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Upskilling and Reskilling Topics: How to Have Effective Remote Meetings

With the ongoing pandemic, most of us have found ourselves in remote meetings. Many have found themselves feeling unmoored by this change, even as it looks increasingly permanent. Upskilling and reskilling to meet the new normal with confidence is crucial. Fortunately, the social skills necessary for a good in-person meeting can be shifted to the digital realm.

Here are some simple ways to lead remote meetings effectively, with tips that are also useful for participants. 

Establish Expectations

If you are the meeting lead, establish meeting expectations ahead of time. Designating a clear meeting time and agenda have always been important in helping meetings run smoothly. However, as a remote meeting lead, you will need to do more than that. Establishing expectations for remote meetings includes nitty-gritty like when mics should be on or off, whether everyone in the meeting needs to identify themselves and how, and the appropriateness of side-conversations. 

These expectations should be stated as clearly as possible. It is unlikely you will state something too obvious. This is because in in-person meetings, the expectations of behavior are often implied—formulated through a mix of broad workplace culture and tailored by the meeting agenda. People can take cues easily from one another. In all remote settings, whether by video, audio, or text, this becomes far more difficult. Facial expressions and tone can easily be lost, leading to miscommunication or even offense. This issue can be exacerbated when workers have suffered a loss of interpersonal connections because of remote work. So be clear, and don’t worry about overcommunicating your expectations. 

If you are a remote meeting participant, try your utmost to follow any expectations provided. Understand that doing so will not only make the meeting run smoothly but will also foster a sense of trust between all meeting members. 

Adapt in the Moment

Adaptability is another crucial soft skill for remote meetings. Some of this adaptability will be technical in nature—which is why it’s important for everyone to be capable in the technology and tools used for their remote work—but not all of it. It takes grace and flexibility to deal with the frustrations caused by fickle technology, and to move forward in good humor. If you are the meeting lead, technical difficulties will likely be especially upsetting, possibly embarrassing, so it’s key to try and prep as much beforehand as possible. 

For meeting participants who are having technical difficulties, adaptability can mean keeping calm and not letting your problems derail the entire meeting. And if you are a participant observing a coworker with difficulties, consider reaching out, when appropriate (i.e. after the meeting or during a break), to ensure that your coworker was still able to get all of the pertinent information. 

Not all situations requiring adaptability in remote meetings are technical in nature. Working remotely may leave you more prone to unexpected interruptions, so where possible, try your utmost to partition time and space for the meeting to happen. Your fellow meeting members will appreciate it. That said, even when the unexpected does arrive, it can be useful as a bonding moment for the team. Surprise pet or child appearances, for example, need not derail or upstage a meeting, whether you’re presenting or a participant. If necessary, mute yourself, deal with the situation, and then reach out to others after the meeting to ensure everything is okay. 

Communicate Proactively

When working remotely, everyone needs to take initiative in communicating with others. Even the most informal in-person communication opportunities—like small-talk—help foster belonging between team members. Remote work removes a lot of these small and spontaneous communicative opportunities. Thus, extra effort must be expended by everyone to replace them.

In the context of remote meetings, this means that leaders must be extra aware of everyone in their meetings. Part of this includes setting expectations as previously established. However, there is more to it than that. Even with videoconferencing options, it can be difficult to track people’s attentiveness and understanding. Thus, it is vital to take breaks and encourage audience participation. It can also be worthwhile to incorporate time for non-work communication into your meeting agenda, so that all participants have a sense of each other as people, not just coworkers. 

As a meeting participant, your responses during meetings need to be deliberate. Again, facial expressions and tone are often lost during remote work, which is something to be mindful of when speaking or writing. A less obvious source of communication is silence. Silence can commonly imply agreement or indifference. Or, in the case of mandated muted mics, shows respect for the entire team as they get through the meeting. Silence is not just auditory either—written silence can be just as difficult to interpret. When in doubt, follow up, whether at appropriate times during the meeting or afterward. 

One last note on the subject of proactive communication: communication flows best when there are multiple accessible channels. It takes both establishing expectations and adaptability to use these channels effectively, but once a system is present, it can greatly enhance the usefulness of your remote meetings. This is because meetings will not be the only venue for communication between coworkers. 

As you consciously shift your social skills—setting and meeting expectations, adapting to each moment, and communicating proactively—for remote meetings, your capability to handle remote meetings well will increase. With this effort, your teams will be as close and effective as ever. 

 If you need assistance developing the soft skills of your workforce, contact us. Our learning experts can provide upskilling and reskilling training solutions customized to your organization’s needs. 

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