This article was originally published in March 2020 and shared with our clients and local city officials.
We work remotely with most of our clients—and we’ve been working remotely since 2007. We’ve learned a thing or two and the technology today makes it easier than ever. This is our best-practice guide for running and attending remote meetings.
Getting Set Up
The first choice to make is which online meeting software you are going to use. Google Hangouts, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Lifesize, and others are all good choices. We use Zoom.
The most important thing is that you pick one and stick with it. That gives everyone on your team a chance to learn the program and not have to keep learning something new. It also solves the “where should we meet?” problem.
Your work meetings most likely discuss confidential matters. Make sure that you have the right paid plan for your needs and that everyone is signing in appropriately.
We use Google Single Sign On and tie each login to our individual accounts.
You can tie in your meeting software to your calendar—we have Zoom connected to our Google Calendars so it’s an option in the dropdown.
We also create agendas in Google Docs and attach them to the meeting invites. For recurring meetings, we use one agenda with the date listed as a header each time we meet.
One Link Only
Often with a meeting, you have lots of links to different things—the video call, the agenda, maybe a few others. Try to only send one link—the link to the meeting—and then include all other links once people arrive. You can put everything in your calendar invite if you wish, just make sure no one is running around trying to find things when they are already trying to figure out how to attend the meeting.
Remote Meeting Etiquette
The rules for meeting remotely are very similar to meeting in the same room: show up on time, show up prepared, don’t talk over each other. There are a few other nuances, as well.
- Use a microphone and headphones, not just your computer built-in speakers. This will help you come in clearly without a lot of background noise. Our picks:
- Join the meeting early if you can, especially if it’s your first time using the software. Make sure you are set up and test your microphone and your headphones.
- Turn your camera on. Meetings are more than what you say; they’re how people react and look at each other.
- We like these camera covers.
- Tidy up your background. Especially if you are talking to clients from your home, take a few minutes to clean up whatever is behind you.
- More than four? Time to mute. If you have a meeting with more than four people, everyone who isn’t talking should be on mute.
- Mute if you are in a noisy environment. If you have kids, dogs, lawnmowers, wind, or other background noise this is often amplified on a call. Mute yourself if you aren’t speaking.
- One at a time. It’s not only civil to speak one at a time, it’s necessary. Most meeting software only allows one person to speak at a time and it mutes all others. If you are speaking, everyone else may be muted in the background. Time to go back to school and raise your hand and have the meeting organizer call on you.
- All remote. If possible, make sure everyone is remote. It’s really hard to attend a meeting where everyone is in one room talking over each other and you can only hear little snippets.
- 🙅♀️Have a sign if it’s off track. We invented an arms-crossed-like-an-X sign in case people feel like a meeting is off-topic, or there is too much cross talk, or someone is monopolizing the mic. Anyone can throw the sign and it’s time for the moderator to slow everyone down, take a breath, and move forward.
- Please don’t eat. Your face is going to be 18 inches away from the person you are meeting with. That’s way too close to watch someone take down a sandwich. You can always turn off your video for a minute if you need a quick bite in a long meeting.
- Remember you are hot mic’d. If you have wireless headphones it’s easy to forget that everyone can hear you if you are on a call. So when you pop into the bathroom (yes, it’s happened), or tell your spouse you are on a stupid boring work call (yes, that’s happened too), remember everyone can hear you. We once joined a call, which the partner didn’t know we’d joined, and they were bad-mouthing us. Our director just laughed and said, “Tell us how you really feel!”. Embarrassment, apologies, and lessons-learned ensued.
- Practice your best radio voice / NPR voice / voice-over voice. Microphones can be temperamental. When on a video call, slow down your speech and focus on enunciating clearly.
Remote Meeting Etiquette For Hosts
- Show up a few minutes early. And expect that your attendees may need a few minutes to get everything up and working when they join. If this is a new group, consider doing a 10-15 minute pre-meeting (or at the beginning of the meeting) mic-check where each person can make sure they can speak and be heard.
- Be a strong moderator. If you have people remote and in person, you must ensure that remote people have the same seat at the table. This means corralling cross-talk, taking turns, and making sure everyone has their chance to speak.
- Ask for feedback—then count to 10 slowly in your head. Often in a meeting like this you will ask for feedback or questions. Remember it takes people a few seconds to process what you said, find the ‘unmute’ button and speak. Give them more time than you would in a room.
- Hold an “around-the-room final say”. Since the technology may mute people when others are talking, or your meeting may be large so it’s hard for everyone to have a minute, consider having a final section of your meeting where each person is asked if they have said what they needed to.
- Practice before the meeting. Call a friendly colleague and test out your video, microphone, and headphones. Make sure you know how to share your screen. Make sure you know how to record a meeting.
- Start with ground rules. If your team is new to remote meetings, start with the ground rules:
- Mute if you aren’t talking.
- Only one person can talk at a time, raise your hand to be called on.
- No cross-talk in conference rooms.
- Around-the-room final say.
- Consent to record. In many states, this is the law, but no matter where you are, it’s good practice to ask everyone on the call if they give their consent to record the meeting if that is your choice. Store recordings in a secure area.
- Remind people to unmute. Once you have a group that is good at using the mute button, you will also have a group that will forget to unmute before they speak. If you are expecting someone to speak or see that they are on video, gently remind them that they are muted. This happens in almost every large call we’ve been in.
- Know how to end the meeting. When everyone is done, make sure you know which button to press to either leave the meeting or end the meeting depending on your circumstances.
Why We Use Zoom
There are lots of options out there, and we’ve tried many of them! We use Zoom because:
- It handles meetings of all sizes.
- Connects to Slack—start a meeting by typing /zoom.
- Handles latency in video and audio really well.
- Really good Gallery view so you can see everyone at once.
- Sharing screens, recording, and joining are all pretty easy.