Guideline for Remote Meetings

While remote meetings allow you to bridge the distance between distributed workers, attendees may still feel isolated, disengaged and separated from the team if the meetings aren’t set up properly. All of the points listed here are common sense, but still, all of them are disregarded at times. This guideline is meant to remind you of a few things to keep in mind.

In the conference room

1. Set up conference microphones suitable for the number of attendees.

You want to make sure that the audio is clear and everyone in the room can be understood by the remote attendees.

2. Ensure that the attendees are distributed evenly around the microphones.

The best microphone is of no use if only attendees on one side of the table can be heard.

3. Set up a camera that captures all attendees.

Using a single laptop camera directed at the meeting facilitator is not enough. A camera that captures all attendees helps everyone who joins remotely to see who is attending the meeting, who is talking and whatever is going on in the meeting room. Think about someone looking for something in their notes. If you can see it, you know. If you don’t, you wonder why nothing is happening anymore.

Make sure that nobody sits outside of the picture frame. If remote attendees don’t see you, they may assume you are not there and be surprised or even startled when they suddenly hear your voice from the off.

4. Set up a big screen to display the video of the remote attendees and the screen shares.

This is the other side of the previous point. It is easy to forget that there is someone joining remotely if you cannot see them. If they are visible on the screen, you are more likely to directly address them and ask for their opinion.

5. Ensure that all attendees can see the screen.

Again, it doesn’t help if only the meeting facilitator can see the video.

6. Ensure that the internet connection is sufficient.

This is obvious but still worth mentioning. It is difficult to have a meeting if you have to deal with audio artefacts, grainy stop-and-go video and audio dropouts.

7. Set up the equipment before the start of the meeting.

Don’t waste anybody’s time by searching for adapters, cables and video conference IDs just when the meeting is supposed to start.

As lonely remote attendee

8. Use a decent microphone, consider headphones or a headset.

If you use a low-quality laptop microphone, you will be hard to understand. Using headphones or a headset can alleviate problems with echos and feedback loops.

9. Turn on the camera.

This helps other attendees to remember that you are there, gauge your reactions and create a sense of nearness.

10. Mute the audio when there is background noise or when you cause noise.

Background noise transmitted through the microphone makes everything harder to understand. Also, there is no need to transmit coughs, sneezes or noises from drinking or arranging items on your desk. Don’t breath into the microphone.

11. Ensure that the internet connection is sufficient.

Same as in the previous section.

12. Join the meeting from a room.

Don’t join a meeting while walking through the city. Be aware of your background. Nobody needs to see the laundry on your bed.

Conducting the meeting

Most of these points are valid for on-site meetings as well, but it’s still worth mentioning them.

13. Prepare the meeting.

Don’t try to figure out what to do during the meeting. Have your notes, documents and tools ready.

This allows everyone to join on time without asking for the meeting ID.

15. Supply a meeting agenda ahead of time.

Give everyone the chance to think about the topic in advance, gather their notes or jot down questions. Use the description of the calendar event to state the goal, list the agenda points and add links to relevant documents and further information.

16. Invite the right people.

Make sure to only invite the people you need. If you need someone only for some of the agenda points, move those topics to the beginning of the meeting and let them leave when you move on to the remaining topics.

17. RSVP to all calendar invitations.

This lets the organiser know who attends the meeting ahead of time and reschedule if necessary. It also helps to avoid waisting time at the beginning of the meeting for figuring out whether someone will still join or not.

18. Ensure that there is a facilitator who leads the meeting.

There should be someone responsible for leading through the agenda, moderating the discussions and keeping the meeting on topic. This person should also make sure that there is a conclusion to each topic and that the next steps are clearly named. Of course, this responsibility doesn’t need to lie with a single person. You can always have dedicated facilitators for different agenda points.

19. Ensure that there is someone who writes meeting notes.

Put the salient points as well as the decisions and tasks emerging from the meeting in writing.

20. Be on time.

Be on time!

21. Start the meeting on time.

Don’t wait another ten minutes until the last attendee has joined.

22. Clearly start the meeting.

Don’t move seamlessly from chit-chat right into the topic. Say welcome, state the goal of the meeting, say who is attending, then start with the first topic.

23. Acknowledge the attendees

Say hello to anybody who joins the meeting. If you have a conference room full of people and some lonely remote attendees, it is easy for remote attendees to feel like outsiders and to fall into a passive role. Make them feel part of the team. Ask for their opinion. Try to engage them.

24. Don’t silently join the meeting.

Say hello when you join the meeting. Even when you’re late. If you join at a moment where you cannot interrupt, use the first opportunity to say hello.

25. Share your screen.

Whenever you talk about something that you see on your screen, make sure to share it so that everybody can follow.

26. Don’t use a whiteboard.

Whiteboard, flip chart or sticky note drawings are hard to recognise via video stream. There are online-collaboration tools for everything. If on the other hand you conduct a pure on-site meeting, by all means, use all the low-tech tools you have.

27. End the meeting on time.

Learn to use the meeting time efficiently and don’t use more time for the meeting than was scheduled. If there is still more to discuss at the end of the meeting, add a remark in the meeting notes and schedule another, perhaps more focused meeting on another day.

If you are in a conference room, end a few minutes before the next scheduled meeting in the room so that you have time to pack up and so that the next meeting party has time to set up.

28. Clearly end the meeting.

Don’t mumble into your beard that the meeting is over and let the meeting devolve into chit-chat, letting the remote attendees wonder whether there is something else to come. Wrap up, thank everyone, say bye to the remote attendees and end the meeting.

Don’t let the meeting notes rot on your computer. Make them available to all attendees and everyone interested. Notify the attendees when they are available. Ask them to read them through for correctness and to add missing points, corrections or clarifications if necessary.

originally published on Medium