How to do remote meetings effectively

Several teams, different locations. As technology evolves, this scenario gets more and more common. When you need to set up a meeting between distributed teams, it usually leads to frustration. Noise, poor sound quality, interruptions and lack of focus tend to erode communication and make things chaotic.

As a consultancy, we have learned a lot about remote meetings along the way and realized that we can help other teams to deal with it.

Here are some tips to do remote team ceremonies effectively.

Setting up the tools and the environment

A video call tool with screen sharing capabilities

Google Hangouts works fine for us. If your internet connection isn’t good, Hangouts allows you to reduce the bandwidth consumption.

Appear.in and Zoom.us also do the job quite well.

Some of these tools limit the number of simultaneous users. To deal with that limitation, ask people that are in the same building to get themselves together.

Speakers with omnidirectional mic in both ends of the call

Notebooks speakers and microphones were designed to be used by the person sitting in front of the screen. They don’t work well when you want to talk to and hear several people at different positions in a room.

We recommend using an external speaker with an omnidirectional mic in both ends of the call. We use this one. They are cheap and can work miracles in sound quality.

A proper place in both ends of the call

Speakers are loud. Pick a place where your sound won’t annoy people around and people around won’t annoy the ones in the conference either. Keeping sound quality in mind, look for places with low noise, like meeting rooms.

What do you need to do before and during the meeting

Make sure the ceremony has a clear objective and a clear timebox

These are basics for any meeting. Everyone should know what must be accomplished and what role they are performing. Talk about it in the beginning if necessary.

Every time you feel the conversation won’t help to get to the expected output, tell people and get back to the topic.

Set a timebox and follow it. People’s time is precious and having discipline shows that you respect that. Here’s an important trick: if you start and end a meeting in the specified timebox, with time, it tends to improve the meeting quality, even though in the first one you might end the meeting without the expected output.

Make sure remote people can see what local people see

People are visual. Having something to look at while trying to understand a problem helps a lot.

If you’re showing things on a TV or projector, share the screen with the remote ones.

Make sure remote people can hear what local people hear

It may look obvious, but it not always happen.

Multiple discussions may occur simultaneously; someone will start to talk too far from the mic, and sometimes the remote folks are simply ignored. Focus and engagement will be gone.

Interrupt politely and offer guidance every time it happens, explaining the reason.

Make sure there is a clear shared understanding

Stop from time to time and ask if there are any questions, especially if the discussion involves a complex subject.

Sometimes different understandings of the same issue can appear, and people on the other side don’t feel comfortable to interrupt and confirm.

Spread the word

Educate more people around this issue! It will make remote ceremonies even easier.

We hope this little guide helps. Don’t forget to share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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  • Juquinha

    It’s unbelievable that simple rules can make routine tasks a lot better.
    Great post, thanks.

  • Great! what really worked for us was to use ScreenSharing capability. Have a conversation leader (kind of a Scrum Master) who would cut the middle talk and get back focus of all the group to the topic. Meetings should be short so people do not get distracted. I hope this helps!