Virtual meetings have always been an integral part of the distributed team workflow. But 2020 became the year of major changes that turned our regular working routines upside-down, and unexpectedly, remote work has become the new normal and a necessity for most of us.
We've already learned how to stay productive while working from home and discovered loads of great and affordable tools to make you work from home as comfortable and efficient as possible. It even turned out to be that remote workers are more productive and engaged than on-site workers, if they efficiently manage their workflow.
But you can still find many articles and story collections about remote meeting failures and hilarious moments. Thus, we have to admit that video calls are still far from perfect and are not one of our strong suits. Whether it is a lack of meeting etiquette knowledge, absence of specific meeting rules, or wrong tools, it is within our power to improve the remote team meeting culture. So, let's find out what are the essential tips for running remote meetings efficiently.
Here are the best practices to get past the pain and do your best:
1/ Set an agenda and agree on remote meeting guidelines
Just like with regular meeting, try not to waste anyone's time during online meetings. Prepare the guidelines and agenda in advance, and share with the team. Encourage other team members to attend meetings prepared, as well. For every virtual meeting, it is crucial to create a clear meeting agenda that includes:
Key talking points;
Meeting structure (for example, when and for how long you plan to discuss each talking point);
Team members/teams that will be in attendance;
What each team member/team is responsible for bringing to the meeting;
Any relevant documents, files, or research.
The meeting rules/guidelines and expectations are just as important as the meeting agenda. A team lead or a project manager should inform everyone about them, and they should be easily accessible. Of course, there are some commonly applicable rules, just like with outdated face-to-face meetings. However, other rules can be quite specific, depending on the team and other factors.
2/ Set up remote team meetings around conflicting schedules
Distributed teams can include people from the opposite sides of the globe. And sometimes, getting the team all together might turn into a significant challenge. Luckily, there are some smart solutions available. For example, Every Time Zone has a handy slider that allows you to see what time it is across time zones. The World Clock Meeting Planner will enable you to input your team members' different locations and then creates a table of suggested meeting times. It literally does everything without your effort. Worldtimebuddy lets you add your and your team members' locations and then creates a table showing what time it is in each place. Using these helpful tools for meeting planning will save you time and energy and prevent scheduling failures. But keep in mind an important thing: remote meeting is just as distracting as a real one. If it can be an email, make it an email. We are sure you have more important things to do, rather than repeating the same things over and over.
3/ Follow the basic etiquette and best practices to ensure a smooth online meeting experience for all the participants
It is vital to remember that people want to be heard, seen, and respected during an online meeting — just like they do everywhere else. Therefore, every meeting participant should adhere to the following basic etiquette rules:
Introduce everyone during the meeting, and give everyone a chance to contribute;
Don't stare at your phone while other people are presenting, you have to maintain eye contact;
Don't interrupt other people when they're speaking (or attempt to talk over them);
Test all the technology (including camera/video, Wi-Fi, and screen sharing) before the meeting;
Read the agenda, and come prepared;
Don't work on other tasks (like checking email) during the virtual meeting;
Turn off all notifications and make sure your cell phone is on silent;
If you can't get rid of the backroad sounds (e.g., husband/wife on call in the same room, kids, pets, or other distractions), mute your microphone!
4/ Mind the microphone and camera etiquette!
It's crucial to remember that video conferences are an essential component to keeping business running these days. And for those new to remote work video conferences are a replacement for in-person interactions that allow companies to communicate more effectively. In fact, most of the online meeting failures happen exactly because the participants are disregarding the following rules:
Mute your microphone whenever you're not speaking – even if you're alone in the room. Background noise can be an annoying distraction and stifle any meeting's flow.
BUT! Check if your microphone is muted before delivering a two-minute monologue that no one will hear.
If you have an external camera, eye level is the best position for it. Don't place it too high or too low.
Make sure you have enough light in your room so that you don't look like a revenant in a dungeon.
Wear appropriate clothing (not your beloved bathrobe or a workout suit). Try to dress as if you are meeting face-to-face in the office.
Ensure your table and surroundings are clean (and you don't have hundreds of coffee mugs around you).
Test your microphone, Wi-Fi connection, and another tech that might not work, especially before an important video call. If the sound quality, volume, or video is bad, it's all in vain, no matter what you are saying.
We suggest that most of the remote meetings should take place with our cameras on. Of course, there are times when we need to have a quick check-up with a colleague just to provide some comments without turning on a camera. In all other meeting situations, the more often your cameras are on, the better is the remote team communication. This tiny little thing is certainly worth paying attention to.
5/ Don't forget to set follow-ups
At the end of each meeting just have a short discussion on the next steps and tasks, the deliverables, or the next check-in meeting date. You can send the meeting notes and meeting feedback manually, or you can use the tools that will do this for you.
6/ Use the right tools to improve your meeting efficiency
Luckily, nowadays, our choice is not limited to just a couple of apps and tools, and we have plenty of trustful meeting-saviors for every team.
We have collected some helpful apps that will ensure a smooth meeting experience, reduce unnecessary meetings number, and improve the meeting culture in your team. But keep in mind that these tools work only in combination with the best practices and basic remote meeting rules.
And here's our list of breakthrough tools to enhance remote meeting efficiency and remote meeting culture in a team:
Otter is the AI-powered assistant that will help you to forget about note-taking during the meetings (as well as interviews, lectures, webinars, and more). You can relax and enjoy a cup of coffee instead. This great app allows all the meeting participants to view, highlight, comment, and add photos to create meeting notes collaboratively. It enables live transcription for Zoom meetings, webinars, podcasts, or any other live videos. You can also record conversations and replay directly from the app, import audio or video files, and share your Otter notes with colleagues and friends. Otter performs a search through all the conversation if you need to find something that was said during a meeting, outlines keywords and creates word clouds to help you visualize the topic of the discussion. Then it can transcribe voiceprints in a large room for everyone to see (e.g., during webinars). Otter records conversations for iOS, Android, and desktop, so you can always have it in your pocket, wherever you go.
– Free (600 mins);
– $8.33 per user per month (Pro);
– $20 per user per month (Business).
Bubbles is a simple video and screen capture collaboration that ensures better team communication. With Bubbles, you can collaborate by simply clicking anywhere on your screen. Bubbles makes remote teams feel like they are in one room: you simply drop a text or an audio comment to start a conversation with anyone. The app promises that your screen-sharing experience with cross-app screen and voice recording will jump to the next level because of the broad collaboration features. You don't have to use your email to provide some notes or changes or paste images to Google Docs – you can do everything on the spot, using one tool. It is highly recommended for anyone who has to receive or give contextual feedback daily, as it makes the process much more comfortable. Rather than scheduling a call, you can solve the issues in Bubbles.
– $25 per month (Personal);
– $115 per month (Professional).
3/ Wisembly jam
Wisembly jam is an easy solution for meeting management. With this tool, you can get all your meeting minutes, tasks, and decisions in one place, share them with your team, and export them to any other tools you already use. This app will help you automate the meeting preparation process and save your time, allowing you to quickly review all the previous meetings, tasks, and decisions. Minutes are sent automatically to anyone involved as soon as the meeting ends. Another good thing about this app is that each meeting participant can contribute to the joint meeting agenda right before the meeting and integrate the relevant documents and files. You won't forget any topics discussed and will have a clear summary after the meeting. A meeting timer will make your online meeting sessions quicker and shorter. Surveys, polls, and messages will ensure a smooth team collaboration. Additional collaborative features include an ability to plan and assign tasks, create roadmaps. Apart from that, an app offers private and shared meeting templates, making it easier to get started. Wisembly syncs with your calendars, so you will get all the meeting reminders and notifications.
– 5€ per user per month (Jam Pro);
– 1€ per user per month (For Nonprofits).
Fellow is a tool that drives engagement and productivity before, during, and after every meeting. It is an easy scheduling platform that does collaborative meeting agendas, makes notes and action items. Fellow promises to improve meeting efficiency by building great meeting habits with such features as searchable meeting notes, private streams, shared streams, meeting due dates, feedbacks, and more. You can easily assign, organize, and prioritize all your meeting action items in one place and bring vendors, clients, and agencies together.
– Free (for teams less than 10 people);
– $5 per user per month (Pro).
Clara is s virtual employee or a human-in-the-loop assistant that schedules your meetings in 24/7 mode. You simply add Clara to any email, and it will take care of scheduling on your behalf. This virtual assistant literally does everything related to meetings – and you save a lot of time. Clara also does your meeting follow-ups and makes sure you don't miss any email and timely meet notifications. Due to the relatively high price, Clara would be an especially great fit for HR or recruitment, sales, or other companies (rather than individuals) that continuously communicate with clients, and there's always a danger to miss something out.
– $99 per user per month (Essential);
– $199 per month (Pro).
Infolio is a task management and collaboration suite for teams and individuals. We have added Infolio to this list because of its diverse functionality. First of all, it can serve you as a Single Source of Truth, which is of paramount importance for remote teams. Secondly, Infolio allows you to create any project you wish, which means you can plan in Infolio everything, starting from your today's shopping list, continuing with the weekly team meeting board, and ending with a new viral marketing campaign. You can add and store agendas and meeting notes and then set the team's tasks and assign them to the responsible person. Or you can create a meeting calendar for a week or month, and share meeting files there. With multiple views (Kanban board, Table view, Calendar) and collaborative visual spaces, you have unlimited possibilities to store all the meeting information and plan forward.
– Free (Standard);
– $4.99 (Professional).
Calendly is an easy-to-use automated tool for letting others schedule meetings with you. It can connect up to six of your calendars to check your availability and automatically schedule an appointment. This is an app that helps to connect with the best contacts, prospects, and clients. Calendly schedules one-on-one meetings, large teams and groups events such as webinars and trainings. You stay notified about the changes in your schedule and get notifications before the meeting. You set your daily meeting limit number per day and relax. You can schedule/reschedule on-the-go from any device.
– Free (1 calendar/user);
– $8 (2 calendars/users);
– $12 (Pro).
If your remote meeting feedback is poor, perhaps you have to consider switching to another platform. Livestorm is a video communication software for companies of all sizes. If you are looking for an alternative for Zoom, Google Meet, or other popular video conferencing tools, you can take a look at Livestorm. This platform makes it easy for teams to plan, promote, and analyze online events. It is adaptable and easily creates an online event, such as webinars, video conferences, onboarding sessions, virtual learning, product demos, etc. Therefore, this tool is very often chosen by Marketing, Sales, Customer Success, and HR teams. Livestorm offers premium video quality during meetings or online events and allows to engage the audience with chats, polls, and other features. There is also a possibility to analyze the event performance and automatically send promotional emails and reminders.
– Free (Basic);
– $108 per month (Professional. Free during Covid-19 pandemic).
9/ Julie Desk
Julie Desk is a virtual assistant using AI to schedule meetings. This app is meant to save your time for what matters the most and waste it for scheduling meetings. Julie schedules, cancels, postpones, sends invites, and creates events in your calendar. Julie Desk is recommended for any companies (<200 employees) and individuals that have scheduling needs. Julie even books restaurants for your business lunches! Primary features include appointment reminders, calendar sync, group scheduling, multi-location, room booking management, automated scheduling, online booking, recurring appointments.
– $17.99 per user per month;
– $59.99 per user per month (Pro for startups);
– $79.99 per user per month (Enterprise).
Grapevine is a solution that helps remote teams to stay connected, running daily meetings utilizing asynchronous team update videos. This app offers one-way video updates, which is incredibly convenient if team members are split into different locations and time zones and have difficulties with meeting scheduling. Grapevine can fill the communication gap without wasting each other's time on one-one meetings, which can be replaced with a fast video recording. Each team member can watch or record one-way video updates, and teammates can review and reply when convenient. Teams can be created without the number and size limitations. The groups can be organized by department, project, or team. This app also allows screen sharing, which is so important for collaboration. You can share your recorded videos publicly and watch any of your previously recorded videos anytime.
– $5 per user per month (Starter);
– $9 per user per month (Growth).
Another app that will help teams to reduce the number of video calls is Remoteworkly. If you feel that you don't have enough time to perform your tasks because Zoom meetings are held too often, Remoteworkly is here to help. Just like Grapevine, it allows sending a video message instead of being stuck an unwanted meeting. Remoteworkly is an async video platform with a screen-sharing function, and searchable transmits, perfectly fitting for distributed teams within different time zones or hybrid teams (e.g., when someone works from the office, others from home). In other words, you can meet without scheduling a meeting. You can record a video or a daily standup, showing and explaining some points and sharing your screen with the team. All your videos are auto-transcribed so that you can read through your meetings. Remoteworkly allows you to work faster because you don't have to wait for a scheduled meeting to give your comments, you can do this right when you are ready. The feature that stands out Remoteworkly, is that you can assign tasks to your colleagues, set timelines, and track real-time team's progress. Among the most popular integrations are MS Teams, Google Calendar, Trello, and Slack.
– Free (up to 5 users);
– $4 per user per month (Pro).
Hopefully, our tips and tools will help you to enhance your remote meeting efficiency. Still, you should not forget that excessive meetings tend to be draining on employees and waste company time. We suggest that you always evaluate the actual necessity of any time-consuming meeting, especially having such a great choice of tools.