A Survivor’s Guide to Conducting Remote Meetings
Now that telecommuting has become the new standard, we will need to conduct more remote meetings. Keeping in touch with team members despite geographical distance is essential, especially in these uncertain times of quick transformation. Here is our take on best practices:
Using the right tools: to make a success of your remote meetings, you must first dispose of the proper tools. Essentials consist of a sound Internet connexion, a headset, microphone, whatever you require to make notes. Finding a quiet place where you can focus is also a must.
Deploying the right means of communication: there are many different platforms and software you can use for videoconferencing. Generally, participants will receive an url to click so they may connect to the meeting. You can usually share your screen with participants so they may see each other and fully participate in a presentation, for instance. Zoom, Teams, Whereby.com and Join.me are good examples.
Another option is the conference call where many people can simultaneously converse on the same call. Skype, Slack and Whatsapp are teleconferencing options. For optimal use of teleconferencing, you should limit the number of participants as you may end up with too many people talking over each other.
Finally, you may want to experience online collaboration and use GSuite or Gather Content. These tools are very helpful and will allow you to work on shared files, in real time.
Depending on the goal being pursued during the meeting, the moderator will select the relevant technology.
Establishing some ground rules: You must first ensure that all participants are familiar with the tools you will be using. Provide participants with an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the tools and practice using them. The moderator in the meeting can set the stage and explain how to mute the microphone or how to solicit an opportunity to intervene. The object is to set ground rules and create the proper atmosphere to ensure the meeting unfolds in an orderly fashion. Ensuring everyone feels included at the outset and explaining basic functionalities of the tool will help participants better connect and get their heads around the tool before the meeting even gets started.
Setting the framework: To ensure the meeting properly unfolds, the moderator must define a clear framework and predetermine a number of elements: objective of the meeting, duration, participants, deliverables and so on. How the meeting will unfold and its various segments must also be prepared ahead of time. Providing participants with the meeting agenda a few days ahead of time will allow everyone time to prepare.
Illustrating your point and getting the message across: Visuals – pictures, images, pictograms – constitute an excellent means to reinforce your message, particularly in a remote situation. The moderator may prepare a number of elements to share in the cloud (charts, graphs). An image is worth a thousand words!
Determining the right format: It may be more efficient to have two moderators for the meeting, one to manage the technical aspects and the other the content. Each moderator should have his or her own screen to manage the meeting content, on the one hand, and the separate visuals on the other. Some tools will allow you to split teams into smaller groups, in distinct virtual spaces. This will allow you great flexibility, depending on your meeting activities.
Demonstrating interpersonal skills: A virtual meeting requires, more than most, that all participants follow a certain protocol if we are to accomplish what we set out to do. Participants introduce themselves at the beginning of the meeting and stay within the time allotted to speak, without interrupting others. One should also avoid carrying out other tasks during the meeting, answering emails, consulting phone messages or surfing the Internet. Apart from being disrespectful, these behaviours will impede concentration and participants might miss out on important information. The moderator should always encourage spirited and constructive exchanges.
Setting a meeting deadline: As we planned some time at the beginning of the meeting to make sure everyone felt included, the moderator should also set some time aside at the end of the meeting to reflect on the experience, on any technical difficulties or learning challenges we might have encountered and to formulate our expectations for next time. Even if everything did not go as planned, it is important to remain positive in the spirit of wanting to improve our next experience.
Setting the stage for post meeting activities: The moderator or a participant will prepare the meeting notes to memorialize the salient points of the meeting and to record what we actually agreed to. Points of discussion and tasks assigned, with deadlines, will be noted. The document is then shared with participants who may refer to it as needed.
A well thought-out and organized remote meeting can be as effective as meeting in person. In some instances, it may be more efficient as you will save whatever time it would have taken you to get to the meeting. Moreover, remote meetings tend to limit unproductive or unnecessary chatter. Participants tend to be more focused during remote meetings: you should therefore reduce the duration to avoid losing their attention as their concentration might dwindle after a time. A virtual meeting will also help build a stronger bond between team members, with each member being responsible for the success of the meeting.
And remember, moderating a remote meeting is just like holding a regular meeting, but in a different kind of space… a virtual one!