Remote or virtual meetings can represent a solution for work teams or students who find it difficult to attend face-to-face meetings. This type of meeting has become even more common since the start of the pandemic in 2020. Resulting in the implementation of remote meetings on an almost permanent basis.
This has become the work and academic reality for millions of people around the world. Therefore, it is essential to recognize the best ways to manage them. If you want to learn more about this topic, read on.
The most important
- The management of remote meetings is fundamental to achieve positive objectives. It starts from the moment the possibility of holding a meeting is raised until the end of the meeting.
- Remote meetings have become even more common since the pandemic. This period benefited the emergence and increased use of different platforms for videocalls and videoconferences. Each of the existing platforms is aimed at an audience with very specific needs, so it is necessary to consider what each one offers.
- As part of remote work, it is even more common to be unfamiliar with co-workers and lack of cooperation in this type of meetings. Team bonding activities at the start of remote meetings are essential.
What you need to know about remote meeting management
Many companies have adopted full remote or semi-presence working on a permanent basis. This decision has led to team meetings having to be implemented in this way. But what needs to be done to make remote meetings more efficient? There are a number of questions that cross our minds prior to the start of a meeting of this type. It is best to organize in advance what is to be discussed and for how long.
What are remote meetings and why should they be held?
Remote meetings are those that must be held through virtual platforms. Zoom and Microsoft Teams are widely recognized as two of the most widely used virtual platforms by companies. Remote meetings are often held both when an entire work team is in remote positions, as well as when some are still in the office.
For example, it is common to find companies with positions that still function in a hybrid way. For example, it is common to find managers who come to the company a few days a week, while some employees work from home. Remote meetings promote the ability to communicate regardless of their geographical location. This type of meeting benefits working from home, which is one of the main reasons why it is done.
Faced with the growing need for remote work, many organizations created methodologies to facilitate the management of this type of meeting. Thus, PAHO and WHO outlined some good practices for this purpose. This methodology, due to the global pandemic context, was mainly oriented to the health sector. However, many of its suggestions can be applied to any company or organization.
What are the ways to manage remote meetings?
Meetings require an approach and a definition according to the content to be discussed, regardless of how they are conducted, whether virtual or face-to-face. Thus, the types of meetings, according to their content, are not very different from those held in person. PAHO and WHO indicate that the types of meetings are as follows:
- Problem solving.
- Keynote lectures.
- Coordination or management of a project.
- Exchange of information and knowledge (1).
- Consider whether the topic merits a meeting.
- Define the type of meeting.
- Select the platform to be used.
- Determine which people should join the meeting.
- Obtain confirmation from the people called to the meeting and facilitate access to the platform.
- Communicate the topic to be discussed in advance. If necessary, assign responsibilities to the team.
- Define the length of the meeting. It is recommended that it does not exceed one hour.
- Start the meeting punctually and do not exceed the defined time.
- Use the meeting for the defined topic. Keep an agenda or schedule.
There are other tips for managing remote meetings. Leading a long-distance meeting is not easy; it entails a lot of responsibility. Just as the organizer has to comply with certain minimum requests for a remote meeting to develop effectively, those who attend must also comply with minimum actions that demonstrate interest and more active participation.
Harvard Business Review points out that participants should be prepared to keep their cameras activated, unless otherwise instructed (2). At the same time, it should be avoided to connect to meetings in noisy or informal places.
Examples include not connecting from bars or public streets. Remote meeting management is not without its challenges. Some of these challenges may be connected to lack of training on technology platforms or lack of collaboration from the team. The following is a summary of some of the challenges highlighted by Harvard Business Review (3).
What are the advantages and disadvantages of remote meetings?
Opinions on the management of meetings, in general, tend to be very divided. Even more so, about business meetings conducted remotely. Despite the common occurrence of such meetings, their effectiveness is now being questioned.
This meeting could have been an e-mail
For some years now it has been more common to hear this phrase. There are numerous humorous videos and memes describing long meetings without clear objectives. And both the advantages and disadvantages of remote meetings have been increasing, even more so since the start of the pandemic in 2020.
- Flexible scheduling
- Increased possibilities for information dissemination
- Reduced costs
- Facilitates digital records
- Use of chat for comments or suggestions
- Optimizes time
- Eliminates risks of contagion due to proximity
- Increased distractions
- Concerns about cyber security
- Unsuitable environments
- Leads to more training on use of platforms
- No social interaction
- Less team cohesion
- Facing connection problems and platform failures
What is the recommended time for a remote meeting extension?
The recommended time for the extension of a remote meeting may vary among authors and is also related to the topics to be discussed. Thus, there are those who consider that an effective distance meeting should not exceed 20 minutes, others consider that it should be kept around 45 minutes. Still others advise that it should not exceed 60 minutes.
It is important that the length of a remote meeting is stipulated prior to its start, in order to avoid unnecessary lengthening. It should be noted that a very long distance meeting does not necessarily mean an effective meeting.
How far in advance should a remote meeting be announced?
The time in advance to announce a distance meeting will depend on the topics to be developed. This is because the participants deserve more time to prepare in case they have to present results or carry out a project. However, for distance meetings, mainly of an informative nature, it is common to announce at least one week in advance, so that the meeting can be scheduled without causing major complications. Remember to send the agenda with the same advance notice (4).
What activities can be included to make remote meetings more pleasant?
There are several activities that can improve the atmosphere of remote meetings. These activities are usually short, and most of them are phrases or questions that can help to strengthen the relationship between coworkers. In turn, it makes it easier for team leaders to recognize the emotional state and personal likes and dislikes of their colleagues. Icebreaker activities are essential for this type of meeting, and there are several depending on the formality required. These types of activities are even more helpful in 100% remote workspaces, where workers do not know each other physically.
Activities that can be used to break the ice range from asking questions about their likes and dislikes in movies, colors and even favorite flavors, to playing online games. Open up short spaces for them to share personal experiences or show a picture of a place that inspires peace or of loved ones. Different universities and mental health institutes have contributed activities to break the ice, always proposing that it be done in a controlled time and free of prejudices.
- Ask participants to voluntarily show what they can see from the windows near their desks.
- Show some tender or funny object that they keep on their desks.
- Ask which accomplishment or accomplishments of the week make them feel relieved and proud.
- Ask participants to volunteer to take a tour of the home office environment.
- Share a photograph (their own or from the Internet) that represents them or gives them a positive feeling.
- Organize a hypothetical trip. Think about where they want to go, who they would take and what they would pack for the trip.
- Discuss a recent taste or interest. It could be a type of food, a new sport, a board game, or even a genre of music.
It should always be kept in mind that certain questions and activities may involve personal information about the participants, so participation should be voluntary (5). The activities are intended to make the group feel good and allow them to get to know their co-workers a little better (6). Having the team leader be part of the activities can motivate others to participate. Activities should be limited in time in order to meet other objectives in the schedule.
What are the best platforms for organizing remote meetings?
There are different tools and virtual platforms to develop remote meetings. Their use will depend on the number of participants allowed, the activities to be carried out and the cost of the platform. There are also some free platforms. The following are some of the most used platforms for remote meetings.
Zoom belongs to Zoom Video Communications, founded by Eric Yuan in 2011. It is widely known and available for most devices. It is one of the most widely used platforms for both telecommuting and academic aspects.
The platform can be of one free, however, it limits its video calls to 40 minutes. To hold longer meetings without limitations, you must create a user and pay for one of the plans. More recently, Zoom has varied its spaces, with four types: One, Spaces, Events and Contact Center. Zoom One could be the most useful type for business aspects, offering in addition to opening virtual meetings, team chats, Phone System VoIP, online whiteboard and conversational intelligence.
The Business plan starts at $199 per year. This plan offers the ability to hold meetings with up to 300 participants, meetings up to 30 hours in length, 5 GB of recording storage per license, automated captioning, unlimited whiteboards and collaboration chats.
This Microsoft service is part of the Office suite. It is available for most devices, both iOS and Android. Microsoft Teams has been launched since 2017. This platform allows in addition to making video calls; organize groups, access calendars, share files, among others.
This platform is usually widely used both in the academic and work sector. This is because it is connected to services such as Office 365. There are several studies that demonstrate the positive role of this type of platform in the academic sector. Its importance lies precisely in the fact that it encompasses different tools for the organization of information, assignment of tasks and interaction between teachers and students (7).
Google Meet and Google Duo
Google Meet and Duo are platforms that allow video calls. These services are part of Google’s wide range of offerings. These services allow screen sharing, file sharing, and collaborative work on documents.
Both Meet and Duo are well known for making video calls and calls. Being part of Google’s services, they have a good reputation. However, many still question what their particular features are. Therefore, we offer some of the particularities of Meet and Duo to make your choice easier.
|Google Meet||Google Duo|
|Group chat available||Messaging service|
|Offers video call service with the capacity of 500 participants||Offers video call service with the capacity of 32 participants|
|Integrated with Google Calendar||It has Toc Toc service, which allows viewing the video of the person making the video call before answering.|
|Support for work team subrooms||Allows video messages|
|Noise cancellation||Effects and filters can be applied|
In terms of similarities, both require the use of a Gmail account. In turn, the use of Google Chrome is recommended for greater benefits such as noise cancellation, application of backgrounds and filters. Both Meet and Duo are compatible with Android and iOS. Both have integrated virtual whiteboard, which facilitates group work. For its simplicity, Duo tends to stand out among users as the easiest to learn to use.
Jitsi is a videoconferencing software launched in 2003. It allows video calls to be made free of charge. Jitsi makes it easy to include up to 100 participants at a time. It is considered one of the easiest platforms to use. Users do not need to create an account to access Jitsi. Jitsi is available for both Android and iOS devices. It also works on Linux, Windows and Mac.
Among the unique services Jitsi offers is that more than one user can share screen at the same time. This makes it ideal for working together. Like other platforms, it facilitates auto-reconnecting and recording video calls.
OoVoo is a messaging and video calling service launched in 2007. This service has the ability to include up to 6 people in free video calls. With conference-style video calls, a paid plan, it can be used with up to 12 people. This service is available for both iOS and Android.
Belonging to Cisco, it has different plans according to the needs of companies and users. Webex offers plans for meetings, webinars and events. Prices start at $14 per month. The meetings subscription offers the possibility of organizing meetings with up to 200 participants, a 24-hour extension, subtitles and 10 GB storage. Webex works both by downloading the application and from any search engine.
There are several elements to consider before and during a remote meeting. Meeting management has always been a relevant topic, however, remote meetings include certain challenges that were not taken into consideration (8). For team leaders and teachers, virtuality brings new possibilities. At the same time, virtuality brings disadvantages such as the lack of integration between teams. For this reason, it is essential to incorporate dynamics or activities that favor cohesion and break the ice.
There is a variety of platforms on which video calls and videoconferences can be made. To select the most appropriate platform, the number of participants and the activities to be carried out must be taken into account. Each platform includes different tools that are more or less useful depending on the needs of each user. Therefore, it becomes an essential aspect the proper management of remote meetings, in order to make the best decisions and make these minutes more friendly spaces for all participants.
1. Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), World Health Organization (WHO). Conducting virtual meetings. Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) [Internet]. 2015.
2. Harvard Business Review, Reverté Management (REM). In: How to lead virtual meetings, 2022.
3. Harvard Business Review, Reverté Management (REM). In: How to Lead Virtual Meetings, 2022.
4. University of Florida. Training and Organizational Development. In: Making remote meetings work, 2020.
5. University of Otago (New Zealand). In: Quick Team-Building activities for virtual meetings,
6. Egas Reyes V, Torres Castillo AL, Hidalgo Jiménez N, Andrade Zapata S, Salao Sterckx E. Mental health, virtuality and pandemic: Experiences of Psico Escucha PUCE. Latin American Journal of Public Policy and Action [Internet]. 2020Oct;7(2):55-74.
7. Rodríguez Guijarro CM, Castro Salazar AZ. Microsoft Teams platform and its influence on the learning of high school students. Reista Arbitrada Interdisciplinaria KOINONIA [Internet]. 2021;VI.
8. Grau Moracho J. Open reflection on virtual meetings on the Internet . ThinkEPI Yearbook [Internet]. :170-3.