The global COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many companies to rapidly change their operations, and IT is no exception. The new WFH (work from home) trend has made remote meetings the “new normal” in most companies’ routine. According to the newest McKinsey report, 83% of employees are willing to work remotely, which leads to an emerging increase in hybrid and remote work models. Giants like Facebook and Twitter have already announced their intention to expand remote work options.

Yet, several big questions persist: can remote collaboration be as productive as work done in the office? How to run a remote meeting effectively instead of making it a frustrating time-waster? And what tools should you use for a productive outcome? Let’s uncover this together.

Why Remote Meetings are Challenging

Compared to face-to-face gatherings, online meetings have a higher level of distraction. This happens because participants often interpret them as an opportunity to multitask. Especially during long presentations where attendees are given no chance to speak or express their opinions.

To avoid this scenario, we recommend following a simple rule — if no action needs to be taken, turn your meeting into an email. This option provides a solid alternative for sharing emerging problems, results, news, or even presentations while avoiding a so-called “only talk but do nothing” outcome. You can always schedule a call afterward to discuss any additional information. The same is true for reporting progress on work. Feel free to use a chat option instead of video calling — your team will be sure to thank you.

There is one more challenge hidden in the tools you choose for video communications. Picking the wrong one can ruin the expected meeting outcome, and simply eat up employees’ time while distracting them from getting work done.

Other reasons that cause remote meetings to be unproductive are:

  • Lack of preparation
  • Unclear meeting agenda
  • Low level of participants’ concentration
  • Lack of collaboration
  • Technology-related delays
  • Absence of eye contact
  • Background noises

Keeping your team engaged is not always a cakewalk. To be happy with the outcome, we suggest you set up a routine for scheduling, organizing, and leading remote sessions. Here are a few tips that will help you make your remote meeting worthwhile.

How to Make Your Remote Meetings More Productive

Leading a team is challenging enough, but adding remote work only stretches it further. To be satisfied with your virtual meeting results, you should consider all its aspects in advance. Let us show you the ropes and help you ease the entire process from preparation to wrapping up.

1. Set a Clear Agenda

Whether you are hosting a remote or face-to-face meeting, without establishing an agenda, you will only run in circles. To avoid this, you should set clear objectives for your meeting — for what reason, when, and how you’ll meet with your attendees. Start your preparation by outlining the initial agenda (preferably with time slots per discussion point). A good practice is to share it with participants beforehand so everyone can prepare and be on the same page.

2. Plan Ahead

There is nothing wrong with having occasional ad-hoc meetings with your development team. Yet, most of your meetings should be properly planned. When planning, consider who should be present, your attendees’ time zones, and their schedule. Microsoft Teams and Google Calendar can help you tackle these tasks. As for the number of participants, the best option is to stick to ten people or less. If there are too many people, chances are you’ll have some sitting on the bench procrastinating.

3. Choose Your Meeting Platform Wisely

The platform should be chosen based on the purpose of your meeting — a simple check-up, presentation, product discovery workshop, or a brainstorming session.

remote meeting tools overview

And remember, in some cases, you can simply skip the meeting and send an email.

4. Keep Your Webcam On

According to a recent Giacom study, 87% of remote workers feel more engaged and connected when using video conferencing. No surprise: non-verbal communication can significantly complement the discussion and provide emotional feedback from participants.

Video calling is beneficial, especially when you want to develop a better bond with your managed team or outstaff developers, as it helps build relationships and identify nonverbal clues. Yet, you should also consider the option for dial-in, especially if the Internet connection is poor.

5. Test Your Technology Beforehand

Imagine having a thirty-minute meeting with your project manager or Scrum Master, one-third of which is eaten by connection problems. Sounds irritating, right? Whether you are a participant or leader of the meeting, it is essential to ensure everything works before the meeting. It’s ideal to join the meeting ten minutes early so you will have time for fixes if something isn’t working.

If you decide to use a new platform, make sure to share guidelines on how to use it beforehand so your team members or employees can feel comfortable accessing it.

6. Take the Opportunity For Small Talk

More often than not, managers underestimate the need for an icebreaker and jump straight into the main discussion. A study completed by Northwestern University shows that workers who share funny or embarrassing stories about themselves, prior to getting started, are 26% more productive during brainstorming sessions. Building a good rapport with your team members makes them more willing to listen to what you have to say.

Hosting a quick, 3-minute small talk – whether on kids, jokes, or other casual topics – can help you build a friendly atmosphere for the upcoming conversation with your remote team. Especially during this difficult time of the Covid-19 outbreak when everyone is isolated and lacks casual communication.

7. Give Your Participants a Chance to Facilitate

Giving attendees a job to do during meetings will keep your participants engaged and leave fewer opportunities to multitask. It can be as simple as writing down key points or questions that arise during the meeting, keeping track of time, or noting new ideas. Offering a chance to contribute will help turn your attendees from quiet listeners to active participants during your online meetings.

8. Keep Your Remote Meetings On Track

Unfortunately, some team meetings can have a completely opposite outcome than what you initially planned. To keep your sessions on track, stick to the agenda, and kindly interrupt when someone’s response lingers too long. If a particular issue requires more discussion than expected, write it off and schedule another meeting specifically for solving it.

9. Follow Up On the Key Takeaways

Concluding everything that was discussed is essential to any meeting. You don’t need a word-by-word transcript of everything that was said. But it’s always worth sending a follow-up email. Try to keep it short. Include the main points of the meeting and the assigned tasks or deadlines (you can also use JIRA or Asana for that). This type of summary will increase your remote meeting effectiveness, and everyone will know how to proceed.

To Sum It Up

Running a successful meeting no longer requires everyone to be in the same room. While remote meetings may sound overwhelming and involve thorough preparation to keep everyone engaged, they can and should be productive. Give this meeting guide a try, and we bet your virtual meeting will become more efficient than the traditional one!

As an experienced IT outsourcing vendor, Edvantis understands how to adjust the boundaries of online meetings, ensure productive discussions between the customer and the development teams, and proactively tackle information asymmetry during the development project using a host of proven best practices.

Contact us today, and let’s meet remotely!