR and culture working together on a new leadership program. These meetings should have prepared talking points and agendas sent to the team ahead of time and should allow plenty of time for questions from each team. If the meeting is regular (ex. a monthly sales and marketing meeting) and feels like it's sales presenting, then marketing presenting, then silence, try mixing up the format. Make sure there is a reason for the two teams to meet and time for collaboration rather than just sharing accomplishments or updates in a one-directional way.
These are five of the most common types of meetings for remote and hybrid teams. Make sure that for all meetings, you include a video link, send an agenda ahead of time if relevant, and take follow up conversations to Slack or your preferred messaging app. Consider time zones and record all meetings when someone can't be present. Happy meeting!