There are too many dreadful remote meetings. Let’s make it stop! In this occasional series I share my six top tips for making your remote meetings not suck.

Tip 1: Know – And Say – Why You’re There

Have you ever signed up to attend a remote meeting without expecting to contribute? It’s easy to thoughtlessly accept an invitation: there’s no travel involved, and you’re probably expecting to be able to “listen with one ear” while doing other things.

One organisation I worked with had that as their meeting culture: pretty much every “meeting” amounted to one person talking, with everyone else pretending to listen.

A few years ago, someone reportedly created rather special software script. It would “listen” to any conference call the guy was supposed to be participating in, and if it heard his name would leap into action and play a recording of the guy’s voice saying, “I’m sorry, I missed that, could you repeat please?” That gave him just time to pull his attention back to the call to avoid ending up with egg on his face.

I’m busy, like most people. So if I’m in a meeting I want to get things done. If I’m not learning or contributing, I shouldn’t be there. One of the key things for me is to ask myself before the meeting, “What do I want to happen in this meeting, and as a result of this meeting?” I’ll aim to make sure I ask that of the other participants, too.

That can make meetings a whole lot quicker! The other day, for example, I was meeting a new potential client online: we had an hour in the diary. But we were done within 40 minutes, with an action plan in place.

Tip 2: Find Out About The Others

That doesn’t mean I’m suggesting you avoid the “social” side. It’s absolutely essential.

I was organising some training for the Royal Society for the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce – that’s a London-based Fellowship dedicated to good works, basically to changing the world. So I was on a committee that met online, and I was pretty intimidated by all these older guys that were known as leading people in their own fields.

But the thing was, it turned out they were nervous, too! They were a bit afraid of the technology, and of not really understanding how remote meetings and events could help them. It turned out a couple of them were hard of hearing, and could no longer contribute effectively to in-the-room meetings. Someone else was having cancer therapy and couldn’t get out of the house. Working via Zoom meant they could continue to contribute.

Once I understood where they were coming from, and they knew a bit about me, we all found it easier to relax, and to help each other. We’d started to create a ‘psychologically safe’ environment, which is critical to getting a team working well together.

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