How to have more efficient meetings while working Anywhere
Holding meetings while you’re working Anywhere can offer a lot of flexibility. You can meet with people in a number of locations, and don’t have to worry about booking meeting rooms, forcing people to travel to attend, or waiting for days when everyone is in the office at the same time.
But getting used to holding your meetings remotely can be a challenge if you’re not used to it. It’s important to make sure you’re taking the right steps to allow your meetings to run as efficiently as possible.
Have the right equipment and software solutions lined up
Having your technology run smoothly is one of the easiest ways to improve the efficiency of your meetings. You could have a great host, a clear agenda, and the perfect team, but none of that matters if your tech is going to let you down.
We all run into technology problems from time to time, but with the right planning, you can make sure you’re prepared to overcome any issues that arise.
Choose a video tool
Video is preferable to audio for remote meetings, as it provides greater clarity and a more personal approach. Let everyone know which video tool you’ll be using in advance. If you’re regularly holding meetings with people outside your company, it’s best to use something where you can just share a URL and go. This saves everyone from the hassle of having to create new accounts or remember login details for the software you’re using.
It’s also worth choosing a video tool that allows you to share your screen. This will aid your explanations by having everyone on the same page, and is helpful for times when you want to display any examples or presentation slides.
Check your internet connection
A strong internet connection is possibly the single most important thing for your video meetings. Let people know in advance if there are specific bandwidth requirements.
Can people see and hear you clearly?
Make sure you have a decent microphone, and consider buying an external webcam if your computer’s built-in camera isn’t great. Disable any noisy notification tones and alerts to avoid people hearing them while you’re speaking. Noise-cancelling headphones are also useful to ensure you can hear others.
Think about your backup equipment
Do you need to have any additional devices to use in an emergency? Having a spare computer or tablet close by might sound extreme, but having a plan B is definitely useful if you’ll regularly be holding remote meetings. You don’t have to switch on every device you own prior to each meeting, but it’s nice to have the comfort of knowing you have an alternative way to join if your main device fails.
It’s also worth checking your smartphone settings to make sure you can quickly turn your phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot if needed. Sometimes your main connection will let you down, so it’s good to have a phone or dongle ready for you to use as an alternative.
Choose the right location
Try to plan where to take your meeting call in advance. Having a home office is great, but if you don’t have one or you’re working Anywhere, there are likely to be times when you’ll need to join a meeting from elsewhere.
Give yourself enough time to find a quiet area where you won’t be disturbed (by other people or by your pets!) and double-check that you have a strong internet connection.
It’s also a good idea to find somewhere with decent lighting, and to choose a professional setting – especially if your meeting is client facing. Sure, you don’t have to be in a traditional office, but people still don’t want to see a messy bedroom in the background of your calls. Consider buying a backdrop screen if you think you might struggle to find an appropriate environment for your meetings.
Have everyone join the call independently
If some of your meeting attendees are joining remotely while others are together in person, it’s still a good idea to have everyone attend via a video call. Everyone attending individually means all attendees are treated equally, helping to avoid divisions between those who are in a room together, and those who are joining through a screen.
If you try to have everyone in the same room join the call together around one laptop, those who can’t physically attend are likely to find it harder to chime in. It’s also much harder for everyone to be heard equally if microphones are too far away or are having to be passed around the room.
Having people attend the meeting separately on video calls, regardless of their location, keeps all attendees on a level playing field. It makes it easier to follow exactly who is speaking, and avoids prioritizing communication between certain groups of people.
Consider setting a rule that unless everyone in your team can hold your meeting together in the same room, all meetings should be held through video calls to ensure efficiency and fairness.
Be mindful of those who can’t attend
If you often hold meetings across time zones, try to rotate your meeting times to avoid prioritizing certain locations.
For example, if some of your meetings have meant that your Australian attendees have had to join at 1am local time, try to schedule your next meeting closer to their usual work hours.
By making sure the same people aren’t always being inconvenienced, you’ll avoid the idea of there being a ‘core team’ in one location whose needs are always put first. Switching up your meeting times will help to ensure that everyone in your team feels equally valued.
If you can’t avoid having some people miss out due to time zones, or if someone in your team can’t join for another reason, use a screen-recording tool to take a video of the meeting. Being able to watch the meeting back will help those who couldn’t attend to see how decisions were made, and could give them an idea of who to contact if they want to provide their own input about one of the discussion points.
Have a clear agenda for your meeting
Having a clear agenda is important for any kind of meeting, but it can be especially useful when you’re working Anywhere.
Sending relevant notes to people in advance and having clear aims and objectives for your meeting will give people the opportunity to prepare appropriately. Keeping people engaged is key – it can be easy to get distracted or try to multitask on video calls, so a lack of focus and direction in your meetings will exacerbate these problems.
If attendees are able to think ahead and organize their ideas, people are more likely to be engaged by the discussions that are taking place, resulting in a more productive meeting.
Give everyone the opportunity to speak
It’s important to give everyone a fair opportunity to speak when you’re holding a remote meeting. Sticking to guidelines on how long the meeting will last and how long each person will speak is a good way to do this. People might feel less comfortable interrupting on a call than they would in person, so it’s useful for everyone to have an idea of how long each person is due to be speaking.
Set up a signal for those who want to talk – you could have people raise their hand, hold up a card, or post in the chat box of the call window. On the other hand, you could just encourage people to go for it and interrupt. There’s nothing wrong with this if you want to create a more free-flowing meeting, but do try to pay attention to whether certain people are dominating the call at the expense of others.
Try to call on each person for their thoughts – if they feel less comfortable interrupting, they might miss an opportunity to speak. If someone has been quiet for a while, check in with them. It gives them a chance to speak without them feeling like they’re talking over others, reassures you that they’re listening, and gives you the opportunity to find out whether they’ve actually dropped off the call due to a tech issue! Ask people for their feedback on ideas to ensure everyone has the chance to collaborate.
Having someone in the role of leader or host for your meeting is a good way to achieve all of this. If there’s one person whose job it is to keep an eye on the time and ensure everyone is contributing, your meeting is likely to run far more efficiently.
Make sure you have the correct tech equipment and tools
Find an appropriate location to take your call
Have everyone join the call separately, even if some people are in the same room
Rotate meeting times or record your meeting to accommodate those who can’t attend
Have a clear meeting agenda to give people the chance to prepare
Give everyone a fair opportunity to speak by calling on people for feedback and sticking to a clear timeframe