Leading a team meeting can be tough even in the best of circumstances. You have to make sure everyone stays engaged, feels welcome to participate and can comfortably raise any issues. But you also have an agenda you need to get through and objectives to accomplish.
Meetings with remote teams can be even trickier to manage.
If you’re leading a completely remote or a hybrid team, you’ve probably gotten pretty skilled at navigating video conferencing technology and other remote team productivity tools.
But it takes more than good remote work technology to have a good remote meeting.
After all, most of us know how tempting it is to multitask when you’re staring at the screen. If you’re being talked over or the meeting seems to be droning on with no clear structure or purpose, it’s only a matter of time before you hit the mute button and check out.
If you’ve experienced it, you can bet the rest of your team members have experienced it, too. While 77% of workers say they feel more productive when working remotely, "Zoom fatigue" is also a very real issue.
And that’s a big problem because, in many ways, meetings are even more important with remote teams. Even though you’re not literally in the same room, meetings offer the rare chance for everyone to be together, build trust, share ideas and discuss what’s going on. That’s valuable time you don’t want to waste.
Running Successful Meetings with Remote Teams
Let’s take a look at some tips and strategies to make your meetings more effective and keep your remote team productivity high.
A. Have a Reason to Meet (and Share That): Seems like a no-brainer, right? But too often, managers call meetings with no clear purpose or objectives. When you’re working with a remote team, you’ll probably want to schedule regular meetings to keep people connected and up to date. Just don’t fall into the trap of holding a meeting for the sake of holding the meeting. Make the best use of everyone’s time by:
- Outlining what you want to accomplish in the meeting
- Assigning roles and responsibilities for agenda items
- Compiling any data or other background materials that will be useful
- Using technology because it serves the meeting’s purpose, not just because you have it
B. Set the Ground Rules: Is everyone on mute? Is it a free-for-all? Set the expectations and ground rules upfront so that everyone knows what to expect. Even if you have some high-level processes you follow with in-person meetings, with remote teams, you need to get more specific about meeting etiquette — and then be a stickler about it. This might include:
- A mute/unmute policy
- Expectations about use of video
- Time limits on agenda items
- A process for open discussion
- Planned use of break-out rooms
- Agreement on whether and which meetings will be recorded
C. Prioritize Engagement: Remote teams can feel disconnected as it is, so meetings are a great way to keep your employees engaged and feeling included — if the meeting is managed effectively. Because it’s so easy to mentally check out (or feel left out) when you’re not together in person, think about what you need to do to set the stage for maximum engagement. For example:
- Try round-robin or break-out room discussions to make sure everyone has a voice and can contribute in the way they’re most comfortable.
- Allocate agenda time for sharing personal stories and experiences to help people feel more connected.
- Consider people’s information load. Video calls are great, but spending all day on them is exhausting — and could ultimately sabotage remote team productivity.
D. Be Flexible (and Make Time for Fun): Routines are helpful, but if you get stuck in a rut, you’re quickly going to see diminishing returns — in engagement and in ideas. Instead of using the same format, same slides, same agenda at every weekly meeting, try mixing it up. This might include:
- A “sprint” style brainstorming session to spark new ideas and thinking
- Throwing out a challenge to the group and having them work together to solve the problem
- “Show-and-tell” structure with different team members leading the discussion
- Videos, whiteboarding and other creative ways to introduce projects, get feedback or report on results
Get the Most From Your Remote Meetings
Remote teams can benefit even more than co-located teams from regular meetings. But no one benefits if people are multitasking, unclear on the purpose or zonked out from screen overload. To keep remote team productivity high and get the most out of your time together, make sure you’ve thought through what it will take to lead a successful remote meeting.