A significant portion of the workforce works remotely — but many people worry that they’ll miss out on key info and updates if they’re not in the office.
Remote meetings have their challenges, but with all of the resources and tools available, your employees won’t need to feel so stressed about missing something important — even if it’s team building or a catch-up session.
When you structure remote meetings effectively, everyone can be included, share ideas, and keep projects moving forward. And successfully running them means planning, laying out some ground rules, and sparking collaboration through your tools and processes.
What are remote meetings?
Remote meetings occur when a group of people in different physical locations meet virtually instead of in-person. Remote or online meetings have become increasingly common among distributed teams as a way to connect and collaborate without being in the same room.
Main challenges of remote meetings
Before you can set up productive virtual meetings, you need to understand your potential obstacles. Getting dozens of people with differing technical setups and abilities together in a remote meeting can pose some challenges.
And when you’re trying to get a large group of people to do, well, anything together, you’re likely going to run into some issues along the way.
According to Statista, 58% of people say that technical and software issues are their biggest difficulties with video meetings. When your team members are having video connection problems, it can delay the meeting. And if they’re having issues with their mics or volume settings, it can cause unnecessary interruptions.
It’s important for team members to understand their hardware and software features and functionality before logging on for a virtual meeting. Creating an internal wiki or FAQ page with common issues is helpful for self-guided troubleshooting.
Meeting and video fatigue
Meetings can be draining in any setting, but remote meetings are particularly so. A study by Stanford shows that the design of video chat platforms can physically and mentally exhaust users for four main reasons:
- Excessive, close-up eye contact: The amount of eye contact needed for video chats can cause anxiety for some. And attendees’ faces on video chats can seem unnaturally large, which can make things feel threatening to our primal minds.
- Constantly seeing oneself in real time: Having a little screen that shows how you appear at every moment of the meeting can be mentally draining. Add the fact that you could be in meetings all day, and you have a recipe for exhaustion.
- Reduced mobility. Due to the limited scope of visibility during videoconferencing, attendees’ motion is limited in ways that aren’t natural.
- Increased cognitive load: In a face-to-face interaction, we gesture and interpret body language subconsciously. In a virtual environment, we have to actually think about our nonverbal communication and how it’s being perceived.
When you’re holding a video conference call — especially across time zones — it’s crucial to optimize every moment for efficiency. But this doesn’t come at the expense of attendees’ comfort. Talk to your team about tactics they can use to minimize fatigue during remote meetings: using an external keyboard to create a more natural distance from the camera, giving themselves “audio only” breaks, and using the “hide self-view” feature in their meeting software.
Distractions and multitasking
While even in-person meetings can be filled with distractions, remote meetings have unique challenges. Because teams are distributed and/or working remotely, it’s easier than ever to use meetings as a way to get more work done, use your phone, or even get some quick household chores done.
By giving remote teams collaborative tasks — especially ones they can accomplish within a visual platform — they’re more likely to stay engaged.
The benefits of remote meetings
Virtual meetings provide team members with the chance to connect no matter where they’re located. Meeting remotely keeps projects moving forward and key information flowing so that teams can stay productive from anywhere.
Remote meetings can be more focused and efficient. Participants often come prepared, and the absence of in-person distractions can lead to more productive discussions. In a remote meeting setting, most attendees already have an agenda or idea of what to expect, so they can jump right into their tasks.
Participants can join remote meetings from anywhere with an internet connection, allowing for greater flexibility in terms of scheduling and accommodating different time zones.
Ease of collaboration
When all team members are working from a shared space — a platform, tool, or software — it’s easier for them to view and contribute ideas, updates, and supporting information.
5 best practices to get the most out of your remote meetings
To see all of the benefits of remote meetings and keep your team productive and efficient, you’ll need to do more than just schedule a time to meet and include a Zoom or Teams link. Effective meetings are about keeping everyone aligned and in the loop about expectations and progress.
1. Create and share a meeting agenda
Remote meetings need clear agendas so that attendees can prepare in advance and understand what they’ll get out of the meeting. Before the meeting starts, build an agenda that outlines what your meeting will cover, what attendees need to do to prepare, and what they can expect to accomplish by the end.
A good agenda includes:
- The purpose of the meeting (i.e., an objective)
- Time blocked out for a discussion or Q&A with attendees
- Task completion timelines
- Next steps (i.e., calls to action)
Make sure you give attendees the agenda ahead of time, so they come prepared with questions or specific action items to discuss during the meeting. A clear roadmap is important to keep your team aligned — especially when remote workers are trying to make the most of shared time. One way you can easily share your agenda is by including it within the meeting invite so attendees can access it quickly.
2. Choose the right tools for your type of meeting
Every meeting is different. You’ll have different goals for a product ideation session compared to your weekly team meeting, and both of those will be different from a quarterly update to company leadership. It’s not just the content of the meeting that'll change but also the tools you'll need to work effectively with your fellow attendees.
During virtual meetings, everyone is on their own screen in their own location, not sitting in a conference room or working together using a physical whiteboard. So you need to make sure your digital tools are designed to facilitate communication and collaboration.
We recommend using tools that can help facilitate remote meetings and improve alignment with the team. That (among other reasons) is why we use Mural, since it allows teams to collaborate and share ideas in real time.
Mural also offers templates that help your team quickly get started on the part of the meeting that matters:
3. Set ground rules on meeting etiquette
We’ve all been on remote calls in which the speaker is constantly interrupted by a side conversation or ringing doorbell. Or maybe it goes in the other direction, and you find yourself caught in an awkward silence at the beginning of a meeting.
Although “meeting rules” may sound a bit extreme, establishing etiquette expectations can be helpful to keep things running smoothly. Meeting guidelines limit confusion and interruptions and help teammates connect efficiently.
Figure out what works best for your team and put some rules into place. A few to consider:
- Ask attendees to keep their mics off unless they’re speaking.
- While people are joining the meeting or once everyone has logged in, have someone volunteer to introduce themselves or say hello — then use “popcorn style,” where the current speaker chooses the next speaker to keep it moving. This helps set an energetic pace, establishes a connection, and lets everyone know who is participating.
- If attendees are experiencing camera fatigue, allow them to turn their video off. If there’s a crucial moment during the meeting where teammates need to be on, make sure you let them know beforehand when to expect this.
Related: Virtual meeting etiquette: best practices for attendees
4. Assign a facilitator to keep team members engaged
In a remote setting, you want your time together to feel valuable and structured. Facilitators help keep everyone focused and on-task. They also help to ensure that all attendees’ voices are heard throughout the meeting.
Facilitators can go over the rules of etiquette and, if needed, “enforce” them throughout the remote meeting to help prevent interruptions. They can also make sure everyone has an agenda and that your team sticks to it during the meeting so nothing slips through the cracks.
Your facilitator can also keep online meetings balanced, allotting time for updates, brainstorms, and discussions. They’re in charge of looking out for virtual raised hands and can use tools like voting to gather feedback.
5. Share clear next steps after the meeting
During the remote meeting, your team will likely make decisions about upcoming action items. And what happens after the meeting is just as important as what happens during it. Your team members need to understand their responsibilities moving forward, especially in a remote environment.
Before the meeting concludes, quickly summarize your team members’ calls to action. Assign specific roles and deadlines to individual employees or groups.
Once the meeting ends, the host, facilitator, or project manager can send out a follow-up recap that breaks down each team member’s tasks or workflow. It’s also a good idea at this time to reiterate the team’s goals and what you expect them to accomplish collectively by the next meeting.
Collaboration is key to remote meetings
Team collaboration is at the heart of effective virtual meetings. Since team members don’t see each other at the water cooler or face-to-face to discuss projects, time together in one space is valuable and shouldn’t be wasted. Remote meetings need to be structured, and participants need to be able to collaborate effectively to stay engaged.
Mural’s template library and meeting resources can help your team stay on task and connected. Our platform helps your team make visible progress — every time you get together.