We've all muddled through online meetings that are riddled with glitches in technology, audio lags resulting in people talking over each other, or unable to connect altogether. Sometimes remote meetings can result in a chaotic mess. Here are a few tips that can help ease remote meeting growing pains:
- Choose an Appropriate Platform
There are hundreds of conferencing and collaboration options available to businesses, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom or Google Hangouts. You'll want to choose a tool based on the needs of your organization and your specific team members. Evaluate your options whenever possible, in terms of ease of use, connection reliability and accessibility.
- Designate a Meeting Leader
Remote conferencing has different demands than live meetings, which tend to flow based on immediate feedback, body language and other in-person subtleties. Things tend to flow much smoother when a specific person is put in control. He or she will be asking the questions, directing the conversation, and (when necessary) muting people to maintain productivity
- Set a Clear Agenda
Its always been important to set a clear agenda for your meetings, but even more important when meeting remotely. Save time and cut the fluff by giving each meeting a specific purpose. What specific questions are you trying to answer? Which problems are you going to solve by the end of this discussion? Make sure each meeting attendant understands these functions before the meeting begins, and make sure everyone understands his or her role in reaching these goals.
- Minimize Attendance
One of the most obvious ways to cut down on chaos in remote meetings is to keep the attendance minimal. Remember each person invited to a meeting is another variable, another voice to potentially disrupt the meeting's brevity and flow. Before inviting a new person, ask yourself: What is this person going to bring to the table? Why is this person, specifically, necessary to the discussion? If you want more people informed by the meeting, rather than actively participating in it, you can send a recording of the meeting after the fact.
- Encourage Muting
There are mixed opinions on the notion of muting during conference calls. Muting does cut down on background noise and reduces the possibility of an erroneous slip. On the other hand, excessive personal muting can stifle the natural spontaneity of conversation. If each meeting participant is vigilant about controlling his or her personal muting, meetings can generally run much smoother.
Perfecting the art of virtual meetings is something that takes time and practice. Your first team conference call is probably going to be a mess, and as you experiment with new tools and techniques, you’ll likely find dozens of strategies that don’t work (or make things actively worse). It’s important to remain patient and optimistic, trying new approaches and evaluating them for productivity and effectiveness. In time, your teammates will move past the chaos to make the most of meetings — even when they’re not together.
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