The digital workplace is becoming the norm, and whether your business is partially or entirely operating online, you need to get used to working with people remotely.
Email and messaging can be really useful, of course, but 20% of remote workers still find communication to be an obstacle. That’s why it’s really important for you to be able to meet with people in real time, to make sure everyone feels valued, and well-informed about what’s going on.
If you know how to plan a remote meeting effectively, you can feel confident about maintaining a healthy connection with your team, clients, and business partners. Here are three tips to get you started:
#1 Choose the right platform
There are a variety of free and subscription-based platforms available for hosting virtual meetings, and it’s worth taking the time to think about which option would work best for your business’s budget and requirements.
If you have a small business that tends to have one-on-one meetings with partners, clients, and freelancers, the likelihood is that a free platform will be enough to serve your purposes. Depending on what platforms you and the people you work with already use for document sharing, email, and messaging, you could use Slack or Google Hangouts for one-to-one or small group meetings. If you already have a Skype account, that will work for meetings of up to 50 participants.
If you need to meet with larger groups, then Zoom provides a platform to meet with up to 100 people for free, with an option to upgrade to Zoom Business to meet with a larger group. If your budget allows, Microsoft Teams is included in Microsoft 365 Business package and Google Meet is included in G Suite. Both of these platforms will enable you to host meetings with up to 250 participants.
#2 Appoint a facilitator
Poorly managed meetings can be chaotic and stressful at the best of times, and remote meetings can add fresh complications. It’s much harder to keep track of turn-taking when non-verbal clues are restricted to what can be captured on a webcam, and when time lags and glitches interrupt the flow.
To help things run as smoothly as possible, you should appoint someone to act as a meeting facilitator. Their role is to check that everyone knows what’s going on, keep track of time and make sure that the meeting runs according to the agenda.
A facilitator can also monitor and help with participation, so that everyone gets an opportunity to contribute and feel like their participation is worthwhile. They will be aware that some voices can unwittingly dominate a meeting space (this is a risk in face-to-face meetings too, of course), and elicit ideas from quieter attendees. This can have a really positive effect on participant morale, as people need to feel that their attendance has been a meaningful and worthwhile use of time.
#3 Set a clear agenda
A meeting without a clear agenda can very easily descend into a chaotic and inefficient waste of everyone’s time. You need to be clear about the overall purpose of your meeting, and make sure that you address key talking points.
Most agendas should include a brief introduction and catch up, to make sure that everyone is up-to-date and clear on what has been done so far. The facilitator needs to keep on top of things so that things don’t go off-topic at this stage, and make notes of any points that need to be picked up at a later stage.
Make sure that the main issues that you are meeting to discuss are assigned adequate time to address. Again, the facilitator should keep things on-task, and help things to move forward when it’s time to get on to the next item on the agenda.
A good agenda will also allow time to sum things up towards the end of the meeting. This is an important stage that shouldn’t be skipped, as you need to check that all participants have understood and remember what has been discussed, and know what is scheduled to happen next, including which tasks have been assigned to people.
For more ideas and examples of how you can make sure you plan your remote meetings successfully, check out these infographic guides created by BusinessFinancing.co.uk.