It's official, there's no escaping this digital age we're in. Nine out of ten global companies rely on teleconferencing to get work done. Remote working and virtual meetings are an intrinsic part of day-to-day working life.
Normally it's the domain of startups to have employees skyping in to a weekly meeting, or ditching the office altogether and having everyone work from home. But the corporate world is taking note.
Around a quarter of the digital development team at Nationwide work remotely, with its head, Daryl Wilkinson, encouraging his team to do so as a demonstration to the rest of the company. Alongside Nationwide, HP, Intel and Microsoft areleading the way in the virtual meetings, by hosting 'hybrid meetings' where shareholders or investors can either attend in person or online.
On the other side of the remote-meeting-coin, in 2013 Yahoo's CEO, Marissa Mayer, banned her employees from working remotely. Her reasoning : people are more collaborative when they are together.
While impromptu meetings over cups of tea are important, the general response to Mayer's decision wasn't a particularly positive one, with the press and her staff reacting badly to the call.
All-in-all, it seems that there's no ignoring the benefits.
While working remotely is easy enough with email and internal communication tools like Slack, it doesn't come without its problems. Maintaining company culture is a tough one, and remote workers can feel out of the loop and not truly part of the team.
Meetings also bring their own challenges. Having a productive meeting face-to-face can be difficult enough, factor in a couple of people working from home and productive, collaborative virtual meetings can seem almost impossible.
But it can be done.
At Wisembly we have offices in the UK and France, so we need to be able to talk to each other and work together online. It's taken some trial and error but we think we've mastered the remote meeting. Scroll down just a little further and we'll let you in on our secret method to having a great remote meeting : (and no, it doesn't involve beaming into a meeting as a hologram)1/ Before the meeting
The meeting doesn't start when the door shuts, the screens switch on and everyone takes their seats. To have a successful remote meeting, there's plenty to do before it kicks off.Consider time zones
Even if there's only one hour difference between the two countries you are in, take note and prepare for this. No-one wants to be in an 8AM meeting at 7AM. Be considerate and make sure the meeting works for everyone involved, or people won't be focused or invested.Remember your remote team-members
This one's pretty important. 37% of business professionals say sitting around and waiting for the remote person(s) to join the meeting is a regular timewaster. To make sure this doesn't happen, the meeting organiser needs to give thorough instructions on how to attend the meeting remotely in advance.Check the tech
Before you get down to the nitty gritty, make sure all apps are connected, the people working remotely can see/hear and that everything's working. It's basic stuff but it can easily be overlooked when you're in a rush. Take the time to prepare everything before kick-off, and the meeting won't be rudely interrupted.Prepare the agenda
This is especially important for people working remotely because they don't get a real sense of everything that's going on in the room. For smaller meetings of up to 20 people, use Solid to automatically retrieve the agenda from your Google Calendar and make sure everyone's in the loop.2/ During the meeting
With the vital pre-meeting prep out of the way, there are some steps to take during the meeting itself to make it run as smoothly as possible.Deal with audio/video issues
If you don't have a proper conference room with high quality audio and visual tools, some simple habits can improve the meeting for any remote team members. Try moving the phone/computer each time someone is speaking and make sure to avoid having people speak at the same time, as this can make the meeting difficult to follow for those remote members. And always remember, depending on how remote they are, there could be a delay in their audio.Encourage participation
It can be difficult to participate in the meeting when the organiser is sat on the other side of your computer screen. Understandably, you're afraid of interrupting or not being heard properly. Try using Wisembly to enable those working remotely, or in the room, to send in their feedback and questions without causing interruption by using the messaging feature, allowing everyone to collaborate fully.Stay focused
It's hard to concentrate for a long period of time, and harder still if you're doing it through a computer screen. Encourage people to stop multitasking and focus completely on what's happening. Make the meeting active and encourage input and collaboration from every member remote or not, to keep them fully invested on the meeting itself.
Keeping the meeting as interactive as you can makes sure everyone feels like they belong in the meeting. Wisembly enables attendees to vote interactively, which ensures everyone feels useful and like their input is valued.3/ After the meeting
To make your next remote meeting even better than your last, there are some actions you have to take after the door is shut, the notes have stopped being written and the meeting-dust has settled.Get feedback
Whether you've just had your first couple of virtual meetings, or if you've been doing them for years, use a satisfaction survey to see how it went. This will give you vital information on how to improve any virtual meetings you have in the future. Don't assume, ask the attendees. That's the best way to improve.Share your findings
When you're ready and you've got your remote meeting system perfected you can share the guideline with the whole of the company, safe in the knowledge that your remote meetings work just as well as face-to-face ones.
It's down to the meeting organiser to make sure the meeting, remote or face-to-face, is a productive one. And with the right preparation, actions, tools and analysis, there's nothing to stop your remote meetings being perfectly productive.