Best Practices For Effective Remote Meetings

Remote meetings have become a fact of life for millions of workers since the beginning of the pandemic. A survey of 10 large global organizations found that employees averaged eight remote meetings per week in 2022 — up 60% from 2020.  

Even without a pandemic, remote meetings would have become more common for knowledge workers. The economy is increasingly global, and technology has made video communication effective, efficient, and relatively inexpensive. When connecting with co-workers and clients halfway around the world is as easy as logging into Zoom, the result is more remote meetings — and, often, more meetings overall.

Learn more about the benefits and challenges of remote meetings and how Whole Brain® Thinking can help you make them better.

Benefits of Remote Meetings

Remote meetings are any type of gathering that allows people in different places to meet and discuss work. Calling into a conference line counts as a remote meeting, and that’s a decades-old practice. But in recent years, remote meetings generally refer to video-focused calls with people scattered across geographies, often working at home. These meetings offer a variety of advantages, whether you're leading remote or hybrid teams.

Improved Accessibility

Remote meetings, when conducted with modern video-based communication platforms, are often more accessible for employees, especially those with disabilities or who require other accommodations. Most of the popular virtual team meeting tools include accessibility features such as closed captioning, magnifiers, keyboard shortcuts, and screen readers. 

Another way to think of access is who’s available to join the meeting. No longer are you limited to the people who are physically present and can fit into whatever space you’re using. And with modern communication tools, remote participants can fully participate in what’s happening rather than just listening on the end of a phone line.

Increased Productivity

By allowing team members to connect and collaborate from wherever they happen to be, companies can save time and money while empowering employees to be fully productive. Remote work can be positive for productivity, with some studies finding higher levels of job satisfaction, engagement, and performance compared with people in traditional office settings. 

With the help of collaboration and productivity tools, teams can easily track progress, share documents, and make decisions together in real time. This eliminates the need for back-and-forth emails and can help teams save a significant amount of time.

Properly run remote meetings also encourage better innovation. There’s a common belief that great ideas require people to be in the same room, hashing it out. But many management thinkers note that office brainstorming is less effective than starting with independent thinking. Reimagining your meetings around collaborative brainstorming, where ideas can be discussed in various formats, is just one example of increased productivity that emerges when remote meetings are encouraged.

Easier to Share Information

Technology increasingly makes information-sharing instantaneous within organizations. Remote meetings are no exception, as participants can quickly share documents, take notes, record audio and video, and sketch ideas for the group. 

Many online meeting tools automatically generate notes or summaries of meetings, helping people who couldn’t make the call get caught up. These summaries and transcripts are more accurate than relying on someone’s handwritten notes being interpreted into a memo. And they improve transparency, forming a historical record anyone can access as needed.

3 Benefits of Remote Meetings

Challenges of Remote Meetings

While remote meetings have documented benefits, good meetings require more than just logging into a software platform. Here are three challenges when putting together remote team meetings. 

Difficulty Building Trust and Cohesion

One common complaint about remote work, particularly from managers, is that building ‌trust and rapport with their team is more difficult over a screen. When you’re working in-person, leaders can directly interact with their reports, see what they’re working on, and check in simply by walking over to their desks. Those options aren’t available for remote employees, leaving many managers feeling like they don’t know whether their people are working.

Even for managers who embrace remote work, building relationships with a team working from home is still challenging. For example, virtual interactions lack the nonverbal cues and physical proximity of in-person meetings, where people pick up on body language and tone of voice. Without these cues in remote meetings, your team can struggle to foster trust and cohesion.

Everything Becomes a Meeting

Any workplace can overschedule meetings, but when teams work together in person, they tend to limit scheduled, formal meetings for topics that require everyone in the same place simultaneously. Casual conversations, quick check-ins, and myriad other interactions are conducted in the flow of work or through other channels, such as email. 

When everyone is remote, many of those quick conversations become meetings. Research suggests that remote work creates more meetings, and those meetings are often longer on average. When employees are spending much of their day in meetings that could have been conducted through chat messaging, a phone call, or asynchronous communication, that means less time spent on their actual work.

A culture of too many meetings can also harm the meetings you need to have. A Microsoft survey found that poorly run meetings and too many meetings were the top drags on productivity. If your people are constantly called into unnecessary or badly run meetings, they’ll become less engaged and look for excuses not to attend. The collaboration and team unity you need in crucial moments becomes more difficult to achieve. 

Less Culture-Building Small Talk

In-office settings provide more opportunities for small talk and bonding, whether about work or personal topics. While this small talk isn’t without challenges, replicating this culture-building atmosphere is difficult in remote settings. 

This casual conversation often occurs at the beginning or end of a meeting. But on remote calls, people sign on right as the meeting starts and immediately sign off at the end. They don’t look to make small talk because they’re too busy or lack the nonverbal cues they might recognize in person.

While small talk isn’t the only way to build relationships within a team, it’s a powerful tool in the leader’s toolkit that’s difficult to foster in remote settings.

3 Challenges of Remote Meetings

How to Run Successful Remote Meetings With Whole Brain® Thinking

Effective meetings follow an agenda, allow for everyone’s participation, and have clear after-meeting action items. One way to hold better meetings is to build a team culture where everyone understands and embraces each other’s thinking preferences through the Whole Brain® Thinking framework. 

Whole Brain® Thinking helps people decode and apply their differences in thinking to optimize collaboration. The framework divides preferences into four quadrants: Analytical (blue), Structural (green), Relational (red), and Experimental (yellow). Everyone uses all four quadrants daily, but we all gravitate to certain thinking styles more than others. To discover your team’s thinking preferences, have them take the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI®) assessment

Here are four remote meetings best practices explained in the context of Whole Brain® Thinking. 

Have a Reason to Meet — and Share It 

Communicating what your meetings are for seems like a no-brainer, right? But too often, managers call meetings with no clear purpose or objectives, which means everyone leaves the meeting without knowing what to do next. 

Directionless meetings especially frustrate team members who lean toward analytical (Blue) thinking because they want to connect their work to metrics and outcomes. Meanwhile, the lack of an agenda and action items will dishearten structural (Green) thinkers.   

The first step in fixing this problem is deciding whether you need to meet. From there, make the best use of everyone’s time by:

  • Sharing the agenda, including the meeting time and how to connect
  • Outlining what you want to accomplish in the meeting.
  • Assigning roles and responsibilities for agenda items.
  • Compiling background materials that'll be useful.
  • Using technology because it serves the meeting’s purpose, not just because you have it.

Set the Ground Rules

Setting an agenda and sharing it is a great first step, but what happens once the meeting starts? Who is running the meeting? Does everyone start on mute? How will people know when (or how) to speak up? 

Along with an agenda, you want to establish ground rules before the meeting so everyone knows what to expect. This structural (Green) thinking ensures that everyone on your team (and even across teams) understands how your meetings should be run and how they can contribute. This also helps relational (Red) thinkers feel secure about their participation and gives experimental (Yellow) thinkers a pathway to contributing their ideas.

Look at your cultural expectations for in-person meetings, but be prepared to adjust them with remote meetings. Guidelines to consider include:

  • A mute/unmute policy
  • Expectations about being on camera
  • Time limits on agenda items
  • A process for open discussion
  • Using breakout rooms
  • Whether the meeting will be recorded

Prioritize Engagement

Poorly run meetings aren’t productive for the business, and they also leave participants feeling disconnected and disengaged. Relational (Red) thinkers are especially cognizant that some people are energized by meetings while others feel overshadowed or even intimidated when a few loud voices dominate the conversation. 

Because it’s so easy to mentally check out (or feel left out) when you’re not together in person, think about what you need to do to set the stage for maximum engagement. For example:

  • Ensure that the right people are on the call.
  • Try round-robin discussions, breakout rooms, or other virtual teambuilding activities ‌to make sure everyone has a voice and can practice effective virtual communication.
  • Allocate agenda time for personal stories and chit-chat to help people feel more connected.
  • Consider people’s information load. Videoconferencing is great, but spending several hours daily on video can be exhausting and harmful to productivity.

Be Flexible (and Make Time for Fun)

Routines are helpful, but they can also contribute to stagnation. If you see your team going through the motions in meetings, they aren’t collaborating at their best or being curious and creative. When it’s time to shake things up, look to try these alternative activities:

  • A “sprint” style brainstorming session to spark new ideas and thinking
  • Throwing out a challenge to the group and having them work together to solve the problem
  • “Show and tell.” with different team members leading the discussion
  • Guest speakers who can offer a fresh perspective

How to Run Successful Meetings with Whole Brain® Thinking

Lay the Foundation for Better Meetings

Remote meetings have been bringing people together long before the pandemic and continue to do so. They’re an ideal way to connect your employees across time zones and geographies for collaboration, innovation, and better business outcomes, but only if they’re thoughtfully constructed. 

As you apply these best practices for meetings, look at your team’s HBDI® profiles and consider where you can use their thinking differences to encourage participation, build trust, and improve results within your team.

Discover how to conduct effective meetings that work with our free Meetings That Work Toolkit.

Tags: Team Intelligence

The four-color, four-quadrant graphic, HBDI® and Whole Brain® are trademarks of Herrmann Global, LLC.


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