Every company dreams of setting up the best-in-class team of different talents to beat the competition, power through project deadlines, and, ultimately, create the next big thing. That’s why we have organizations hiring talents from all around the world, making their teams more distributed.
Some companies, like Microsoft, Google, and IBM, have opened hubs in some of the booming cities to attract the best talents from the region. Others like Buffer, Automattic, Twitter, and Basecamp only work with distributed teams, allowing their employees to work from anywhere.
But with the convenience of working remotely comes a whole new set of challenges: how do you ensure everyone is on the same page when they are a thousand miles apart? How do you keep up with each other’s progress when everyone is working in their own time zones?
The answer, of course, lies in team meetings. Remote team meetings help to keep everyone connected, engaged, and productive. So, how do you make the most of your remote team meetings?
Read on to learn.
What’s a Remote Meeting?
A remote team meeting is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a meeting between distributed team members (dispersed across different locations), usually via video conferencing or voice call.
Organizations organize remote meetings to discuss projects, update each other on progress, coordinate tasks, and even just catch up.
The meetings can also be used to connect with customers, clients, or businesses located in different cities, countries, and even continents.
Common Remote Tools
For a remote team meeting to be successful, participants must have access to the right tools. Common remote meeting tools include:
#1. Video and Audio Conferencing Tools:
Tools like Zoom, Google Hangout, or Skype allow remote team members to communicate over video and audio. All participants need is a device with an internet connection. They can then install the software and join meetings with a single click.
#2. Project Management Software
Project management tools help team members keep track of tasks, assign tasks to each other, and collaborate on projects. Popular project management tools include Trello, Asana, Monday.com, and Basecamp.
#3. Communication Tools
Communication tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google Chat facilitate communication between team members.
#4. Time Tracking Software
You might also need time-tracking software like Toggl and Clockify to keep track of the time your team members spend on tasks and projects.
#5. Whiteboarding Software
Whiteboarding software like Miro and Microsoft Whiteboard makes collaborating on a digital whiteboard in real time easy.
Video Conferencing Hardware (For a Hybrid Setup)
You also might need to invest in a few pieces of video conferencing hardware to help create an immersive experience. That is especially important if it’s a hybrid team comprising both remote and in-office members.
That said, here are nine pieces of hardware that will make your remote team meetings run more smoothly:
#1. Meeting Owl
This all-in-one camera and microphone solution ensures everyone can be seen and heard in a meeting.
A laptop webcam will do the job if you’re on a budget and don’t want to invest in an entire video conferencing setup. Just make sure it has a high-definition camera and good audio capabilities.
If you have a reasonable budget, we suggest you purchase a 2020 MacBook Pro or anything above it.
The downside to having a laptop webcam is that you may not get the best view of everyone if there are more than two people on the call. Plus, having people surrounding a laptop isn’t conducive to productive meetings.
#3. Meeting HQ Device
The perfect alternative to using a laptop to host remote team meetings on a Meeting Owl is to use Meeting HQ. This professional-grade tablet accompanies the Meeting Owl on the table, allowing you to quickly switch between participants with a single tap.
With a Meeting HQ, participants don’t even have to bring their own laptops, as the HQ is a powerful enough computer to handle multiple audio and video streams.
Plus, it can be connected to a TV or projector, where remote participants will be shown, and everybody in the room can see and hear them clearly.
#4. A High-definition TV or Projector
TVs are crucial for a hybrid meeting as they give each participant in the room a crystal-clear view of remote participants. Instead of having everyone in a room looking at their own laptop during a meeting, a TV or projector allows everyone to have a shared view of the remote participant.
#5. External Speakers and Microphones
External speakers and noise-canceling microphones help to create a better audio atmosphere. That’s especially important with hybrid meetings, as most laptops have built-in speakers and microphones that may not be loud enough for everyone in the room to hear.
You might want to use a dedicated, hybrid-friendly, all-in-one system like Meeting Owl. But adding external speakers to boost the audio quality can go a long way toward improving your overall conference setup. Examples of such systems include the Logitech Meetup or Jabra Speak 510.
#6. Expansion Mic
The Meeting Owl 3 boasts an impressive audio range of 18 feet, so you won’t have to worry about people being too far away from the mic to be heard. But for large conference rooms and boardrooms, you might want to consider a dedicated, expandable mic setup.
For example, the Expansion Mic for Meetup adds an 8 feet radius of coverage, so your entire meeting or conference can be heard. Plus, it’s designed to work seamlessly with the Meetup system, so you won’t need extra wiring or hardware.
#7. Whiteboard Owl
If you want to get the most out of your team meetings, you can use a whiteboard. And with the Meeting Owl 3’s Whiteboard Owl integration, you can see and share what’s written on a whiteboard or dry-erase board with everyone in the meeting. It will capture everything, down to the last detail, so you can focus on the task at hand instead of worrying about what everyone needs to see.
#8. Hardware Security
Video conferencing is only as secure as the hardware you’re using. That’s why the Meeting Owl 3 has built-in high-level security features, like AES-256 encryption and TLS 1.2, for secure data transmission. So you can have peace of mind knowing your meetings are 100% secure from start to finish.
However, getting the K-Lock Adapter can help take your security a step further. You can screw it to the bottom of the Meeting Owl 3 to physically lock it in place.
It also adds a standard Kensington T-bar lock slot that can help keep your cables organized. So you can rest assured knowing your meeting space is protected from unwanted eyes and ears.
Lastly, you want to invest in a high-quality router. Without a strong signal, you will suffer from dropped calls, lagging audio and video, or other issues that will frustrate your team. Investing in a router designed for your meeting space will ensure everyone can stay connected and collaborate without interruption.
We recommend getting a router with dual-band technology for optimal performance, such as the Netgear Nighthawk X10. This router can handle up to 45 devices connected simultaneously and cover up to 2,500 square feet.
Before the Meeting
Before the meeting, be sure to do the following:
#1. Choose a Remote Meeting Software
You can begin by selecting reliable remote meeting software. Our team recommends Zoom, which offers video and audio capabilities supporting up to 500 participants. It also has many other features, including chat, annotation tools, whiteboarding, and file-sharing.
Other options include Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, and Skype.
#2. Gather the Right Technology
In addition to a meeting software solution, you’ll need to gather the right AV technology. The video conferencing hardware you invest in can either make or break your remote meeting experience.
At a minimum, you’ll want an all-in-one solution, such as the Meeting Owl Pro, which includes 360 degrees HD cameras and an array of advanced audio technology. It’s a great investment to ensure everyone’s voice will be heard clearly, and their video feed won’t look pixelated or laggy.
You’ll also have to invest in a good router that can handle multiple devices streaming simultaneously, especially if your meeting involves more than two or three people. If worse comes to worst and you find yourself without the right technology for a remote meeting, then get a good laptop with a strong internet connection.
#3. Send an Invite to Your Remote Attendees
After getting the technical aspect of your meeting sorted out, it’s time to schedule your meeting and send invites to the attendees.
The meeting shouldn’t take more than an hour. You also want to end it early enough that people can still focus on the tasks for the day.
When you create your invite, make sure to include key information such as:
- The date and time of the meeting
- Who will be attending
- How long is it expected to last
- A clear agenda of what will be discussed during the meeting
- Any required reading materials or presentations
These details will help ensure everyone is on the same page and ready to participate when the meeting starts.
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to be a stickler for time and rules – feel free to have some fun during your remote team meetings.
Some companies have “No Meeting Fridays” or regularly have virtual happy hours or icebreakers to foster connection and camaraderie at the start of their meetings.
Whatever you decide to do, just make sure that everyone is on the same page and understands what’s expected during the meeting so it gets off to a successful start.
While deciding a meeting time, you want to consider where your team members are located and what timezone they are in.
To ensure everyone is comfortable and can join at peak hours, consider a rotating schedule or accommodate different meeting times for people across other regions.
#4. Write a Meeting Agenda and Send it To the Invitees
A meeting agenda is not only integral from an organizational standpoint – it also serves as a reminder for participants and keeps the conversation focused.
Send out the agenda well before the meeting so everyone has time to prepare, add their thoughts, and come up with questions.
Include topics such as company updates, announcements about upcoming events or projects, brainstorming sessions, problem-solving, and team collaboration, and allot a specific time for each topic.
How many people will speak, and what topic will each person cover?
Make sure that each person’s speaking time is allocated to the agenda to ensure everyone gets a chance to be heard.
Plus, this will help you avoid wasting precious time on tangents and rabbit holes.
Remember also to include scheduled breaks during your meeting. Let’s face it — No one wants to be stuck in a Zoom call for hours on end without some time to decompress.
At the same time, keep an eye out for distractions during meetings — make sure everyone is paying attention, and gently nudge them back onto topic if they wander off.
Finally, don’t forget to have fun while at it! Remote team meetings don’t have to be all business — you can add some icebreakers, games, or fun activities in between topics to keep the discussions lively.
#5. Assign a Remote Team Facilitator
A remote team facilitator is responsible for running the meeting — they ensure the meeting stays on track and follows the agenda. They can also help keep participants engaged by asking questions, giving out assignments, and ensuring everyone has a chance to speak up.
Having a facilitator assigned to your meetings will ensure that each session is as productive as possible so that you can reach your goals in the allotted time. Plus, it’s a great way to spread leadership responsibilities among your team members!
So if you want to ensure your remote meetings are productive and engaging, assign a facilitator before each session — they’ll ensure everyone stays on task, keep the conversation flowing, and ensure that every voice is heard.
They’re also responsible for monitoring remote participants closely, ensuring the AV technology is working properly, and helping resolve any technical or discussion issues.
Remember, having successful remote meetings doesn’t have to be daunting; it just takes some organization and the right attitude. With proper preparation, each meeting can be a great opportunity for open communication and collaboration among your team members.
During the Meeting
Now that the meeting has begun, it’s time to ensure everyone is focused on the task at hand.
Encourage a culture of active listening and acknowledgment — this means no multitasking and no side conversations.
#6. Give Participants Time to Catch Up
Before diving into the meeting, you want to give each participant time to catch up with each other. Use the first few minutes to give the participants time to mingle with each other or have a quick chat.
After that, you want to give each participant time to introduce themselves and explain their role in the team. This will help the team to have a better understanding of each other’s individual skills and roles.
#7. Observe Remote Meeting Etiquette
A remote meeting can’t run smoothly if all participants don’t observe a few guiding principles.
The first is, arriving at the meeting on time. Remember when you were in school, and the teacher counted down until the bell rang? The same applies here.
Also, participants must eliminate all distractions, including muting off their phones, email alerts, etc. That will help keep the meeting on track and ensure everyone pays attention.
Multitasking isn’t allowed in remote meetings.
Finally, be aware of the body language you use. Even though the team is not physically present with each other, there are still ways to express yourself and your opinions.
Nonverbal cues such as nodding, smiling, or making eye contact can help show that everyone involved is engaged in the conversation.
After the Meeting
#8. Send Out the Meeting Recordings
It’s important to have a record of what was discussed in the meeting and any decisions made. Recording the meeting is an easy way to do this. Just ensure everyone knows the meeting will be recorded before it begins.
#9. Documenting the Meeting for Reference
Additionally, writing down brief notes about key points discussed in the meeting can be helpful for future reference. That will help ensure everyone is on the same page and won’t have to go back over topics they already covered should the same thing arise again.
Types of Remote Meeting Your Organization Needs
Whether you’re operating a remote team solely or supplementing your on-site staff with remote workers, there are five types of meetings your organization needs to be successful:
#1. Daily or Weekly Standups
Length: 15 to 30 Minutes
Daily or weekly standups are the traditional form of remote meetings. These meetings typically last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes—shorter is better here—and focus on keeping everyone in sync and up-to-date on what’s happening in each team member’s world.
Typically, each member is given 2 to 5 minutes to discuss what they were working on the previous day or week, what they’re working on currently, and any blockers or roadblocks that need to be addressed.
Regular standup meetings are especially useful for distributed teams as they help to build stronger bonds between members and keep everyone in the loop.
#2. Brainstorming Sessions
Length: 30+ Minutes
Brainstorming sessions are a great way for remote teams to develop creative solutions together. These meetings should be 45 minutes or longer and can occur once a week or month, depending on the team’s needs.
During this meeting, each person can share their ideas and thought processes. The goal is to generate fresh ideas and come up with innovative solutions to problems or challenges. To make sure everyone is heard, it’s important for the facilitator of the brainstorming session to set clear rules of engagement before diving into the discussion.
These rules should include: no interrupting, no judgment of ideas (both positive and negative), and a limited timeframe for each person to share their thoughts. This ensures that all voices are heard and respected in the group. The facilitator should also take notes during this meeting so everyone can review any conclusions or action items when the meeting is finished.
At the end of a brainstorming session, the facilitator should review all ideas discussed and decide which are worth further exploration or implementation. This encourages team members to think critically about their ideas and assess which ones will really help move the team’s goals forward.
#3. Monthly or Quarterly Progress Meeting
Length: 60 to 120 Minutes
Monthly or quarterly progress meetings are a great way to review what has been accomplished and set new goals for the upcoming months. It’s when you check on your initiatives, whether sales, marketing, or project, and see if they have been progressing or need to be changed.
These meetings should also allow team members to share their successes and suggest ideas to help move the team’s goals forward. They are also an excellent chance for the facilitator to get feedback from everyone in the group and make sure everyone is aware of the goals you’re pursuing.
Each stakeholder should be given 10 to 15 minutes to talk about their contribution to the goal and present ideas on how to move forward. They can also discuss their roadblocks, successes, failures, and other relevant information.
Remember to leave at least 15 minutes at the end of the meeting for questions and to talk about the goals and initiatives you’ll pursue for the following meeting.
#4. Hackathons/Productive Work Sessions
Length: 60 to 120 Minutes
These are not meetings but rather a collaborative effort to get as much done in an allotted time as possible. It’s like a mini hackathon where people break down into teams and work to address a problem or make improvements on something over the course of one hour or two hours.
Make sure you have a video conference solution, an agenda, a spreadsheet, or whatever documents you need handy.
It also helps to have food and drinks on hand to keep everyone motivated (it’s still a team meeting). And don’t forget to set up the Zoom backgrounds with something hilarious and fun — it adds to the energy.
At the end of your hackathon, have teams present their results or outcomes and discuss any issues they faced. This way, you’ll be able to identify any pattern of problems and address them quickly.
Hackathon can work with projects like:
- Creating Content
- Reviewing Code
- Finding Candidates
- Optimising or updating processes
In short, productive work sessions work with anything requiring mass collaboration and brainstorming.
#5. Cross-team Collaborative Meetings
Length: 30 to 45 Minutes
Cross-team meetings are great for teams to coordinate and collaborate on tasks involving several departments. These can be monthly or biweekly and typically require all members of the teams to attend.
Two or more teams can decide to sync up projects or mutual goals and brainstorm solutions together.
An example may be when the SEO team needs to know what the design team is working on to make the most of their marketing efforts or if a product team wants the input of their customer service team when creating a new feature.
The Final Word
Transitioning to remote team meetings doesn’t have to be a nerve-wracking experience. With the right tools and strategies, you should be able to manage the process and maximize efficiency effortlessly.