The best productivity tools and tips to help you schedule and run better remote online group meetings.
How to run effective group meetings as a remote business
Businesses and teams can be much more efficient than their in-office counterparts by running effective remote group meetings.
Remote businesses and teams can be much more efficient than their in-office counterparts, but if you’re transitioning from in-office to remote work, it may not seem that way now! With these measures put in place, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your remote meetings transform from feeling scattered to efficient problem-solving sessions.
Step 1: Do you need a meeting or do you think you should have a meeting?
Group meetings can be the enemy of efficiency when they interrupt focused-work time, so before you schedule that meeting, make sure it’s really necessary. You might think that because everyone is working remotely that you need more meetings for ‘face-to-face’ time. That is not true. You’ll find that many of your employees love the ability to focus without interruption and get more done that way. You’ll also find that the extroverts in the office may suffer. To walk the line, consider sending out a poll to your team asking for their preferred meeting times, and their preferred meeting frequency.
Step 2: Set the date and time so everyone can come
Getting everyone to the meeting is the trickiest part of hosting one. The back-and-forth can easily kill the better part of an hour, and that’s just for a small meeting. Sure, you can send a poll and find a time that works for most, but there’s an even faster way that doesn’t depend on other people’s active responses: Taggg. Taggg connects with Google and Microsoft calendars to automatically cross-check availability with selected participants, so you can find a time to meet — even across time zones — that works for everyone, as long as they keep their calendars updated (and doesn’t everyone do that at this point?). You can also use polling, which is handy when determining people’s preferred meeting times. But for quickly scheduling a meeting, nothing beats the BookNow feature that targets overlapping available times and books it.
Step 3: Create the meeting agenda for maximum productivity
The agenda for an effective remote group meeting needs to be a little different from how you would plan your meeting agenda in the office. For one, you’ll need to plan wiggle-room time so distractions don’t throw you off schedule. Kids, pets, spouses, technical problems, and the desire to catch up on some watercooler chat time are all factors that come into play when planning the agenda for your remote meeting. Don’t fight it - plan for it.
We like the EPIC™ meeting structure created by the employee engagement survey company Engagement Multiplier. They start each meeting on a high-energy note asking everyone to “share something they’re feeling great about at that moment - whether or not it’s work-related.”
Other Agenda hacks to consider:
- Try planning time to do some of the work in the meeting, rather than planning the work and sending everyone away to do their work solo.
- Play with meeting lengths. Not all meetings need to be an hour. Try 20 minutes, or 50 minutes, or 75 minutes if you do work in the meeting itself.
- Only invite people who absolutely need to be there. There’s an ‘invite everyone just in case’ mentality that works better in the office than it does with remote crews.
- Start each meeting with a specific outcome that needs to be reached by the end of the meeting. This will keep everyone focused on creating solutions, rather than talking endlessly about the problems.
- Try beginning the meeting with a 5-minute meditation, especially when the meeting topic may be stressful. This can set the energetic tone to a much more comfortable and productive level.
Step 4: Pick the most reliable remote group meeting app
- Zoom has become the go-to remote meeting app for most people, but it doesn’t work for all organizations (or all internet connections).
- Google Hangouts and Google Meet has been picking up speed as it tries to give Zoom a run for its money, copying many of Zoom’s best features, while being easier to set up, more user-friendly, and easier to admin.
- BlueJeans Meetings is more expensive than the above options, but has two key features that may make it work the bucks: Excellent audio filtering (for noisy environments like vehicles, cafes, and homes with toddlers), and the ability to disable video for better low-connection speed.
Step 5: Keep everyone engaged
In an office meeting, you may have some doodlers, some phone-checkers and some drowsy nap-takers to contend with. In a remote meeting, they can be surfing the internet and only half-listening the entire time and you may not notice. Don’t punish the behavior - prevent it! Consider, why do people drift off in the first place? They drift off when the material being discussed doesn’t apply to them. And if it doesn’t apply…
- Do they need to be there? No? Consider organizing your agenda by topic with the names of people you want to hear from, and allow anyone not involved to leave early.
- If they do need to be there to give input, is it okay if they’re working on something else at the same time? Sometimes, half-listening while doing something else productive is more efficient.
- Ask people to limit distractions for the duration of the meeting, whether that’s silencing their phones, or using “Focus Mode” on the Win the Day Chrome extension (which blocks social media sites for a fixed number of minutes).
- Take time to ask for group input and call on people to make sure each person is heard. When you make it clear that everyone’s thoughts are valued, they’ll be more inclined to pay attention.
Step 6: Take better meeting minutes and add accountability
Instead of keeping track of who said what in a Google doc, like so many of us do, try taking the ‘minutes’ in Trello or Asana. Trello even created a free meeting template to get you started. You may also want to create Trello cards for each action item and assign each card an owner, then give everyone in the group access for accountability.
And finally, don’t forget an ‘after meeting’ debriefing about what went well and what didn’t. Optimizing based on data isn’t just for apps — it’s for life.