Managing remote meetings to maximise productivity seems like it’d just be a matter of mastering the technology. Surely if you learn the software, you’re all set?

Zoom, Bluejeans, Skype, Slack, Google Meet all help when managing remote meetings. But, which one do you prefer? They’ll all much of a muchness, right? With my technical writer or copywriter hat on, I’d disagree. But, the laywoman in me says they’re all doing pretty much the same thing – allowing us to appear to be in the same room, without being in the same room.

And, boy are we stressed about it! Why? Because, we’re mostly working from home where we usually relax. Yet, we must be presentable in case of a last minute conference call.

And, even if you were already almost 100% remote, like us, the number of remote meetings has increased. This blog post helps you tackle the challenges of the ‘always-on’ nature of remote meetings to ensure you maximise productivity in your team.

Remove Pesky & Bizarre Distractions

Have you ever attended a meeting and been distracted by someone acting oddly? I’ve attended work meetings where someone was perched at a dressing table with a messy bed right behind them taking up most of the screen. I also once attended a ‘webinar’ where the presenter walked around their home looking for random items seemingly unconnected with the call, laptop in hand – inducing vertigo in all who stayed on the call.

  • A sloppy backdrop suggests disrespect (intended or not) for other attendees. For the worst offenders, gently and privately suggest that they try a quieter, less distracting location.
  • There’s no doubt, seeing someone on screen is better than voice only team meetings. But, if someone is really uncomfortable being on screen, gently suggest that they be on screen every other time, until they get more used to it. And, turn a blind eye to the random person who occasionally stays on voice only.
  • “Mark, can you go on mute, please?” – I have a few suggestions to avoid this time-wasting rigmarole and prevent disorienting, cringeworthy instances of the meeting software randomly promoting coughers and rustlers to centre screen:
    • Assign someone else to set up the call and invite everyone. They can act as umpire during the call to mute absentminded fidgeters.
    • Switch the meeting settings so that everyone initially joins in mute mode. Encourage your team to reset their messaging settings to join meetings in mute mode, particularly if someone is presenting at the start. They can always switch their sound on and off later.
    • Alternatively, remind everyone to go on mute at the start of (or during) the meeting if they’re finished talking.
    • On larger meetings or webinars with over 20 people, make use of the software’s features if it allows people to ‘put a hand up’, to signal they have something to input. Alternatively, ask for questions using the software’s chat feature. This helps prevent people talking over one another, and means you can merge and select which questions to answer.

Share the Agenda and Stick with the Programme

Make sure all invited attendees know why they’re there. We’ve all been in those car-crash meetings where someone has been pulled in last minute, with no chance to prepare, think, get up to speed on the context or why they might be needed on the call, or even to straighten their fringe! Deliver the agenda, context and expectations in advance, so everyone knows whey they’re invited and is ready to contribute.

End Early to Avoid the Rats Leaving a Sinking Ship Feeling

To facilitate back to back meetings, hold them for 10 minutes less than usual to ensure people can take a break.

  • And, remember, if you doing most of the talking, the science suggests that people can only pay attention for a maximum of 10-20 minutes at a time.
  • Break up meetings with another speaker.
  • Introduce periodic discussions and questions.

Managing Remote Meetings

Managing remote meetings involves more than competent management and communication skills. Just like a workplace trainer who must manage agenda, expectations, the planned schedule, participation, contributors, other presenters, conflict and timings, meeting chairs must pay attention to all the details so that meetings neither go off the rails nor become tedious for attendees.

The latest science suggested that many teams can be just as productive working remotely as in the same physical workplace. When it comes to meetings, these tips should help you reduce the distractions and keep your team engaged and productive.

Debate and Read More

How do you make sure your meetings are productive? Let me know in a comment.

If you’re new to managing remote teams, read How to Motivate Remote Employees.

Photo by Mikey Harris on Unsplash