How to Lead Better Remote Meetings

Have you ever considered how much time you spend in meetings each day? Attentiv reports that Americans hold approximately 11 million meetings per day, with an average length between 31 to 60 minutes. As the COVID-19 pandemic drove teams away from the office, employers had to adapt to remote meetings. And video calls and phone conferences replaced many in-person interactions.

The problem is that 33.4 percent of meetings are considered unproductive, according to the same report. Leading an effective meeting is a skill, and so is leading an effective remote meeting.

How to Lead Better Remote Meetings

Five tips and tricks

If you find your meetings feel unproductive or ineffective, use these best practices to get them back on track once and for all. Some of them are tips & tricks that work well for all types of meetings, face-to-face and remote, while there are others specifically crafted for virtual interaction.

It’s OK to forgo video calls

Zoom meetings became a significant part of the Coronavirus pandemic, with daytime talk shows using the tool to broadcast remotely and employees buying Zoom shirts to look professional while staying in their pajamas.

However, you don’t necessarily have to use the video function of your communications software. In fact, it might be more productive if you simply use the call-in option.

Reporting for the BBC, Manyu Jiang shared data explaining why video calls are exhausting: a video conferencing delay of just 1.2 seconds can make people perceive respondents as less friendly or focused.

In a workplace setting, this creates stress as employees try to keep the attention of managers when discussing issues. Conversely, vendors might feel pressured to negotiate with a seemingly-unfriendly client or freelancers may feel like they need to prove themselves to keep the client engaged. Opting for phone conferencing is less stressful for the entire team and might lead to better outcomes.

Develop company-wide best practices

In the early days of the pandemic, service providers worldwide reported a many-fold increase in virtual meetings. Companies that didn’t use video tools or have remote workers were left trying to navigate this new way of collaboration.

If you plan to keep some workers remote through 2021 or permanently, now is the time to end the Wild West of Remote Meetings and create a set of guidelines for your team.

For example, develop processes for your employees in regard to using different meeting platforms, sharing links to meetings, and inviting team members. For example, you may initiate a required pre-meeting breakdown, including what the meeting is about, why it’s important, and what attendees will walk away with.

Test out meeting moderators

A meeting moderator is someone who keeps everyone on topic and on track with time. For example, if an agenda item should take 10 minutes to discuss, the moderator prevents the topic from exceeding that time limit. A moderator will also ensure that each person who wants to speak is able to, since a challenge with remote teams is that it’s easy to talk over others.

Consider designating a moderator to lead each meeting. This should be someone who is already planning to attend but not the most senior manager or stakeholder. These moderators can keep meetings on track and help everyone feel heard.

Adapt the frequency and duration

The pandemic didn’t just change where teams meet, it also influenced when and how they do it. A report from the National Bureau of Economic Research, which looked at email and calendar data of 3 million workers, found that the average meeting length decreased by 20 percent through the pandemic. What’s more, the average number of daily meetings rose from 5.9 meetings per day pre-pandemic to 6.9 meetings now.

Could your team benefit from shorter meetings that are also more frequent? A shorter meeting can focus on one key topic and only involve the people affected, freeing up time for employees who don’t want to sit through an hour-long meeting to cover a 10-minute topic. Creating standards for meeting lengths and agendas could make your employees more agile and productive over time.  

Respect the time resource

No one likes it when an in-person meeting runs long, and the same concept applies to remote teams. Just because your employees have nowhere to go due to the pandemic doesn’t mean they want to sit on a call for 10 or 15 minutes longer than is needed. These extended meetings can cut into productivity or cause your employees to make up that time at the end of the day, which in turn, affects their work-life balance. 

A 10-minute spill-over might not seem like much, but when employees attend seven meetings per day, that’s more than an hour of time lost. Respect the time of your team members and clients and strive to end the meeting when scheduled.

Keep working to improve

As remote meetings increasingly become staples of the modern workplace, focus on improving the experience for your employees, managers, and customers. Take feedback from people on the meeting process and look for ways to improve how you collaborate.

Over time, these meetings should feel more natural and provide the same productivity as the ones you held in-person.

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