How to Hold Effective Meetings When WFH

PUBLISHED ON Mar 24, 2021

A really important part of remote working is holding virtual meetings and we’ve all seen the explosion and widespread use of Zoom. Meetings in general are vital for teams to stay connected, brainstorm, improve productivity, and get help with what they’re working on. But they can be useful only if held properly. Based on our collective experiences of remote working, we’ve crafted the below framework of How to Hold Effective Meetings When WFH (split into 4 sections).

Sidenote 1: All meetings are not created equal. Each type of meeting requires a different approach – so for example, a team meeting will require a different approach to a 1:1 meeting.

Sidenote 2:  Consider if you even need a meeting. We’ve all come out of past meetings where we’re like ‘what was the point of that meeting, I just wasted an hour’. It is therefore important to validate the need for a meeting before setting about organising one.

4 Staged Guide on Holding Effective Remote Meetings

#1 The Right Tools:

First things first, you have to set yourself up with the right tools, starting with your chosen online meeting software tool. A few of the popular ones (and our personal favorites) are:

Zoom – has almost become synonymous with the pandemic and a means by which people stay connected. Zoom allows up to 100 participants to have a video conference, share screens, and even record the meeting.

Microsoft Teams – allows integration with Microsoft 365 meaning calls can be easily scheduled and invites shared among the organization.

GoToMeeting – a standalone web conferencing service provided by LogMeIn, providing audio and video conferencing, as well as screensharing.

There are others such as Skype (the old powerhouse) and Google Meet but all of them broadly do the same thing so just go with what your company mainly uses.

As a general rule of thumb, video conferences are better than audio – 55% of communication is visual or body language. If your laptop or computer does not have a high-quality camera it would be recommended to invest in a webcam (check out our webcam buying guide here).

#2 Meeting Best Practices:

In order to hold constructive and effective meetings, there are several general best practices you should follow:

Scheduling and Time Zones

When scheduling meetings always be mindful of people’s diaries and importantly time zones! More times than not, you’ll be having calls with people across different time zones and countries – the modern term is ‘distributed teams.’ So, you’ll have to look for time slots that work for everyone’s respective time zones. Thankfully, there are plenty of tools that can help with this such as Every Time Zone and World Time Buddy.

Agree on Agenda

This is very important – every meeting should have a purpose and therefore an associated agenda. The agenda can be as loose as just a list of discussion topics or for more important meetings include comprehensive details such as:

  • Attendees – invite only those that need to be in the meeting and will add value.
  • Speakers
  • Discussion points
  • Duration (more on that below)
  • Links to relevant documents etc.

The main objective of having an agenda is for it to serve as a roadmap for the conversation and lead to objectives being met.

Duration – short and sweet

We were previously given an unorthodox piece of advice that worked well for us: use unconventional meeting durations, i.e., make meetings 50 minutes long instead of an hour, or 20 minutes rather than half an hour. Key thing being is to set a duration ‘limit’ so attendees can plan accordingly and for effective meetings keep it short and sweet! Furthermore, plan for distractions that are natural (e.g., technical glitches).

Keep Good Etiquettes

Just like physical meetings there are some good old etiquettes that should be maintained for a smooth running of a remote meeting. Some of these include:

  • Try to be in a quiet area free from other unnecessary distractions
  • Look professional – as comfortable as they are, do not turn up to meetings in pyjamas or looking scruffy. A work meeting is a work meeting (at the office or remote). The best WFH attire is ‘neat casual’
  • Avoid speaking over each other – we get used to seeing everyone’s lips in a physical meeting, so we need to be more mindful of not speaking over each other in remote conference calls.
  • Don’t stare at your phone while other people are presenting and on camera
  • Turn off notifications and remember to be an active participant
  • Don’t try and work on other tasks during the meeting

#3 Better Engagement:

The first two stages cover the basics in holding effective meetings but there is a lot more in terms of increasing engagement. Since the Covid 19 pandemic hit, we’re on video calls more than ever before – and many are finding it exhausting. So, for team meetings especially, how can you get everyone engaged? Again, based on our years of experience running meetings whilst WFH and gaining insights from others, below are some of our recommendations for better engagement:

  • Consider adding an uncommon ritual or ceremony to your team meetings – a light hearted way to start each meeting. For example, you can ask everyone what they can see outside their closest window. A sort of ice breaker.
  • There should be a chairperson/meeting facilitator to lead the meeting, i.e. usually the person who set up the meeting and put together the agenda.
  • Wherever relevant, it’s a good idea to make introductions at the beginning including everyone’s role for the meeting.
  • Make sure everyone gets heard and appropriate time to speak – avoiding dominant voices overshadowing the introverts in the team.
  • Avoid digressing, follow the agenda and the 80:20 rule – aim to spend 80% of the time on addressing the key issues and core reasons for the meeting.
  • Break up longer meetings with a quick break to allow everyone to reenergise themselves. 

#4 Outcomes and Follow Ups:

At the end of every meeting, you have to assess whether the outcome was the desired one; did you achieve what you set out to do? This is why it’s so important to set an agenda at the outset which will then allow you to review at the end. Most importantly, ensure follow up actions are documented and circulated to the attendees and other relevant personnel. Key things are:

  • Next steps and Deliverables
  • Who’s responsible for each item or task
  • Deadlines for deliverables
  • Next meeting or check-in

So, there you have it. A guide on how to run effective remote team meetings during work from home. Lots of virtual meeting tips and best practices for you to explore and implement in your next meeting. Some things will take time to get used to but all are beneficial for you in the long term!

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About Adrian Green

Freelance writer and career coach who has been working from home for the past 10 years. Passionate about helping others find the right career and work-life balance.
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