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How to Lead Remote Meetings with Focus and Intention
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How to Lead Remote Meetings with Focus and Intention

4 tips for better virtual engagement

November 5, 2020
Jessica Thiefels
Guest Contributor
Jessica Thiefels is founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting and has been writing for more than 10 years. She’s been featured in top publications, including Forbes and Entrepreneur, and she also writes for FastCompany, Score.org, and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.

It's been months since this global pandemic thrust the world into lockdown, and many companies are in no rush to transition back onsite. 

According to a new survey, 72 percent of business owners plan to make at least some of their staff permanently remote. Virtual communication is the norm across all industries now. By the end of 2020, experts expect video conference integration to scale by 110 percent.

With employees working from home, socially distanced from the rest of their team, remote meetings have taken on new importance. For most, these meetings are the only opportunity each week to connect face-to-face, touch base on project statuses, and be involved in decisions.

However, a report from Wundamail found that 42 percent of employees who attend a remote meeting do not contribute. Instead, they view it as a distraction from their actual work. As the team manager, you want to avoid this outcome, so below are four ways to lead an efficient, productive, focused, and intentional remote meeting.

Start with a Clear, Actionable Plan

Before you turn on that webcam to launch a meeting, iron out the logistics. 

  • What is the primary objective? 
  • What information or materials will be covered? 
  • What strategies need to be explored? 
  • What are the problems to solve or decisions to rule on?

“Once you have a list of goals, it’s easy to plan your team meetings in more detail. Prepare an agenda in which you identify the main talking points and subjects you wish to discuss. If your team needs to make decisions, be sure you allocate enough time to get people familiar with the topic beforehand,” explains Hubgets in Improve Team Meetings for Better Collaboration and Productivity.

Take this one step further and send your agenda to all attendees ahead of time. Don’t forget to add any documentation you may need or that you have for them to prepare before walking into the meeting.

Be Aware and Respectful of Time

Looking at multiple faces on a screen for a long time can over-stimulate and fatigue the brain, making it hard to absorb the meeting’s content, suggests Harvard Business Review.

Ensure employees stay engaged and attentive by remaining conscious of how long the meeting runs. Start and finish on time, set an expectation for punctuality (hold yourself accountable to that as well), and keep the discussion on topic and concise. 

Don’t assume one hour is the time you need for every meeting, either. Experiment until you find a length that works for your team. Some companies even yield results with meetings as brief as 10 to 15 minutes, as business psychologist Steven Rogelberg revealed in his 2019 Ted Talk.

Set the Tone for Communication

How you interact with one another in a meeting is just as important as what you talk about, so be intentional in your verbal and nonverbal communication. Establish parameters such as asking each person to mute themselves unless they have the floor and keep everyone on track by saving all side conversations for another time. This will minimize interruptions and keep the dialogue constructive.  

You also want to ensure that your facial expressions, hand gestures, eye contact, and body posture reinforce the tone and meaning of your words. “Relaying information in real-time is not limited to verbal interchanges or the use of language. Nonverbal communication is extraordinarily powerful…If a person’s words fail to match their nonverbal cues, it’s best to trust the nonverbal messages,” says Jeff Wolf, executive business coach.

Body language can communicate all kinds of subtext that other people instinctively read, Wolf continues. Eye contact implies trust, understanding, and honesty. Vocal inflections, gestures, and facial expressions can either soften or accentuate a point. And an open, stable posture shows confidence, alertness, and receptivity. 

Take Notes and Record the Video

With your team scattered in various locations, balancing the demands of both work and home life, not everyone will be able to attend all the meetings scheduled. This is inevitable, but you can work it around it by taking notes and recording the discussion so those who were absent can access it later. 

Notes are much more practical here. But, even if, in practice, most people don’t watch the recording, knowing that it is available will put team members at ease about missing a discussion. Notes and recordings also make it easier for anyone on the team to refer back to this content if they have questions, need clarification, or forgot a relevant detail. 

However, since this is an internal communication recording, you’ll need to maintain some best practices for risk management in mind. Obtain consent from all team members in advance and only upload the digital file to a secure channel that no one outside your team can log into, advises Gina Vitiello, a contract and commercial lawyer in Atlanta. 

If any sensitive data or confidential topics are raised in the meeting, don’t record it instead of appointing someone to take thorough notes. These meeting notes can then be sent around internally or posted on a team collaboration platform.     

Lead Better Remote Meetings

Remote meetings are here to stay, so as your team navigates what the future will hold in this new business normal, use these strategies to ensure communication doesn’t miss a beat. When you lead with focus and intention, the result is a more productive and collaborative meeting flow.


Research: Meeting Practices, Productivity, and Team Culture
Research: Meeting Practices, Productivity, and Team Culture
How to build a happier, more productive team through better meeting processes
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Jessica Thiefels
Guest Contributor
Jessica Thiefels is founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting and has been writing for more than 10 years. She’s been featured in top publications, including Forbes and Entrepreneur, and she also writes for FastCompany, Score.org, and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.

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