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12 Ground Rules for Remote Meetings [+ Free Templates]

Try our ground rules to keep your conversations productive and your employees engaged during remote meetings.

By Brier Cook  •   July 29, 2022  •   7 min read

Picture this: it’s time for another remote meeting. While you’ve grown to love the work-from-home lifestyle, your team hasn’t perfected the art of virtual meetings just yet. You have one colleague who is consistently late, another whose internet never seems to be working, and the group as a whole has a hard time staying on task. You regularly get distracted and find yourself multitasking often during these meetings, too. 

Virtual calls don’t have to be this hard. What if we told you that remote meetings can run as smoothly as in-person affairs? 

Let’s take a look at ground rules for remote meetings, why they’re important, and 12 rules you can set for your employees today. 

Why are remote meeting ground rules important?

Our reliance on virtual meetings has increased over the past years. Video conferencing software like Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams have enabled remote workers to work efficiently with each other across time zones and amidst the most challenging global circumstances. 

Establishing ground rules during a remote meeting is important because it ensures all participants know what to expect from the call, how they should conduct themselves, and the communication best practices. 

Run delightful remote meetings

Increase meeting engagement and productivity with a collaborative agenda that the whole team can contribute to. Try using a tool like Fellow!

12 ground rules for virtual meetings 

1Create a collaborative meeting agenda 

You should host meetings to make decisions, not to decide on the question! Send a meeting agenda that outlines meeting topics, talking points, and action items to delegate at least 24 hours in advance of the virtual call. Your meeting agenda should include timestamps, who owns each meeting item, and subpoints that should be discussed. No one wants to attend a meeting that should’ve been an email. Everyone should understand the purpose of the meeting and feel prepared well in advance. When you circulate an agenda, organized and meaningful conversations are bound to take place. 

2Send the meeting agenda 24 hours before the meeting

All attendees should have enough time to review the meeting agenda, prepare to discuss any topics they own, and add their own agenda items if necessary. It’s simple: sending an agenda at least 24 hours in advance also clarifies expectations and responsibilities. When you’re proactive, you’ll empower your employees to contribute and come prepared with their own ideas and questions. Staff who know who’s in charge of what projects, discussion topics, and how they can contribute before the meeting even starts will feel like their time is being respected. They may be more likely to drive results for the company!

3Use a meeting management tool

Meeting management tools are the key to a successful remote meeting. You and your team can use Fellow to drive engagement before, during, and after each meeting. Our tool allows you to build collaborative meeting agendas, record decisions, and hold each other accountable! During each meeting you can assign, organize, and prioritize action items in one place. You can also record real-time feedback and notes, and use our time-saving templates to build great meeting habits. The best part is that you can integrate Fellow with your favourite remote meeting tools like Google Meet, Zoom, and Slack. 

4Choose a video conferencing application 

So many apps, so many questions! You’ve heard of Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Google Meet, but do you know which one is best suited for your business and employees? Before you commit, estimate how much you may need to spend and determine your budget. Take a look at how many people you expect to be attending online meetings and how large your typical virtual gatherings will be. Think about what features are non-negotiable for your team. Do you want to record your live sessions for future use? Or perhaps you want a top-of-the-line chat feature? When deciding on a video conferencing application, consider the cost, the size of your team or organization, and the app features you need. 

5Do a technology check before the meeting 

Avoid digital mishaps by encouraging each member of your team to do a “tech check” before they join a virtual meeting. Take five minutes before your first call of the day to ensure that your camera and microphone are working and that you have a copy of documents you plan to share ready to go. 

6Keep your cameras on 

It can be tempting to keep your camera off during a remote meeting, but resist the urge and set a good example for other participants by keeping yours on. Working from home can leave employees feeling disconnected. If you don’t prioritize face-to-face communication, this can negatively impact team bonding and decrease engagement. Seeing each other can help teammates form better relationships and convey matters more clearly through body language and facial expressions. If you need to turn your camera off due to an exceptional circumstance, let your teammates know and make an effort to still be an active participant! 

7Mute your microphone when you’re not talking 

Prevent disturbances due to background noise by keeping your microphone on mute when others are speaking. Encourage your teammates to do the same! Turn the volume off or mute all device notifications so attendees don’t become distracted by your apps, texts, and calls. When working remotely, ask others nearby to stay quiet as well so there isn’t unnecessary commotion in the background. 

8Assign meeting roles 

Assign clear meeting roles to ensure your remote calls are productive. Roles may include an organizer, a host, a notetaker, a timekeeper, a decisionmaker, a voice of the customer, optional attendees, and informed participants or stakeholders. For recurring meetings, assign each person’s role for the next call at the end of the current session. With assigned roles, everyone will be empowered to participate!

9Avoid multitasking 

We’ve all been there; you’re attending a remote meeting and get asked a question by a colleague, only to realize that you were browsing the news on another tab or working on a non-related document. Free yourself of distractions by closing all tabs and applications that aren’t related to the meeting. Fight the urge to work on other tasks and encourage your team to work through the agenda items at a reasonable pace instead. 

10Follow appropriate remote meeting etiquette

Remote meeting etiquette is just like in-person meeting etiquette! You should only invite people who need to be at the meeting, make time for introductions if there are new attendees, listen actively throughout the meeting, and eliminate distractions. Remember to avoid your own video box and to instead look at the camera when you’re speaking. Take all calls in a bright space with natural light and aim to solve any technical issues before the meeting begins. Encourage everyone to speak, record any decisions and next steps, and thank all attendees for joining the call at the end of the meeting!

11Take meeting notes 

Meeting notes should document the key points and priorities discussed during the call, but this doesn’t mean you should jot down everything that is said. Aim to record any important information that you’ll need to recall in the future. Your notes should include the date of the meeting and attendees present, a copy of the meeting agenda, important decisions made during the call, answers to pressing questions, talking points for future meetings, and action items. With Fellow, you can level-up your notes by customizing the details to suit your needs. You can even assign action items with due dates in your notes for other teammates to view.

12Set up in a distraction-free area 

Don’t fiddle with your phone or begin other work during your remote meeting. Set yourself up for success by setting up in a distraction-free area of your home or other workspace. Inattentive team meetings can affect the call for all attendees. When one individual is distracted, they may waste others’ time by asking other participants to repeat information or clarify talking points. If you’re feeling particularly jittery before a call, increase your focus by practicing mindfulness exercises or getting some exercise beforehand. 

Free remote meeting agenda templates

Parting advice

After a relaxing weekend, you log onto your video conferencing software of choice for your first meeting of the week. Your employees are thriving since you set ground rules for your team’s remote meetings. Every person feels included now that they have assigned roles and everyone has been showing up prepared! Your remote team has learned a lot about communication and are feeling more collaborative than ever. Who would have thought better meetings would lead to a more connected team? (Hint: we always knew). The next time your virtual meetings feel a bit off, set some new ground rules to help your team work efficiently. Before you know it, your team will be accomplishing more in less time.

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