What YOU can do to make virtual meetings better for yourself

Many remote workers spend much of their time in virtual meetings and conference calls. Many of these calls are not well organised nor are they properly facilitated, but what is worst, you can still have experiences like the one shown in this video:

It is fun to watch when others are stuck in this kind of situation, but really frustrating if this is your daily reality!

Another situation many remote workers are intimately familiar with is when you are the only one online (or the tiny minority), while the rest of the team is sitting together in a conference room. After 2 minutes they have forgotten you are there until they need something from you… and you are supposed to be there the whole time! It is really hard to pay attention, forget about being engaged, in these situations!What can you do to improve this situation? In an ideal world, you and your colleagues would get a good robust tool for virtual meetings, get some training to improve your meeting process, and ultimately make them more engaging and productive. In

What can you do to improve this situation? In an ideal world, you and your colleagues would get a good robust tool for virtual meetings, get some training to improve your meeting process, and ultimately make them more engaging and productive. In reality, there is often neither the time nor the budget for this kind of intervention.Still, there are a number of things you can do to make your virtual meetings more bearable without convincing everyone else to change everything:

Still, there are a number of things you can do to make your virtual meetings more bearable without convincing everyone else to change everything:

Prepare yourself for awful meetings

Where are you sitting when you are in these meetings? Is there a comfortable place you can be? What context helps you focus? Is it better to be alone? Do you prefer having people around you? If you prefer somewhere lively, make sure the surrounding noise does not disturb you or the other participants.

Does it help you to focus if you have a cup of coffee or tea? Or does a snack help? Be sure to avoid chips/crisps, cheese sticks, crackers or anything else that makes loud sounds when eaten! … or mute yourself!

Think about your objective and your intention for the meeting: What can I contribute to making this meeting a success? How can I make sure the others include my point-of-view? How do I want to feel during the meeting? How do I want to come across?

If you often face the situation to be the only remote participant and people forget that you are there, is there someone you can ask to be your onsite support? How can you generally raise awareness of your situation? DO you have one-on-ones in your team where you can raise the issue?

Ask yourself, what you need to be able to focus in the meeting despite technical and organisational problems: Does it help you to take notes? Does it help to hold something in your hand like a massage ball or can you best concentrate when you walk around? Think about what you need to make this happen: Maybe you need to get a Bluetooth headset to be able to walk.

Convince others to change small parts of the process

While you might not be able to change how meetings are organised and run in general, you might be able to convince our colleagues to experiment with a few small changes.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Start the meeting with a check-in that forces everyone to say something: it helps detect audio issues before the meeting starts, reminds everyone that there are remote participants (if the main group is in a conference room), and it also helps people settle in, especially those who run from meeting to meeting without a break.
    End the meeting with a check-out. It helps conclude one meeting before attending to the next task or meeting, and it gives remote participants the feeling of belonging to the group.
  • Introduce boarding time: If you take a plane you board well before the actual take-off. Logging into the meeting tool 10 minutes ahead of time, allows each participant to deal with possible technical issues before the meeting and ensures that the meeting can start on time. Since most meetings run from full hour to full hour, you might have to agree to officially start meetings at 10 past, but ask participants to nevertheless log in on the top of the hour.
  • Jointly prepare the agenda before the meeting with all participants. Office 365, iCloud, Google Docs and the like make it really easy to set up documents, to which everyone can add their concerns and topics. this way you save time during the meeting and can even prioritise certain issues up front.
  • Distribute roles: To ensure that all agenda items can be attended to assign time keeping to one participant. Another can be responsible for taking notes, and a third could ensure that the remote participants are asked once in a while if they also have something to contribute.

These small changes to the way your meeting are prepared and run can have a tremendous effect on engagement and productivity. And you didn’t even have to get a facilitator or change the tool you are using.


An earlier version of this article appeared in the Medium publication Thriving Remotely.

Foto source: By sasint on pixabay.com

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