7 Tips for Better Remote Meetings
Remote meetings are here to stay. While not as effective as in-person meetings they are better than conference calls. Instead of assuming, you can see half of the participants are not paying attention! Whether connecting with your team, leading a training session, or conducting board or committee meetings, try following these seven tips for more effective remote meetings.
1) Create Commonalities with Ice Breakers
We lose the sense of connection with the limited interaction of remote meetings so consider conducting icebreakers (which don’t have to take a lot of time). Pre-covid, Partners conducted ice breakers at every staff meeting, a tradition we kept going once virtual. We finished our most recent Zoom staff meeting of 30+ people in under 40 minutes, including the ice breaker. Ice breakers can be very short, for example, ask participants to show what they prefer by raising their hand: Marvel or DC, Beer or Wine, Beavis or Butthead … you get the idea. Anything that might get one participant to connect with another — I didn’t know you liked collecting U.S. President figurines too!
2) Keep Them Short
Make remote meetings shorter and include the least number of people possible. More frequent but shorter meetings are more effective since remote meetings are not as engaging as in-person events. If you would normally hold a 90-minute meeting that covers six or seven items, consider having two or three 30-minute sessions that only address 2 items and spread them apart over a day or two.
3) Prevent Distracting noises
The sound of your cell phone pinging, the neighbor’s lawn service or your dog Cujo preparing to attack the UPS guy, all distract participants. During the pandemic I gave several hour-long presentations from home scheduled for the same time our mailman typically triggers our 80 lb. American Staffordshire Terrier, Handsome. Before the presentations I roped off the front porch steps and hung a sign saying, “baby sleeping please leave mail on steps.” Note: we don’t have a baby – but no one wants to needlessly wake one. There are even apps (Krisp for example) designed specifically to reduce a variety of background noises on Zoom calls.
4) Prevent visual distractions
If the space behind you is a giant mess or otherwise distracting, blur your background. The jury is out on virtual backgrounds – my opinion: they are a distraction as people move about and the image blurs, especially when there are only a few people in a Zoom meeting and the speaker images are large. Less so when there are many people, and the images are small. Also, while your 30 pound “kitten” is cute, having her walk all over your keyboard during a meeting is not cool. If you must, introduce the cat before the call then secure her in another part of the house for 30 minutes, which won’t scar her for life. Just be sure to get that Krisp app to drown out her incessant meowing once she’s locked away. Bonus tip: when speaking do your best to look at the camera and not your screen – put a sticky note next to your camera that says “look here” as a reminder.
5) Use the tools
Most of us know the basics, like how to share a document on Zoom, but if you frequently participate in remote meetings, be sure you are familiar with the controls, shortcuts, and many features of whatever platform you use. On Zoom, polls are a great way to get feedback during board and committee meetings. In addition, breakout rooms (which you can assign in advance) are great for collaboration – but you must know how to use them. Get familiar with the tools your platform offers.
6) Follow standard meeting protocols
When everyone is not in the same room around a conference table, it’s easy to slip into bad habits and think that you may not need an agenda, you can skip introductions, or feel you don’t need to prepare as well as you might for a “real” meeting. Avoid these types of pitfalls and hold the meeting just as you would with any other in-person event.
7) Don’t be “that guy”
It’s called video conferencing for a reason. The person who consistently has their video off, for entire meetings at a time is sending a message. I’ll let you infer what that message is. Since more than 50% of inter-personal communication is non-verbal (hand gestures, facial expressions, etc.) those with their cameras off make it more difficult to get their message across. So, if you have a momentary interruption, turn the camera off for a minute or two. Otherwise, don’t be that guy (or person) who conveys that their time is more valuable than yours and turns their camera off while they do something “more worthwhile.” So much for letting you infer.
I hope you found these tips helpful, and they make your next virtual meeting more effective. Please feel free to share this blog post with “that guy” in your office!
John Ricco, MPA, CAE – Vice President
John has over twenty-five years’ experience in virtually all facets of association management. He is a former Chair of the Florida Society of Association Executives Board of Directors and in 2011 was recognized as their Executive Member of the Year. Fun Fact(s): John is a twin; outside of work he is a woodworking hobbyist and he also enjoys “all things outdoors”: kayaking, rucking/hiking, yard work, fishing and working out.