When leading a remote meeting, there are many moving parts. If you’re new to working remotely, it can be overwhelming. This is why you need help. Ask the meeting participants to share the load.
Handing out jobs has two benefits:
- You can better focus your efforts when managing the meeting.
- Those with a job tend to be more engaged because they feel more responsibility for the meeting’s success.
Remote Meeting Roles
If you’ve ever had any meeting facilitation training for in-person meetings, you are likely already familiar with some of the roles.
A remote meeting adds some new roles into the mix. Let’s look at some of the tasks that typically need doing.
Hopefully you know your meeting platform well, but even if you do, there are still problems that crop up. Participants can’t get their audio to work or have trouble sharing their screen.
If you need to stop and deal with this, there’s a lot of people sitting around getting frustrated with the wasted time.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you had someone in your meeting who could help resolve any technical issues that came up? This person is your realtime tech support.
For critical meetings with lots of power players, you may want to have a technical host who is there only for that reason.
For routine team meetings, this a meeting participant, who just happens to be really good at fixing techy stuff.
This person can be the person who gets everything set up 10 minutes prior to the start time.
They respond to problems that arise and monitor the meeting for any potential problems that someone hasn’t mentioned, for example, distracting background noises.
You know that weird minute you log into a remote meeting, and wonder, “Am I supposed to say something or should I just lurk for a while?”
The greeter is the first to arrive to the meeting and has two main responsibilities:
- Welcome everyone to the meeting.
- Build some good connections by getting people chatting.
It’s just like when you walk into a party and don’t know anyone. You see a group of people talking, but are afraid to barge in. Don’t you love it when a person notices you first and says, “Hello, come on over and join us.” That’s a greeter.
As the meeting progresses, the greeter can also alert the group when a latecomer joins.
This is probably you, but it need not be. The facilitator leads the meeting. It’s the person who implements the meeting agenda, which likely this person has also developed.
I often think of the facilitator as the ringmaster in a circus. They direct our attention from one important activity to the next. They make sure we are on track, pay attention to balancing the discussion, and keep the overall goals front and center.
There might be an agenda item that one person is better suited to lead. When that’s the case the facilitator passes control for that section of the meeting agenda to a person who’s responsible for leading the discussion.
This person should be using the same skills the facilitator uses, but need only focus on one section of the meeting, rather than managing the whole process.
Meetings are better when they focus on problem solving. Sometimes part of that requires the presentation of information.
The presenter might take responsibility for explaining a document which is in a shared file or made visible to all via screen sharing.
Complex concepts need to have some visual support so people can understand it.
The presenter needs to be ready to share information in a clear and concise manner.
Time flies when you’re having fun. And before you know it, the buzzer goes off and you haven’t completed your meeting objectives.
The timekeeper has one main responsibility: keep the group aware of the clock. This might mean providing halfway and two-minute warnings. It’s letting the group know when time has expired.
The group ultimately decides whether to put more time on the clock. And if they do, the timekeeper will track it.
There are two qualifications for an effective timekeeper.
- They need a way of keeping time. There should be plenty of people with this qualification.
- They need courage. Cutting off a discussion is scary. When you assign timekeepers, tell them that interrupting is okay. It’s what you expect.
If you’re not writing things down, you may as well not even have the meeting.
People forget what happened. They are particularly adept at forgetting things they promised to do, if they believe nobody is going to remember what they agreed to do.
Most people see this as a grunt job and do their best to avoid it. You need to explain to people why it matters and tell them how to do it so that it isn’t such an onerous task. Here are the secrets to effective note taking:
- Only record that which might be needed later. This includes attendees, decisions, action items, idea lists, vote tallies, next steps, and evaluation comments about the process. It is not necessary to record the dialogue.
- Record only that which the group produces. The note taker shouldn’t be tossing in his or her editorial comments and extra ideas that weren’t brought up during the meeting.
- For really important meetings, you may want to bring in somebody for the sole purpose of taking notes.
- If you use one of the attendees to do the job, and the same group has multiple meetings, rotate the note taker role among attendees. It’s difficult to be an active participant and a note taker. The burden shouldn’t always fall on the same person.
- Edit the notes immediately following the meeting while they are still fresh, and send them within a day. So few people do this, that your recorder can gain hero status simply by being prompt with the notes.
Small Group Facilitator
In big meetings, I often break the large group into smaller discussion groups. The problem this creates is that I can’t be in multiple sub-meetings at the same time. For this to work, I need people who can lead each of these discussions.
Some meeting apps have this option available. The other day I was participating in a meeting on the Zoom platform. The leader put us into groups, but didn’t provide any process suggestions or have an assigned leader for each group.
There was a lot of hesitation and overall awkwardness. Great idea. Bad execution. An assigned facilitator with a recommended process plan would have helped.
The more you can dish out to others, the better. The point is that you don’t need to do it all, and it’s better if you don’t.
Engage people in the discussion, but also invite them to take responsibility for the meeting process. It is, after all, the group’s meeting, not yours.