Whether full time or part time, more companies are letting employees work from decentralized locations. But just because your remote workers don’t come into the office every day, that doesn’t nullify the need to hold regular meetings with them. If anything, regular meetings become even more important.
Although nothing replaces a face-to-face sitdown, the next best thing is a well-run meeting that uses tech and good planning to address the downsides of joining remotely.
To run successful meetings with remote employees, you’ll need to follow best practices for the typical in-office meeting, like having solid start and end times, and sending out an agenda beforehand. On top of that, the following tips can help make meetings with your remote workers more successful.
Tip 1: Fewer words, more images.
We’ve all been in a meeting where someone dumped a bunch of text onto slides and then just read straight from the slides during their presentation. It doesn’t lead to employee engagement or a productive meeting. It does the opposite, prompting attendees to respond to emails or check their LinkedIn messages rather than pay attention and participate.
If you want a productive meeting, don’t tell attendees what you’re trying to say; show them. Rather than slides packed with small text, opt for visually pleasing slides that include diagrams, graphs, photos or even funny gifs or videos to keep attendees engaged and the meeting mood light.
Visuals help attendees better receive and remember the meeting’s information. The human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text, and visuals help people make sense of the content they’re seeing so their chances of recalling the info increases.
Tip 2: Use technology to improve participation.
We live in an age when technology allows us to clearly see and talk to people who are halfway around the world, and the video and sound are so clear, it feels like remote workers are sitting across from you at the conference room table.
The right tech tools making managing a remote workforce easier. They allow you to schedule inexpensive and impromptu face time with everyone who needs to be involved, significantly decreases the time spent coordinating meeting times, and keeps everyone on the same page.
Some common conference room tech tools include:
- Enterprise-level video conferencing platforms like Zoom and Bluejeans, for video calls that are easy to spin up.
- Slack lets remote workers send chat messages to their co-workers during meetings, whether it’s to “raise their hand” in advance of chiming in, or to share tidbits of info relevant to the discussion without verbally interrupting.
- Poll Everywhere allows attendees respond to poll questions via their phones, Twitter or their web browser. Responses show up live during the meeting.
Tip 3: Encourage engagement.
When remote employees call in to a meeting, it’s harder to get them engaged in the meeting vs. the people who are there in person. It’s hard … but not impossible.
As the meeting leader, consider actively encouraging participation from your remote attendees by asking them for their input or opinion during natural lulls in the conversation. Even with a good video conferencing system, it can be hard to make eye contact to show that they have something to say.
Or plan in advance to pass the mike to some of your remote attendees to lead certain parts of the meeting discussion.
Tip 4: Get feedback from meeting attendees.
One of the best tips we can give you for more effective meetings is asking for feedback from attendees later that day or the next day. It’ll help you discover ways to make your meetings better and more valuable for everyone involved.
Follow up with all attendees, but specifically reach out to any remote workers you noticed weren’t actively participating and find out the reason. They could’ve been having technical problems that can be solved before the next meeting.