How to Work Remote and Host Virtual Meetings
In a time when we want to be mindful of our community’s health, many colleagues may be working remotely and joining meetings virtually. If connecting online is new for you or you’re coordinating with colleagues who are new to remote work, this post will help you get the most out of your meetings and collaborate effectively.
Connecting remotely is a critical skill.
Most people prefer face-to-face meetings. When you’re in the same room, conversations tend to be more engaging and effective at building trust. The tone of a person’s voice is easier to hear; eye contact, facial expressions, and body language are all visible; props like whiteboards and sticky notes can help you describe an idea visually.... The list goes on.
When you make the switch to online work, these communication channels can be compromised. But, if you can master remote meetings, you’ll be a better communicator overall. Plus, you'll be able to engage in a broader range of projects and professional networking.
First off, if you’re working remotely, make sure your team know how and when to reach you. Be clear about when you’re online and available or if you’re away from your desk for an extended period of time. If your company uses a chat tool like Slack, you can set your status to "Away" or something more descriptive, like “Lunch Break.”
It’s not just your status. You’ll be dependent on several tools to connect with your team from afar. From chatting and video conferencing to sharing live-screens and collaborative documents, you need to be fluent in your company's tech stack.
Wasting time with setup and connection issues takes away from getting real work done. If you’re not familiar with your company’s tools, take the time to do an online tutorial or read a help guide. You should know how to share collaborative access to a document, toggle your audio and video 'on' and 'off' in a video call, and share your screen. If you plan on meeting with people outside of your organization, double-check that they are familiar with the same tools you use or figure out a compatible platform that makes sense for both parties.
Pro Tip: Confirm the video conferencing tool ahead of calls with external partners. Some companies block unapproved tools for security purposes, and the worst thing you can do is start a virtual meeting with troubleshooting software.
Remote 1:1’s and group meetings
The key to a productive virtual meeting is all in the setup. Create an agenda with a meeting objective and collect any supplementary documents. Include these in the calendar invite so attendee(s) can come to the meeting prepared. If there is a lot of pre-work required for the meeting or if it’s with an external partner, we recommend sending a reminder email to confirm the details.
Before your meeting begins, make sure you are in a quiet setting. Think about where you are going to position your camera and ensure your video has a simple background and that you are well lit. Turn your camera on and be ready to mute/unmute when you speak.
Pro Tip: If one person is remote, everyone is remote. To create an equal experience for everyone, have all attendees call in (even if they are in the same room), so people are speaking into their cameras and speaking into their microphones. People who are remote won’t miss a beat.
You should always be the first person to join your own meeting. Be friendly and greet people as they enter the call. Non-work talk is highly encouraged to give people a chance to be social and connect in a similar way to an in-person meeting.
If the attendees are unfamiliar with each other, have everyone introduce themselves and provide a little background on their role and objectives. Then, review the agenda, especially if it’s a long meeting.
Throughout the conversation, be an active listener, keep your body language open, and engage in conversation. If the meeting is someone merely reading a report, people will wish you had just sent out an email instead. If the conversation gets stuck in a flat question-answer, question-answer rut, people will start to disengage. Be sure to respond to questions and answers and expand on key insights and ideas. Meetings are for collaborative work, so be collaborative!
Bonus Points: If you’re a visual thinker or you’re meeting with colleagues who are, have a notepad by your side so you can draw out ideas and upload to the group chat. If the video conferencing tool you're using allows you to invert the screen, you can show the drawing to the camera directly.
Finish your meeting by summarizing the conversation and listing action items and owners. Repeat this all in an email or group chat so everyone has access to the same takeaways and can continue the conversation as a group. Documentation and repetition are critical to making sure everyone is on the same page at the end of a meeting. This is especially important if the meeting format is new to some of the attendees.
Just go with it
If this is your first experience calling into a meeting, you’re almost guaranteed to find it awkward. Embrace it and laugh it off. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to connect with colleagues. In fact, when working remotely it's even more important to make an effort and reach out to colleagues for collaboration, or even just a chat. Once you remove distance as a barrier to connection, you’ll open yourself up to countless more opportunities. So connect your head phones, turn your camera on, and dial-in—you're going to nail that meeting!