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4 Steps to Planning a More Effective Remote Meeting

April 20, 2020, Dr. Steven Rogelberg

Are you finding back-to-back-to-back remote meetings tough? Steven Rogelberg, PhD, author of The Surprising Science of Meetings, shares some of the reasons virtual meetings are so challenging, and outlines 4 steps that facilitators can take in the planning process to make meetings more effective.

Studies have found that an astounding 55 million meetings are held daily. Even before COVID-19 and the increase in employees working from home, attendees find remote meetings to be the least effective. Unfortunately, this is not surprising, as virtual meetings are plagued with communication challenges.

Without visual cues in particular, the meeting is potentially fraught with: 

  • people interrupting one another
  • difficulty finding a communication rhythm and flow
  • potential misinterpretations of what was said when visual cues are not present (e.g., sarcasm and motives are harder to detect).  

On top of all this, background noise coupled with poor connection quality, if present, serve to further undermine the richness of communication and the ability of attendees to coordinate their communications.

The good news is that doing these meetings right can result in so many positive and energizing outcomes. See my recent blog, 10 Tips to Make Remote Meetings Work, for simple steps that can result in great impact.

Today I’d like to share 4 steps you can take to ensure a more effective meeting—before the meeting even starts:

Recognize your role

As the facilitator, you are a steward of others’ time. When you have this mindset, you realize you don’t want to be part of the problem, and thus you’ll become more intentional. We do this all the time when meeting with important customers and clients, but it is not done as often when meeting with our own teams and staff.

Allow attendees to join for portions of the meeting

With a carefully timed agenda, you can invite attendees to join only for the parts of the meeting (e.g., 10:15-10:30) relevant to their interests and responsibilities. Remember, remote meetings can be readily recorded and listened to at twice the speed, so you can let nonessential members off the hook and share the recording later.

Set the meeting length properly, especially given shorter attention spans right now

Try to make your meetings 20 minutes, 40 minutes. This dialing back a bit can create positive pressure. 

Ask attendees to do pre-meeting homework

Doing so will help you start and end the meeting on time. Nothing kills momentum at the start of a meeting like a 15-minute delay because people need to download software, because you can’t get the video to work, etc. Anyone presenting should log in 5 minutes early to ensure all is running smoothly.

What would you add? Leave a comment with your best tip.

Additional Resources

Video: 10 Quick Tips to Make Remote Meetings Work
Book: The Surprising Science of Meetings
About the Shelter Employee Engagement & Development Survey

About Dr. Steven Rogelberg
Steven G. Rogelberg, PhD is a Chancellor’s Professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

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