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How To Make Remote Meetings Productive and Engaging

How To Make Remote Meetings Productive and Engaging
How To Make Remote Meetings Productive and Engaging

How To Make Remote Meetings Productive and Engaging

Remote or virtual meetings have become common in most workplaces. They conveniently bring employees together from vastly different regions, saving both time and money.

However, there are definite challenges that pose a threat to the productivity and engagement of a remote meeting. Is there a way to overcome screen fatigue, lack of engagement, and feeling unaccomplished after a remote meeting?

Keep reading for tips on what to do before, during, and after your meeting.

Before The Meeting

  • Begin with the end in mind. Every meeting should have a well-defined goal. Is the goal to offer training to employees, brainstorm as a team, or collect feedback about a company policy? If the goal is simply to relay information, is a meeting even necessary? Perhaps an email, newsletter, or post on the company’s social media page would be a better option. If a virtual meeting is the best option to relay your message, consider who should be invited. Attendees will quickly become disconnected in a meeting if the content has little to no impact on their job function.
  • Share Your Agenda. In times of uncertainty, employees can become anxious when invited to a meeting, if they don’t know the purpose of that meeting. Sharing your agenda offers transparency and allows them time to process what will be discussed. If you plan to brainstorm as a team, you can encourage everyone to come prepared with ideas on the given subject. This best practice also ensures that you get the best thinking from your team and allows all to contribute.
  • Plan for Interaction. As the facilitator, you can build interaction into your meeting. For example, if you want to brainstorm as a team, you can use a Whiteboard tool that allows everyone to add their ideas to the board simultaneously. Breakout rooms are great for smaller groups to share their expertise, role-play, or problem-solve. The chat feature can also be leveraged to encourage timid or inexperienced employees to share their thoughts with the rest of the group. If you decide to use any of these features, it’s a good idea to have a co-facilitator or producer available to assist, so you can stay focused on running the meeting.

Manager Tips For Working With A Remote Staff

During The Meeting

  • Set expectations. Before the meeting begins, aligning expectations by reviewing the agenda is important. Remind them what the purpose or goal of the meeting is right from the start. Let them know how much you value their engagement and demonstrate how you would like for them to participate (i.e., raise their virtual hand). Your agenda should include a segment for Q&A, and if you have a lot of content to cover, it’s best that you wait until that segment to answer questions. It’s also helpful to assign someone ahead of time to take notes that will be used as a reference after the meeting.
  • Stay connected to your audience. “Technologies are only useful to the degree that they make things clearer and more memorable and strengthen the human-to-human connection.” (Garr Reynolds, Presentation Zen). PowerPoint and other slide design software should be used to enhance what a speaker is saying, not overpower them. If you decide to use a visual aid, keep it simple and straightforward so you don’t lose your audience. Our attention span is shorter when we’re in virtual meetings, so to keep everyone engaged, it’s best to avoid reading slides or overcrowding slides with many words or images. Also, consider adding short breaks to give your attendees a chance to step away from the screen, grab a coffee, etc. These short, well-timed breaks will go a long way in reducing screen fatigue.
  • Manage Interactions. Have you ever been in a meeting where one person seems to be dominating the conversation? I know I have, and it’s not a pleasant experience. If I’m honest, I also know I have been that talkative person in a meeting. As the facilitator, your goal is to make sure that everyone feels psychologically safe and free to participate. You don’t want to discourage anyone from commenting or sharing their ideas, but it’s important to gather diverse perspectives from a variety of team members. The raise hand feature is a fantastic tool if implemented at the start of the meeting. It allows you to stay in control of who speaks, and in what order they speak. Another technique is to ask for feedback from a specific department or group within your organization. You can also assign specific people to be the spokesperson for their group to encourage their engagement.

After the Meeting

  • Follow Up Promptly. After the meeting is over, and preferably on the same day, send a follow-up email with a brief recap of what was discussed. If the meeting was recorded, be sure to send the recording to the team, in case someone was unable to attend. Make sure any action steps, deadlines, and deliverables are clearly outlined, as well as the person responsible for each. Also, provide access to any documents or collaborative materials; making these items easy to retrieve will eliminate frustration and improve workflow. Lastly, consider sending out a brief (anonymous) survey to get feedback on the meeting. Asking for suggestions and acting on those suggestions builds trust and will lead to future engagement during virtual meetings.

The next time you plan a remote meeting, consider the three facets just discussed: what needs to be done before, during, and after the meeting. This might feel like a lot of planning, but it’s necessary to keep your remote meetings both engaging and productive.

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Danielle Alleyne
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