Remote meetings are becoming more frequent and appear to be here to stay in the modern working world. Despite the fears around issues such as home Wi-Fi going down, noises and the impromptu appearance of pets and children in meetings, overall, these fears have not materialised in a way that would make the office an obvious better choice; the office can also feature noise, distractions and technical issues after all.
In all, it is increasingly clear that virtual meetings can be just as productive, if not more so, than in-person meetings. However, this new format does present new risks too, particularly in relation to preparation and attendance, technical issues and the risk of digressing from the topic at hand.
This piece runs over the challenges of remote meetings and gives some guidelines for how to find a remote meeting provider that meets your needs. In our next piece, we’ll discuss how to hold effective remote meetings using specific tips and actions.
The challenges of remote meetings
Remote meetings can be lengthy internet conferences with participants from all around the world or brief 1:1 sessions. One of the clear benefits of remote meetings is that they facilitate live collaboration between staff members from across the world. Since there are no longer any geographical limitations, a wider spectrum of talent is now accessible.
A remote meeting differs from an in-person meeting because it takes place virtually. Whilst an obvious difference, there are some unique challenges that arise as a result:
- They can affect our ability to read body language and emotion; virtual meetings have been associated with the idea of ‘zoom fatigue’, as it can take more energy to read these visual cues through a virtual interface.
- Issues with the audio and visuals, due to technical barriers or settings; ‘You’re on mute!’.
- Working together across different time zones and shifts
- Hardware and software dependencies creating differences in accessibility and experience
- Distractions and technical limitations in the home office
Remote meetings tend to follow the same format and protocol as in-person meetings, despite the additional technical obstacles and geographic distance.
How to choose the right tool for remote meetings
When selecting a platform for remote meetings, several criteria should be considered. It is important to consider the elements that are unique to your team and organisation. For larger and smaller gathering and other requirements, different tools may be better suited than others.
Consider the following elements when you consider your remote meeting options:
- Your team’s size
- Time zones and locations
- Sharing of screens and visuals
- Having the ability to schedule in advance
- Platform uptime and reliability
- Team hardware for accessing remote meetings
How you run your meeting is just as important as selecting the finest platform to host it on. A productive online meeting requires careful planning, keeping track of ideas and activities, central information storage and ensuring remote access to the materials.
Online tools have also emerged increasingly for managing meetings, including digital whiteboards, mind maps, and cloud-based note storage to take notes instantly. The tools to support the meetings, like the meeting software, may vary by requirements. For example, to document a project meeting, you may require a basic Word document or bring in project management software including Kanban boards to capture and organise the insights and actions of the meeting.
It’s crucial to have a tool that facilitates clear decision-making for the team, collects fresh ideas and information, and stores it for future use.
One such tool is Microsoft Teams
Microsoft 365’s collaboration tool, Microsoft Teams, is a leading cloud office tool that encourages teamwork, video conferencing, document sharing and workplace collaboration.
Teams was released in 2017 as a rival to Clack for online communications. Since its release it has grown quickly to become one of the world’s most popular collaboration tools, driven in no small part by the Covid-19 pandemic. It has been so successful, that Teams has been dubbed the company’s fastest-growing business app in its entire existence!
Teams has emerged as one of Microsoft’s key workplace productivity and collaboration tools partly because of the necessity of remote working that emerged from the pandemic. Businesses scrambled to set up virtual meetings for remote employees. As businesses closed and sent employees home in March 2020, Microsoft observed a 1,000% spike in video meetings. Teams users also increased dramatically, from 32 million at the beginning of March to 75 million by the conclusion of the month.
Microsoft quickly added new features to enhance remote working capabilities to take advantage of the fast changes in working habits, and to reduce the fatigue that became associated with video conferences. One of the key features, called ‘together mode’, produces a virtual environment, like a conference room for example, where participants’ video feeds are cropped and gathered in more natural settings to create a shared area that feels more suited to collaborative dialogue.
It has many meeting-friendly features. distractions are lessened with the addition of real-time noise suppression. Deep learning techniques isolate the speech signal from undesired background noise. Basic video call features like custom backdrops, screen sharing, hand raising, recording, breakout rooms, and live captioning are also available within the Teams app to further enhance the meeting experience.
How can you determine what is effective for you? We encourage getting clear on your criteria and scouting out the virtual meeting providers that can meet your needs. Even better, a meeting provider that can integrate its software with your other applications can offer additional benefits, such as automation, streamlining and enhanced communications across your organisation.
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