Practical tips for setting up an effective remote meeting
So much of what makes a good meeting happens before the meeting ever begins. Take care of these steps to make sure that once you’re actually on the call, you have very little to worry about in order to make things go smoothly.
— Get a reliable conferencing tool and VOiP system.
There is nothing — and I mean nothing — more frustrating than being in the heart of a conversation and having the other person’s voice cut out.
And not only is it frustrating, it can make you look unprofessional too. Everybody knows that technical glitches happen, but it still leaves a sour taste in the mouth of the person who was speaking who got cut off, or who couldn’t hear any of the important decisions being made in the room.
So invest in a good system, try out lots of conferencing tools, and do tons of tests before you ever get a client on the line.
At Urban Influence, we use Fuze for remote conferencing since it allows us to do audio, video, and screen-sharing so we can show our work and walk clients through their new websites in real time, but there are so many options out there for video and audio calls with remote clients and team members.
— Reduce the number of participants unless you need a big group discussion.
This is great meeting etiquette, remote or not, but it’s especially helpful when people are calling in.
Limiting participants cuts down on communication chaos, since multiple voices on a digital call can get choppy and confusing about who’s talking and what’s been said. Plus, it’s nice to save people’s time and not make them sit in on something that doesn’t require their presence. It shows you understand and value their time, and will only use it wisely (which makes them like you — and that’s a good thing!).
Before you set the meeting, think about what needs to get accomplished (more on that in the next step) and then think about who *really* needs to be there in order to get those goals accomplished.
While it’s nice to get everyone’s input, that can often be done by sending out meeting notes and slides after the fact — not everyone needs to be there on the call in order for them to be part of the process.
Think through the stakeholders for each meeting and decision, and invite only those people.
— Set an agenda and stick to it.
This rule also goes for most in-person meetings too, but is especially key on remote meetings where you can’t just lock people in the room with you until you’re done talking.
With a remote meeting, people are extra aware of the other things they could be doing with this time, so you need to let them know how you’ll be making the most of their 30-60 minutes.
Your meeting should have clear goals: what information do we need or need to share, what decisions have to be made, who are the key people who need to make those decisions?
Every meeting should have clear goals, so that it can have clear outcomes.
Once you’re in the meeting, the agenda also allows you to keep the conversation on track, so you can wrap up in a timely manner.
Having an agenda helps gives you a concrete guide to steer the conversation back on course, if someone gets too chatty.
It’s also a great tool for getting reticent clients to speak up about their opinions. Some people are uncomfortable giving feedback on the spot, but if you send an agenda, they will know ahead of that they’ll be expected to help make this-or-that decision and they’ll be primed to participate.
– Communicate expectations before and at the start of the meeting.
Once you have an agenda in place, you can help people prepare to be on top of their game and fully informed the moment they log onto the call by letting them know what you’ll need them to contribute and how they can get up to speed before the call.
We use Podio to collaborate and share progress with our clients, as it also allows them to see what we’re working on and add their own work to the project as we go along.
Storing all of your work in one accessible place (you can also use something ultra-simple, like a Google doc) allows people to preview and get up to speed on meeting topics so you can use your time for moving the conversation forward, not catching people up.
Once you’re on the call, remind people what the goals of the meeting are and where they can pull up any necessary documents or information. Again, this saves time listening to people click around looking for an answer while everyone is waiting on the call.