There are fewer things in the workplace that are worse than meetings that are poorly planned, seem unnecessary, and sap your time, time which could be better spent on getting your work done. Most of us have felt this pain and if you can relate, you are not alone. Meetings take up an ever-increasing amount of employees’ time and are a big contributor to the lengthier modern workday.

Ineffective Meetings Discourage Employees

Although meetings can be a very useful process for connecting colleagues, sharing useful strategy, and getting things done, poorly run meetings can hinder productivity and reduce morale—there are plenty of research studies that have demonstrated this.

For example, a 2017 report by Harvard Business Review revealed that more than 70 percent of the 182 senior managers surveyed agreed that their meetings are unproductive, inefficient, keep them from completing their own work (85 percent) and miss opportunities to bring the team closer together (62 percent). 

Now that much of the workforce has gone remote due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, more meetings are taking place than ever before. For many organizations, they have become an essential part of the daily workflow and, in many cases, are the only way of communicating with teams. As such, it is important that these meetings are being done right.

Making the Most of Your Remote Meetings

With remote meetings, however, a whole set of different rules and standards apply. You need to think of a remote meeting as any other regular meeting but without the ability to clearly see and hear everyone. Unfortunately, it is natural for those present to, for want of a better way of putting it, take them less seriously because of this. So how are you meant to conduct a remote meeting without the clarity of face-to-face contact?

To help you iron out the kinks and smooth the process of your remote meetings, we have collated a short list of tips—the ‘golden rules’ of remote meetings—to help you engage employees and conduct relevant, necessary sessions.

Plan the Agenda

Bringing everybody together for a meeting takes effort but bringing people together for a remote meeting requires more. Waiting around for people to join and resolving technical problems are just a few of the extra processes that eat up precious time. So, do not waste time during the meeting itself. Have a pre-planned agenda with specific items to cover and stick to it. If you can, share the agenda ahead of time to those who will be participating.

Develop and Circulate the Rules

Meetings that are uncontrolled (or worse, uncontrollable) do not help your team be productive nor creative. Usually, they lead to everybody talking over each other at once which can bring on conflict and stress. To avoid this, set up the rules of the road well before the meeting and circulate it to those attending. These rules can include things like what participants should do if they want to speak, for instance.

Invite the Right People

Although it is relatively easy to hold a regular meeting with lots of people, the same can’t be said for remote meetings. This is due to the capabilities of the technology involved and the fact that it is more difficult for people to contribute clearly and without talking over someone else. When planning your meeting, make sure that you are only involving people that need to be there, such as key people from a certain department or specific teams. Org charts are great for helping plan meetings in this respect because they give a visual representation of who’s who and what role they play.

Delegate Responsibilities and Roles

Not everybody attending needs to have a role, however, there should be people present who have something to do. Roles like facilitator, timekeeper, and scribe are all ones that need to be filled, especially during a recurring meeting that takes place regularly. This not only facilitates order but also lets team members play their part in helping “run” the meeting which boosts engagement.

Ask Participants to Contribute

Unfortunately, many meetings follow a format where one person just talks to a room full of people for 60 minutes before dismissing them. This is a terrible meeting format and does nothing for engagement, nor does it allow other people to contribute or air their feelings. In contrast, asking people directly to contribute and for their input helps team members feel engaged and involved. Simply asking participants what they like and dislike about the subject matter, what interests or disinterests them about it, and what they would change if given the chance can make a huge difference.

Send a Follow-Up Email

It’s good to remind participants about the meeting’s main points when it has concluded. This increases its effectiveness and solidifies the more important points that were covered. It also reinforces the mindset that remote meetings are an important and useful part of the company’s workflow. However, a follow-up email only works if it is actually read, so be sure to make it just as engaging as the meeting’s actual content!

Thinking Outside the Box

Remote meetings are challenging, and one of the biggest challenges is keeping people engaged. Use the guidelines and tips above along with your own ingenuity to think outside the box and find new ways to keep your attendees’ attention and run successful meetings.