Remote and Hybrid Team Meeting Tips

“Remote work is now an established part of the ‘new normal,’ but after a year of working from home, many still struggle with it.”  – Chris Dyer, Remote Work Expert

Most of us, by now, have learned that success in remote and/or hybrid work environments is about much more than sending people home with a laptop. Decision-making, collaboration, meeting management, employee motivation and engagement must be handled differently in a virtual environment.

To excel in this environment, our Leadership Coaches urge executives and leaders to take a deliberate approach to creating success. Surprisingly to some of us, remote and hybrid models create the potential for meetings to be more efficient and less time-consuming. To make sure that you’re able to run remote meetings effectively and make your virtual meetings engaging, we have created a list of remote meeting tips to optimize remote (and hybrid) meetings.

Set and Don’t Forget the Remote Meeting Ground Rules

  • Create, communicate, and hold participants accountable for remote meeting ground rules. (e.g., tardiness, conversational courtesies, how to prevent pet interruptions).
  • Don’t allow multi-tasking. Everyone needs to pay attention to the person talking.
  • Encourage participants to appear onscreen for most videoconferences, but allow for no-video days as well. 
  • As meeting leader, you should appear on video at least 90% of each meeting.

Prepare for the Meeting

  • With remote or hybrid meetings, it’s even more important to have and follow an agenda than it is for an in-person meeting.
  • The majority of your agenda items should have a goal.
  • Prior to the meeting, ask participants for topics to add to the agenda.
  • Let participants know what type of meeting it will be and send a meeting agenda out prior to the meeting (e.g., Problem Solving, Decision-Making, Check In, Competitor Review, Customer-Focused, Big Picture, Information Sharing, Team Building). 
  • Get attendees to commit to reading the agenda prior to the meeting.
  • Require participants to come prepared.
  • Provide relevant and pertinent documents before the call.
  • Create a list of required pre-read documents, so that participants don’t spend meeting time getting informed, and can focus on problem-solving and decision-making.

Keep Remote Meetings Simple, Short, and Fun

  • Schedule meetings in the morning, if possible (most people are more energetic in the morning).
  • Select a narrow scope for remote meetings so that they stay focused and short.
  • Use shorter meetings more frequently rather than long meetings.
  • Let meetings end early. Don’t fill the allotted meeting time just for the sake of it. 
  • Stick to the agenda to keep meetings on track.
  • Minimize the length of your presentations.
  • Break large topics up into pieces and have each team member present part of the information. This will create ownership and engagement variety for the participants.
  • Keep the meeting moving and lively. Participants are more likely to get bored during remote meetings than in-person meetings. 
  • Make the meeting a conversation rather than a lecture.
  • Assign a timekeeper to keep the meeting on track.

Virtual Meeting Best Practices

  • When you ask a question, wait longer for a response than you normally would. Participants are even more likely to feel reluctant to speak in a remote meeting.
  • If it is a large meeting or there’s background noise, ask participants to stay on mute until they have something to add to the discussion.
  • Be prepared to articulate your feelings. It’s harder for remote participants to read your emotions from your facial expressions, body language, or tone of voice.
  • Give participants short breaks to stand up and stretch.
  • Ask your team for remote meeting best practices and implement them.
  • Invite an expert (or experts) to your meeting and encourage your team to ask them questions.

Reduce the Number of Participants to Optimize Remote Meetings

  • Ensure teams are of optimal size. If possible, aim for 5 to 9 participants.
  • The fewer participants there are in a remote meeting, the more balanced the participation will be. 
  • Having less attendees for remote meetings is more manageable. One way to limit attendees is to identify topics that can be handled by sub-teams that report back to the main team.
  • Try having participants attend only for topics that impact them or need their expertise (that is, not everyone needs to be there for the whole meeting).

Small Steps for Remote Team Building

  • Be prepared to articulate your feelings. It’s harder for remote participants to read your emotions from your facial expressions, body language, or tone of voice.
  • Make remote meetings as interactive as possible to keep the participants engaged.
  • Use an icebreaker to warm participants up to participate and add some fun to the meeting.
  • Set aside time for small talk to build the relationships within the team or group.
  • Post the list of attendees on the screen, so that everyone knows who is there.
  • Scroll through the participant screens to see how they’re reacting to the topic and adjust your approach as needed. Are they, anxious, disengaged, frustrated, happy? 
  • Keep a checklist of the names of the participants in front of you, so that you can create balanced participation by calling on quiet attendees by name.
  • Create a batting order (the order that you’ll call on people) to ensure participation open to all and to make participation less time-consuming. Even if a participant doesn’t have anything to add, this will keep them on their toes.
  • Intervene when a participant dominates the conversation. (e.g., “Now let’s hear from the rest of the team.”)
  • Give topics to your team members to present, so that you’re not the only presenter of information (“variety is the spice of life”).
  • At the end of the meeting, seek feedback from the participants by asking “What should we start doing?” and “What should we stop doing?” in these meetings (Plus/Delta).
  • Use survey tools to gather feedback on how the meetings are going.

Remote Meeting Decision-Making

  • Use polls to check to see if the team is close to making a decision.
  • Use decision-making tools, such as voting, multi-voting, consensus decision-making, adaptive, Fist to 5, etc. 
  • Use the polls / surveys feature, raise your hand feature, chat feature, or a verbal round robin to gather votes on decisions.

Effective Remote Meeting Management

  • Ask participants if they can hear you at the beginning of the meeting.
  • Provide brief recaps of information presented or decisions made throughout the meeting to ensure that participants have absorbed critical information (check for understanding).
  • Record remote meetings and make them available to attendees – this gives everyone a chance to stay informed. (But ensure all participants agree to be recorded.) 
  • Ensure all action items are documented, assigned to a responsible party, and have a due date.
  • At the end of the meeting, outline next steps (including timing and accountabilities).
  • Highlight each party’s specific action items to support action completion.

Leverage Remote Meeting Platform Functions (Microsoft Teams, Zoom, GoTo Meeting)

  •  The Chat Window
    • Have participants vote on decisions in the chat window.
    • Encourage team members to use the chat to add to the discussion.
    • Ask team members to add documents and links to the chat so that everyone can access them.
  • Raise-Your-Hand Feature
    • Use raise-your-hand to manage Q&A, especially with a large group.
    • Use raise-your-hand to give participants a way to get into the conversation.
  • Breakout Rooms
    • Use breakout rooms to make it easier for all participants to join in the discussion and air their views, and then have each breakout room report on the opinions of the group.
    • Use breakout rooms to give participants a chance to talk one-on-one and dig into details.
    • Visit breakout rooms to ensure the participants are clear on their assignment and to get a feel for what each group is discussing.
  • Cohosting/Facilitating
    • Assign a cohost to handle the technical side of the call (watching for chat comments or raised hands, launching polls, assigning break out rooms, recording the meeting, placing essential information in the chat, addressing technical problems, etc.).
    • Assign a skilled facilitator to help keep the meeting on track.
    • Hire an outside facilitator for important meetings (e.g., business strategy meetings).
  • Polls/Surveys
    • Use polls to vote on decisions during the meeting. Prepare polls ahead of time to check on how the group is leaning on a decision.
    • Make sure your facilitator is prepared to create polls on the fly as needed.

Hybrid Meeting Tips

  • At the beginning of the meeting, make sure off-site participants can hear on-site participants and vice versa.
  • Ensure that in-person participants don’t dominate the conversation. Call on remote participants regularly so that they have a chance to add their thoughts.
  • When possible, have on-site participants join by phone or join online from their desk so that all participants can see and hear each other.
  • In meetings with speaker phone, for off-site and on-site participants, ensure all participants can hear each other.
  • Give off-site participants a chance to communicate visually as well as auditorily by doing video meetings rather than having participants on speaker phone.

Personal Branding for Video Meetings

  • Dress professionally.
  • Don’t slouch in your chair.
  • Don’t chew gum.
  • Ensure your background looks professional.
  • Establish a “no fly zone” for kids and pets during remote meetings.
  • Deliberately position yourself so that your body language and facial expressions can be easily seen. 
  • Stand or sit at an acute angle to the camera, replicating the optimal seating position in a face-to-face meeting.
  • Put some distance between you and the camera to create a more visually 3D space.
  • When others talk, look them in the eyes as you would if you were face to face. (Carefully position your camera and the participant screens so that it’s natural to look into it the camera and at the other speakers).
  • Demonstrate that you are focused. Turn off phone notifications and avoid looking at email or other documents. Avoid behaviors like tapping a pen, staring off into space or out the window, and looking around the room you are in.
  • Don’t forget to wear pants!

You can start taking advantage of these remote meeting tips by identifying a handful that seem most relevant to your organization or start working on a specific section of the list. It may also be fruitful to check in with your team, perhaps by using SurveyMonkey, to find out what the team feels is and is not working.

Keep this checklist handy and watch for future posts. We’ll go into more detail about the different strategies, including some suggestions, from our Executive and Leadership Coaches, for implementing these ideas.

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With Our Consultations Coach: Vicki Rich, MBA, ACC(BIO)
With Our Consultations Coach: Vicki Rich, MBA, ACC