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How to run effective remote meetings | 8 video call experts offer their best advice

Hands up if you’ve ever seen a remote meeting in your calendar and thought ‘this is the perfect time to catch up on…’ or ‘I’ll just mute myself and tick off some personal tasks’. It’s one of the biggest challenges when you’re hosting remote meetings, how do you keep people involved and engaged?

Well, with more and more of us hopping onto video calls with colleagues from the same office or in different countries and timezones altogether, it’s time to confront why people might be zoning out when remote meetings roll around. Whether it’s people not feeling they’ve got much to contribute or others struggling with the remote dynamic, the mass move to remote working left us asking ourselves a key question.

How can you keep people switched on, even when their cameras might be switched off? 

That’s right, from dodgy Wi-Fi connections to a lack of clarity around why they need to attend, there’s a fine art to hosting a productive remote meeting. And no one person can claim to be an expert on how to do it! 

That’s why we reached out to and collated the opinions of 8 experts working at video conferencing, calling and webinar tools, asking them for top tips on engaging remote meetings and productive online calls.

Before we dive into their advice, HowNow integrates with all of these apps and plenty more to help you find the right information during your remote meetings and manage the process more effectively.

Melissa Francois, Global Social Media & International Content Manager at Zoom

It’s fitting that Melissa’s advice is packaged into four short and sweet points, because it’s very much about ensuring the meeting’s the right length, with the right people and covering all the right topics. Learn more about Zoom.

Melissa Francois, Global Social Media & International Content Manager at Zoom gives advice on effective remote meetings

  1. Check your invite list – Is everyone there for a reason?
  2. Create and share an agenda – Am I giving people what they need to come prepared?
  3. Schedule the appropriate amount of time – Is my meeting the right length? Can it be shorter?
  4. Get in the right mindset – Am I prepared, focused, and ready to be an engaged host/participant?

Casmin Wisner, Social Media Manager at LogMeIn

“I’ve attended hundreds of GoToMeetings since quarantine forced us all to start working remotely, and I’ve found that the best, most engaging meetings, even when not everyone is present on-camera,  are those that are:

  • Short – no longer than an hour.
  • Tackle only a few topics – no more than five.
  • Only include those necessary to the conversation – meeting fatigue is real, don’t subject those to a meeting that isn’t 100% necessary.
  • Acknowledge the audience in attendance – make note of those included, the work they’ve done, etc throughout.
  • Include an element of fun (even if just for a few minutes at the beginning to get everyone talking).
  • Provide visuals – whether screen sharing working documents or a presentation deck, this will help people follow along with the conversation.”

Casmin Wisner, Social Media Manager at LogMeIn advice on effective remote meetings

As you can see from Casmin’s advice, productive meetings begin with clarity. What are the key topics we need to cover? What’s the right time frame to get through them effectively? And who are the right people to attend?

But it’s those bottom three points that a lot of the time we overlook. What’s more engaging than praising people’s efforts in front of their team or having a bit of fun before you dive into the agenda? That’s starting off on the right foot for sure.

Marie Hillion, Head of Marketing at Livestorm

“An engaging remote meeting is all about the format: you need to ensure that each participant is fully present and ready to participate in the discussion. It is imperative that you find ways to gather feedback from everyone involved in the meeting. For a small remote meeting with less than 10 people, it can be as simple as letting each participant express their opinion directly. However, once the meetings grow to 20, 50, or even 500 participants, it becomes more complex!

Marie Hillion, Head of Marketing at Livestorm advice on remote meetings

Discussions shouldn’t be one-sided in any meeting, big or small. To help participants in large meetings voice their opinion you should always prepare polls in advance to be answered throughout the event. Set aside a dedicated time for questions at the end of your meeting to open a discussion among participants. Finally, make sure to react to the feedback you receive during the meeting. You can adjust your presentation based on the results of your polls, and express interest in questions to make each participant feel valued.”

How do you know how productive your remote meetings have been unless you ask the participants? As Marie highlights, you need to prepare this in advance and consider the logistics with the number of attendees. People feel more involved, and you can use their feedback to make calls more productive. That’s a win-win! Here’s where you can learn more about Livestorm.

Magdalena Ciszewska, Head of Marketing & Sales at ClickMeeting

You can’t underestimate the power of understanding how your platform works and preparing as best as you can on your end! And that’s really the theme of Magdalena‘s advice. Keep an eye out for a great tip on why you should end sessions with a quick Q&A too. You can learn more about ClickMeeting here.

“Running an online meeting is not easy. So many things can go wrong: poor internet connection, difficulties navigating a meeting platform, lagging audio and video, background noises. The list goes on.

So, how can you make an online meeting more productive? I’d say, start with the basics. Ensure that you know your meeting platform, have a proper setup, good internet connection, and a quiet spot with no interruptions.

Magdalena Ciszewska, Head of Marketing & Sales at ClickMeeting advice for remote meetings

Online discussions don’t go well with too many people participating, so plan your attendee list carefully. If you have an external party attending your call, find out if they are familiar with the platform that you are using, and provide them with some hints to help avoid delays. Prepare your meeting in advance: upload a presentation, clear your desktop in case you need to share it, and get all necessary files handy.

Once you have the basics covered, it’s time to look at the content of your meeting. Remote working for many of us means a lot of meetings. We’re often overloaded with them, and it’s hard to stay focused, therefore being a meeting host is quite demanding. Make sure that you encourage discussion by asking open questions, and moderate it to avoid setbacks, stick to the agenda and communicate the expected outcome. To engage meeting participants prepare visual aids or real-life examples to help you illustrate the subject matter, and finish the meeting with a quick Q&A to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Hosting online meetings can be stressful, so remember: stay in good spirits if anything doesn’t go as planned.”

Priyanka Mehta, Product Marketing Manager at Blue Jeans

There’s a great theme in Priyanka’s advice on best practices for remote meetings, and it’s removing distractions. Whether that’s background noise or a messy background, limiting the things that can derail trains of thought and remote meeting flow can help you drive that productivity.

Mute yourself… Talking over someone else isn’t polite at the best of times, and when everything is through a computer screen it can be very disorienting for someone to try and speak over noise. Muting yourself also prevents any unwanted noise. Maybe someone you live with is clattering in the kitchen. Or maybe you’re getting loud notifications on your laptop. It also prevents feedback, which is when someone else’s microphone picks up the sound of your own voice and plays it back through the system, which can be loud and distracting. So mute yourself when you’re not speaking, but remember to unmute yourself when you do speak!

Tidy your background… choose an appropriate space in the place you are dialing in from, that isn’t too messy. Even if it’s a blank, white wall, it helps other people from being distracted by unnecessary action.”

Alexa Becker, Associate Public Relations Manager at Dialpad

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail, and that’s something Alexa Becker of Dialpad highlights in her advice below:

“Preparation is key. No employee enjoys attending an aimless work meeting that drags on endlessly – and that’s how you lose engagement. When hosting a virtual conference, it can be even more difficult to stick to the meeting agenda and keep things on track than an in-person meeting.

Alexa Becker, Associate Public Relations Manager at Dialpad advice for great remote meetings

Although video conferencing software gives you the ability to attend a virtual meeting from the comfort of your own home, you’re still investing time and energy into the meeting. By preparing ahead of time, you can streamline the meeting and ensure that you hit all of your objectives in a timely manner.”

Nathan Reid, Product Marketing Specialist at Cisco Webex

We also stumbled across this great tip from Nathan Reid on the Cisco Webex blog, and it’s to signal your presence. Or in other words, seeming like you’re available and approachable – and that can start with adding a profile picture or avatar.

If you’re having connection issues, you might need to turn your camera off, but on many platforms that means your profile picture will be shown instead. Well, it’s much nicer if your smiling face is looking back at someone rather than just your initials or a blank screen.

Muthumeena Sudalaimuthu, Product Marketer at Zoho Meeting

We’ll end with a short and sharp checklist you can follow, shared with us by Muthumeena at Zoho Meetings.

Muthumeena Sudalaimuthu, Product Marketer at Zoho Meeting advice for remote meetings

  • Set the agenda, schedule the meeting and share it with the invitees beforehand.
  • Make sure everyone attends. Add meeting event to your calendar and set reminders to all invitees.
  • Be punctual and keep an eye on the duration.
  • Make your name known to everyone in the meeting if you’re hosting from your organisation’s account.
  • Avoid distractions during the meeting.
  • Stick to the agenda during the discussion.
  • Leave time for questions. Make sure everyone gets a chance too.
  • Record the meeting and notify the meeting participants.
  • Share the recording as a follow-up.

Putting it all into practice

Obviously you can’t do it all at once, that would probably be the most chaotic remote meeting you’ve ever had! So pick and choose a few to try out at different times and see what works best.

In the meantime, you can learn about our integrations with the tools you use every day or check out how our intelligent learning platform helps you create, curate, discover, track and measure all of your learning and development in one place.