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It's possible to make every meeting count by taking a few simple actions

December 11, 2018

Steps to Take Before, During and After an Online Meeting to Make It Productive

According to an analysis conducted in 2014 by LucidMeetings, there were about 36 to 56 millions of meetings per day in the US. Given this high figure, we can deduce that a great majority of people are having meetings on a regular basis. It’s to be expected since business meetings serve various purposes like coming to an agreement, brainstorming, informing about the state of a project, etc.


As an entrepreneur it’s most likely you have come to appreciate, little by little, the usefulness of meetings, particularly when at the end all the team is on the same page. However, it’s possible your meeting wasn’t as productive as you have imagined. The conclusion seems favorable, so why? Well, we can narrow it down to just one reason: your meeting was longer than it should have been.  Although a meeting is necessary, it still means the precious time that you reduce of their working day. Valuable hours they could use to complete other important tasks. So, it’s essential to make the most of every minute your meeting lasts.


Non-productive meetings are not an exclusive problem of remote teams it also happens to in-house collaborators. In fact, most of the tips we share here can be applied to face-to-face meetings too, even if we focus every piece of advice on remote teams.


1. Create Guidelines for the Remote Meetings


Creating clear guidelines for the meeting is an essential step for its success


Some inconveniences can come up during the meeting whether it’s face-to-face or remote. A few are common for both types and others are particular to one of them. In any case, to avoid them, you must establish some rules. How can you go about it? Well, first you should think about the potential problems you may find in a remote meeting. A good starting point is to evaluate the main differences between a remote and a face-to-face meeting in order to identify problems that are exclusive to this kind.


It may also prove helpful to specify the purpose of the rules you write down. By pointing out the reason behind a norm, you can think about other necessary guidelines that share the same goal. Also, it’s easier to group and even combine them, if the occasion demands.


Remember to take note of all the rules you can think of, no matter how obvious, even if you consider them common sense. We know it may seem pointless to include them in your guidelines, but it doesn’t hurt to add them. By doing so, you make sure that everyone knows what the phrase “meeting etiquette” entails.


Even if you have taken the time to consider all potential problems, there might be one or two you have missed and it’s likely you will notice them when a particular issue arises in the middle of a meeting. It’s perfectly fine to make revisions to your “Meeting Guidelines” and add, delete or change some rules until you create the final version.


Apart from conscientiously creating your Meeting Guidelines, it’s equally important to remind your remote team about them. You can do it via email or, even better, take some minutes before the meeting to repeat the rules. This last option can be especially favorable if you have recently updated the guidelines.


2. Prepare an Agenda for the Meeting


Preparing an agenda helps you limit the topics as well as organize them by level of importance


Defining the points that will be the focus of the meeting is a standard whether it’s in person or in a remote way. It just makes sense: the meeting must have a reason for being. Try to be specific with the appointed subject on the agenda since discussing a broad topic may cause digression on the participants.


Another important consideration is the number of topics on the agenda. According to MeetingKing, the percentage of people paying attention to a 30-minute meeting is 84% and this figure decreases the more it lasts. Many online testimonies also highlight the benefits of the half-an-hour meeting approach. If we take into consideration other effective productivity techniques like Pomodoro, then 30 minutes seems to be a safe bet. That being the case, it’s essential to limit the topics of every meeting to three or four as a maximum.


Once you have clearly defined the agenda, remember to share it with your remote team. A meeting might not always be welcomed by them, especially if they feel these assemblies are not productive. However, sending them the agenda might change this perspective. Besides, that way you remind them of the date and time of the meeting.


3. Limit the Number of Participants


Limiting the number of members helps with the focus of the meeting and reduce its duration


So, now that you have your topics clearly defined, you can decide who are you going to invite to the meeting. You should choose people that are going to contribute by informing about a specific matter or answering related questions. It’s also indispensable to include members that must know all details of the discussed subjects and not only the final decisions and agreements.


This simple measure can have multiple positive effects such as:


  • Participation and attention of all members present is assured
  • Meetings are easily manageable since there are fewer people involved
  • As active participants, team members feel their time is well invested
  • Meeting won’t exceed its assigned time on the agenda


Evaluate who really needs to participate in the online meeting. If some team members must know only the conclusions, they could be excluded. Just make sure to send them a summary after the meeting ends.


4. Prepare the Required Material


Having all required material at hand helps you save minutes and shows your professionalism


Defining the agenda and deciding which team members must participate in the online meeting are not the only preliminary steps you should take. You also need to consider if any extra material is going to be required to fit this new task into your daily work schedule. As this file has to be sent in advance —at least a day before—, is extremely important that you finish it in time, especially if it’s a document that your team must look over beforehand.


In a similar manner, if one or all team members have to prepare a report or presentation, let them know in advance so they have enough time to do it. Take into consideration that if you want to check their report first, then the file should be sent a week before the meeting.


For one reason or another, it might be necessary for you to share your screen. If that’s the case make sure there isn’t any distracting element in your desktop: choose a simple and minimalistic wallpaper and group files in folders. A quick solution is to create a new folder on your disk and temporarily transfer all individual files there. Make sure, also, to have all the necessary documents at hand —a shortcut in the desktop might be a great idea.


5. Ask Your Remote Team to Test the Required Tools in Advance


Your online meeting depends on technology so ask your team to check all required tools for it


Given that to have a meeting with your remote team you depend solely on technology, it’s crucial to not only choose the appropriate tools but also to test them beforehand. If it’s necessary for them to install a new program, let them know in advance. Some applications take a few hours to download and install, so it’s a good idea to notify a week prior to the date of the meeting. And a simple reminder a day before is also a great idea in case there is a person who has been caught up in other tasks and has forgotten to install the programs.


Apart from the installation and activation of all required software, it’s imperative to check the computer’s accessories: microphones and cameras are essential in a remote meeting. Remind your team to look over them an hour or a few minutes before the meeting. This simple action will give team members a time window to adjust the microphone or change the camera settings. And this way you can guarantee that the meeting starts right on time.


6. Reserve Some Minutes at the End of Each Session to Answer Questions


A Question and Answer round on every meeting guarantees that the team is on the same page


In order to not interrupt the flow of the meeting, it might be useful to let participants make inquiries only at the end. You can set aside, let’s say, 5 minutes to clarify doubts after the explanation of each topic.


By this point, you must know the Question and Answer round allows team members to be on the same page. Why reserve it at the end of the session, though? Because interruptions can come at a great cost: it might be difficult to pick up where we left off. Imagine that after one person asks a question, another raises their hand to do the same and so on; maybe they even go off on a tangent and you have to redirect the focus of the meeting. This sort of situation is easier to handle at the end of the session because it prevents you from having to resume your explanation.


7. Send a Rundown of the Meeting to All the Participants


Sending a meeting summary to your team can encourage a forum for further or pending questions


As a final measure, send an email to all participants in which you summarize the discussed topics and reached agreements. Try to write this email just after the meeting and send it as soon as possible. This simple action could open a window for further questions which it’s perfect for team members that are shy or forgot to make inquiries.


Only answer questions that are relevant to the addressed topics. If someone makes inquiries about a related subject that will be dealt with later, let them know that you appreciate their interest and inform them that the specific topic will be discussed on a future meeting. Be polite and sympathetic to encourage members to ask questions and clear their doubts.


In Conclusion


At first glance, arranging a remote meeting seems painless. After all, there are several tools nowadays that allow the connection and collaboration of two or more people that are geographically distant from one another. However, for your meeting to be really productive, there are a few steps you should take before, during and after:


  • Establish a guideline for remote meetings and share it with your team
  • Prepare an agenda, detailing the topics and the duration for each of them
  • Limit the number of participants to make the meeting more manageable
  • Prepare all needed material in advance and have it at hand the day of the meeting
  • Request your team to test the software and essential PC accessories like microphones
  • Include a Questions and Answer corner in each meeting
  • Send a summary of the meeting to all participants to make sure all are on the same page


With just a bit more prior preparation, your online meeting can be a lot more productive and even last less than before! We hope you find these tips useful and try a few of them the next time you appoint a meeting with your remote team.

Esther Palomino - Director of Value & Marketing

Esther loves to have a good cup of tea while she’s writing her thoughts and plans. Addicted to sugar and stationary items. Her hobbies include playing with her daughter and dog.