Where in-person meetings are still productive due to better human connection, virtual meetings can easily fall prey to the effects of less engagement and collaboration.

With remote work being the new norm now, there are several benefits and issues that employees and companies face—one of these issues being unproductive meetings due to a lack of collaboration, engagement, and communication. 

Since remote work is here to stay for a long time, we must find ways to make virtual meetings more interactive and productive to keep our businesses from suffering. 

Read ahead to see how you can make remote meetings more worthwhile while improving the experience for everyone.

1. Break the ice

Meetings can be uncomfortable, especially for the shy ones who find it difficult to talk in a meeting with several people. As a result, even for established teams, you have to find the best way to get the meeting going. 

Think of interactive but small ice-breaking activities that will set the right mood for the meeting and promote brainstorming and open discussions. Such activities lower your team’s guard, especially for the more introverted members to easily share their ideas. 

Here are some ideas that you can incorporate to break the ice.

  • Humor bulletin board. You can add more humor and increase interaction in the workplace by creating a humor bulletin board. Start with a blank board every Monday morning. The employees can voluntarily add funny stuff to the board, and then you can award the scrapbook to the one employee who did exceptionally well.
  • Bucket list bulletin board. You can also create a “bucket list” bulletin board and ask employees to jot down an item that might be on their bucket list. Additionally, introduce a collaboration board for asking employees a topic-specific question and encourage them to write their answers.

Conducting ice-breaking activities is an effective way to make remote meetings more fruitful while making the employees, including introverts, comfortable. Also, it is good to inform the team of these activities so that they are better prepared for them mentally.

2. Know the participants 

A productive meeting starts with an excellent ice-breaking activity and an understanding of the people you are dealing with. So first, ensure the right mix of people attends the virtual meeting who can add value to it.

Arrange brainstorming sessions with people from different departments in your organization for different perspectives. Understand their requirements as individuals to provide them with the environment and tools that enhance their productivity. 

Moreover, you can increase their productivity by refining the meeting schedule and establishing a meeting only if necessary.

Remote meetings mostly exacerbate cultural and personal differences, so you need to be mindful of that as a meeting organizer. In addition, all remote sessions aren’t created equal. Each one requires a diverse approach according to the needs of participants.

It is crucial to take better care of each employee and the overall business needs.

Such personality types include: 

  • Introverts: Make sure you make the meeting as comfortable as possible for those hesitant to speak up by telling them what to expect beforehand.
  • Extroverts: Assign allotted speaking times for all members to give everyone a fair chance and keep the meeting more structured, harnessing their energy effectively to avoid the extroverts dominating the discussions
  • Practical-Minded: The non-creatives are crucial for such meetings since they offer fewer but more practical ideas if you support them and keep them engaged 
  • Creatives: Be it writers, designers, or others, creative members bring all the unique ideas during brainstorming. So make sure you encourage them to push the envelope every time for new ideas

Gathering every employee together for remote meetings take effort. So, make sure you invite only the relevant individuals to make sure you are courteous of their time. Have a meeting plan ready with particular items and stick to that plan. It is good to share the plan beforehand with the participants so that they come prepared. 

3. Be aware of your and others’ roles

Every participant must have a specific role in the meeting that you should define for it to be successful. Even though every brainstorming meeting is different, you must include the following roles for a productive session:

  • Leader: This person is responsible for making the session work and keeping it functioning by involving everyone. Since you are arranging the session, this will be your role
  • Collator: Since participants bring several ideas to the table, they must be listed, or you can use mind maps during the meeting for brainstorming. Someone must collect and organize these resources that come up during the meeting to work with them afterward
  • Timekeeper: Time is of the essence, and every meeting needs a structure to ensure that it doesn’t extend way over time, and everything important gets covered. You can take this role yourself, ask a colleague, or use some time tracking tool
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4. Create an agenda

Meetings can be long and boring, making it easy to lose focus and go off on a tangent. It is best to come up with an agenda beforehand. Outline the main points that must be covered in the meeting to keep it focused and stay true to its objective, including the duration for each topic. 

Plan everything to the minute and try to stick as close to the schedule as possible. This can easily not go as planned in a virtual meeting because online tools use and keep everyone engaged. 

Include the meeting set up a time with the tool you use in the agenda and buffer time to resolve any unexpected issues. Of course, there will be lags in the meetings, and several things can go wrong, causing a delay. Be concise, strategic, yet also flexible. This new normal remote world is a trial and error process to find the best way that suits your team. 

Additionally, send this agenda to all the meeting members beforehand to ensure they are prepared for it. This will help them cover the things they can before the meeting, so you don’t have to spend the discussion time preparing them. 

Send any reports they need to go over and assign anything they need to improve productivity and save time. 

5. Use the right tools

Remote meetings highly depend on several tools for better communication and collaboration. As a result, you must include a blend of such tools through various platforms to plan your next brainstorming session.  

Your goal is to create an environment similar to a physical brainstorming session that sometimes comes from using multiple solutions at once. These tools include:

Video Meeting Solutions: A business professional’s survey shows that 96% of the respondents agree that video conferencing is highly effective for better connection among the participants. Virtual meeting platforms allow more interaction among participants, which is essential for brainstorming

Mind Maps: A collaboration tool like a mind map improves productivity and communication in a meeting. It captures and expands on the ideas that keep coming up, promoting brainstorming and encouraging creativity

Online Whiteboards: This tool is made specifically for virtual brainstorming, offering a canvas where remote participants can add their ideas

6. Post-meeting follow-ups

While a regular in-office meeting allows you to debrief all members aloud, a remote meeting does not offer the same luxury. As a result, you must chat separately with the defined coordinator after the meeting. Talk about the meeting minutes and other essential information. 

Email this and a link to the meeting’s recording to the participants to keep everyone in the loop, ensuring you have addressed all the relevant points. 

Additionally, share the next steps and deliverables, assigning people to follow up on each task, and announcing the next meeting date. Furthermore, ask for your team’s feedback on the meeting flow, process, and the tools you used during it. Use this to alter and improve on the things that weren’t so popular. 

It’s worth investing in remote work 

Remote work is the new normal across the globe and is likely to continue for a long time. This change calls for a heavy reliance on online tools and greater attention to finding methods to make virtual meetings more productive. 

It is easy to lose focus in any meeting. The remote ones are more susceptible to distractions when employees are working from home and less engaged with the team. Use tools that support team collaboration and virtual meetings for better productivity. 

With proper practices in place, you can safeguard your business from lags in the current market and be prepared for any future issues. 

AvatarJT Ripton

JT Ripton is a business consultant and a freelance writer out of Tampa. JT has written for companies like T-Mobile and others. You can follow him on Twitter @JTRipton.