How to run effective meetings as a remote team?

Running remote meetings is an art. Here's a piece that details what you can do to run meetings that are truly valuable and productive.

It may seem as if holding a remote meeting is as simple as holding a face-to-face meeting, but there so much more to that than what meets the eye. Running meetings when remote is probably the best filter to highlight whether a meeting is truly necessary or not. If you're feeling most of your meetings turn into a drag with no clear value or outcome, you're probably looking at some things you might have to change.

Here is a small guide that captures a few important points that can quickly help you and your team run effective remote meetings.

First, ask yourself - Is a meeting really necessary?

Before scheduling a meeting, it sometimes makes sense to really think if a meeting is necessary in the first place or not. It's easy to call a Zoom meeting for the simplest reasons because that seems like the only plausible way. But a big part of building good remote meeting culture is understanding which meetings should be synchronous (like video calls) and which meetings should be asynchronous (an email, a DM or a check-in). Here's how you can make that decision:

Figure out the objective of the meeting.

What is the objective for the meeting? That is the first question that you should be asking. You can bucket your objective into two categories. The objective of the meeting can fall into one of the two buckets listed here:

  • You want to co-create, brainstorm or decide (Ex: Brainstorming, Ideation, Decision Meetings)
  • You want to update, sync or share. (Ex: Sprint ceremonies, Daily Stand-ups, Status Updates)

Once you understand what you want out of the meeting, it becomes incredibly simple to find the best course of action to make the meeting a success. Let's talk about the right approach to running meetings in both buckets.

If you wish to co-create, brainstorm or decide..

You probably need a synchronous video meeting. But don't jump directly into a 3-hour Zoom call right away. We're here to share how you can make those video meetings even better. The key is to leave the decision-making and creative-thinking for the call, but to get everyone's thoughts together and orient before (and even after) the call. Here's how you can do it:

Step One: Help your team prepare for the meeting. It's as important as the meeting.

We all would love to be a part of meetings where everyone is prepared but it's something that's difficult to put into practice regularly for teams. As them meeting host, it's essential that you take responsibility and help your team prepare for the meeting in advance. How, exactly?

  • Share an agenda for the conversation beforehand.
  • Create a check-in and have your attendees share their points before the meeting.

A quick meeting preparation check-in can do wonders in setting context, helping your team come in with the right expectations and keeping the synchronous conversation focused.

Step Two: Run the meeting.

Run the meeting after the prep-work and you'll notice an instant shift in the quality of the conversation. Not much to say here because this is your time to shine. Run a good meeting and make everyone feel their time was well spent.

Step Three: Document the action items (for all).

Now this is a part that most people miss out on. And this is what the entire meeting was for. Towards the end of the meeting, make sure you take five minutes as a group to take down all action items as a group and get on the same page for the next steps. Doing this is absolutely essential for nailing good meetings. It leaves the entire team in-sync and clears up the direction on where you go from here.

Step Four (optional): Get feedback on the meeting.

When running a remote meeting, there is a larger chance that you might miss out on some pieces of non-critical information, feedback or just conversations with your team. While these things are natural in a physical setting, it's hard to get that after a remote meeting. It can be valuable to run a simple check-in with your team after the meeting to get their thoughts, opinions or feedback on the conversation.

If you wish to update, sync or share..

In case the objective of your meeting to get or share updates, sync with your team or share - chances are you can do just fine without an actual meeting that takes everyone's time. Meetings like Sprint Ceremonies, Daily Stand-ups and Status Updates can be run super smoothly asynchronously. However, most people never get to that because no one's ever really taught us how to run an async meeting. Unless you're a veteran remote team, you're probably new to async culture and that's totally fine. Here's a few pointers on how you can run async meetings:

Learn to use async voice, text or video updates.

Instead of hopping on a video-call and hearing everyone share their points, run an async meeting. A good way to do this is by sharing the meeting questions and asking your team to share their updates or responses via voice, video or text. It might seem new, but it's a great way to get everyone's points clearly without requiring another meeting.

Get a tool for async meetings.

Just like you use Zoom or Teams for video meetings, async meetings can be butter smooth with the right tools. The last year saw many teams going async and it led to some great products being created specifically to help teams run async. We saw teams building everything from async video updates (Loom) to dedicated virtual offices (Remotion). MyCheckins is born out of the same need - to make async meetings easy to create, manage and share. There's plenty of great options out there for everything you need.

Final Thoughts

Remote work is a true shift in the way we live. While it might not be evident right away, the change will be much more clearer in the years to come. The migration to remote is a gradual learning process for most of us. From running better meetings to building stronger bonds, everything requires a fresher approach. Teams that stay open to change, iterate on everything and build good culture will always be better set for success.

Rushabh Chourasia

Product and Marketing