Since the Covid-19 pandemic swept through the corners of the world, the demand for remote meetings has skyrocketed and has become a normal regularity for many businesses, and it's likely they will be here to stay. The switch to remote working has also unlocked more opportunities for businesses, including access to a wider talent pool, greater flexibility, and enhanced business continuity.
This said, it’s not all good news. Remote working also presents risks and challenges for businesses, and they can run into similar problems with remote meetings. In the first of a two-part blog series, we explain the challenges that can get in the way of remote meetings and give you some tools that can help you to address them.
The Challenges of Remote Meetings Today
Remote meetings can range in size from small, one-to-one conversations to larger online gatherings with colleagues from around the world. Being able to communicate, collaborate, and work with employees from geographically distant locations illustrates one of the clear advantages of remote meetings. There are no longer geographical restrictions, and this fact alone creates a world of opportunity for many businesses, thanks to the ability to virtualise meetings.
However, the virtual nature of remote meetings also presents some unique challenges for businesses, alongside some of the longstanding challenges that also often arise in in-person meetings. These challenges include:
‘Zoom fatigue’, the tendency for remote meetings to tire workers out because they are less connected to other attendees in the meeting and need to work harder to read body language and emotions.
Issues with audio and visuals due to technical barriers (‘you’re on mute!’)
Difficulty with screen sharing to visualise talking points in meetings
Working across different time zones and shifts
Distractions and technical limitations in home office environments
There are a range of tools and techniques that can be used to address each of these challenges. Depending on your business, its activities and team, some of these solutions will be more effective than others.
How to choose the right tools for remote meetings
There are many software platforms, and toolkits within these platforms, that can be used for remote meetings. So naturally some of them will be a better fit for your business than others. Here are some key factors to consider:
Your business’s size
How often you hold remote meetings
Time zones and locations
Ability to share screens and visuals
The ability to schedule in advance
Platform uptime and reliability
The audio and video quality of calling
Access to other tools (e.g. a virtual whiteboard)
Many of these factors require trying some platforms and testing their abilities. For example, you may find that for your business, one platform offers superior connectivity and calling quality, or perhaps you discover that they are missing a key feature that your business needs.
Along with choosing the best platform to host your meeting, how you manage it is equally important. The organisation of a meeting, keeping track of ideas and tasks, storing information centrally, and ensuring remote access to resources are all essential to a productive online meeting. Consider choosing an application that can seamlessly integrate and assist with these requirements while simultaneously empowering better collaboration, efficiency and productivity.
The important thing is to have a tool that keeps the discussion focused, captures new ideas and information, stores it for later use, and provides clear actions for the team.
An Example Video Conferencing Solution: Microsoft Teams
We’ll use Microsoft teams to illustrate some of the capabilities that remote meeting platforms can offer. There are other solutions on the market, such as Google Meets and Zoom that also offer a quality video conferencing solution. However, Teams does offer some unique benefits to businesses.
Microsoft Teams is a tool within the wider Microsoft 365 platform: a versatile collaboration and productivity platform for businesses. Teams is a unified workplace solution that brings together communication, collaboration, document sharing, editing capabilities, and much more.
Teams launched initially in 2017, but really took off after the Covid-19 pandemic swept the world. Since that time, the number of users and features on the platform has grown, with some of these features helping to address the teething problems associated with remote meetings, notably ‘Zoom fatigue’ (of course, this is not just exclusive to Zoom!).
Some of these features include reaction icons, real-time noise suppression (which reduces distracting background noises), and virtual environments that replicate locations such as conference rooms or even cafes for users, creating a less distracting, and more life-like and engaging backdrop. Other features include custom backgrounds, screen sharing, hand raising, recording, splitting meetings into sub-rooms (called ‘breakout rooms’), and live captioning.
How can you find out what works for you? You can try out a range of different remote conferencing and meeting management tools available today, following our remote meeting tips along the way. Stay tuned for our next blog in this series, which gives you practical tips for creating successful remote meetings!
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