Running a good remote meeting

In Work Life by JD Dillon

I’m spending a few minutes every day sharing my ideas and experiences as a remote worker. Today, I’m thinking about the difference between in-person, blended and fully remote meetings.

I just participated in my first meeting with a newly 100% remote team. Honestly, it was a MUCH better experience for me as compared to the typical experience of being one of the few (or only) remote entrants joining an in-office meeting. I could see everyone. I could hear everyone. There was no side conversation. Everything just worked. People even commented that they are learning what it is like to be me and that this experience will probably improve remote meetings for everyone into the future. So that’s a win!

Here’s a shortlist of reasons why this morning was a great example of a solid remote meeting.

Clear agenda

This meeting was a remote version of an ongoing team standup. Therefore, the team already had a clear purpose and agenda for the discussion. This should be true of every meeting. But it can be a lot easier to get distracted during a remote meeting (email, environment, other work), so participants should know exactly why this discussion is taking place and the role they are expected to play.

Mics + cams on

As I already said, I could see and hear everyone. There was no time at the beginning spent fixing technology. No one said “sorry, I was on mute.” Every participant was prepared from the start, knew how to use the technology, and was conscious of other team members’ experience. Cameras definitely contribute to this added awareness, as everyone can tell if you are/not paying attention. 

Follow the leader

I was interested to see how the team would execute an around the room conversation without the room and resulting natural flow. The online interface didn’t help in that everyone appeared on one another’s screens in a different sequence. One person (not the manager) immediately stepped up and started to lead the flow of conversation. Team members then handed off to one another as they finished their updates. Again, no time was wasted figuring out how to do this. The team facilitated conversation like they usually do after immediately recognizing and adjusting to the constraints of the online format. 

Purposeful but casual

Everyone stayed on point and shared just what was needed in order to get the meeting done on time. Again, this should be true of every meeting. The remote setting naturally limits the side conversations that can derail the meeting flow. In this case, there were still questions and side comments. People known for sarcastic/witty comments still made those comments. But it fit, helped keep the mood lively, and did not detract from the purpose of the meeting.

A lot of the conversation around transitioning to remote work has focused on setting, logistics and technology. Those factors are important, but they’re not what makes remote work … work. This example of a good (great) remote meeting demonstrated how people who like working together can quickly adapt and maintain their flow – even in the face of extreme disruption. Work, regardless of setting, is about relationships, not technology.

Thank you to everyone who is putting in the effort to adjust their workflow to make the best of a new normal. 

Check out past entries in this blog series on remote work: