Suddenly Working From Home? What You Need To Know About Remote Meetings

A lot of people have suddenly joined the remote-working revolution in recent days due to the effects of the coronavirus. If you’re one of them, here’s what you need to know about remote meetings.

Remote meetings don’t have to suck!

Lots of us who’ve been working remotely for many, many years know that any kind of conversation you could have in the flesh, you can have online.

We can get creative. We can go deep. We can argue. We can party. We simply don’t let the tech get in the way.

Instead, we delight in the fact that technology allows us to meet, connect, work and fall in love with people thousands of miles away.

How to make remote meetings good

Avoid horrible hybrids. A ‘hybrid’ meeting is one where a bunch of people are in a room together, and others are in other locations (remote). These are what a lot of people mean when they say ‘remote meeting’. But the thing is, they’re horrible. The remote people usually can’t be heard or seen clearly, and can’t hear or see the people in the room. That sets up all sorts of problems. If at all possible, avoid this format and go for ‘one person, one device, one quiet place’… and discover what you’ve been missing.

Develop your remote facilitation skills. You’re not born knowing this stuff, and practice makes a massive difference. If you’re organising remote meetings for the first time, here are six tips to make your remote meetings better. When you’re ready to go to the next level, join me for a remote facilitation course

Use decent meeting tech. For habitual remote workers, one system stands out head and shoulders above of the others: Zoom. One stands out as far worse than all the others: Skype for Business. You want a system that’s super easy to use and allows everyone to be heard and seen clearly. If you need to make a quick decision, just start with the free version of Zoom. You might learn to love the 40-minute limit on the length of group meetings 🙂  

Make sure everyone can be heard clearly. That means that everyone needs a headset. Pretty much any headset, such as the one that came with your phone, is better than using the mic on your laptop, which will pick up all the background noise and the sound of pencil-on-paper. The aim is for everyone to feel confident that they don’t need to be on mute the whole time, and can speak freely.

Make sure you can be seen clearly. Video cameras on! This isn’t the 1990s. Make sure there’s plenty of light on your face and avoid the ‘witness protection’ look caused by a window behind you. 

Here’s a comprehensive guide to remote working tools, by my friend and colleague Lisette Sutherland.

‘Sick’ and ‘working from home’ are different

Follow these tips, dive in, and you’ll soon learn to love remote conversations.

And, please remember that the ‘being at home sick’ is not the same as ‘working from home’. If you are sick, you’re sick. You are not required to work.

I know from recent personal experience – seasonal flu just knocked me flying – that it’s terribly tempting to join remote meetings when you’re not well. After all, you don’t even have to travel!

But your energy, or the lack of it, matters. If you’re key to the meeting and you’re not feeling good then neither you, nor the other participants, will have a good experience. Reschedule. The sky won’t fall in.

  • If you’re new to remote working, I’d love to hear what you’ve learned. What tips would you share with others in this position? Please comment below.

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