How to Facilitate an Innovative Remote Meeting
Recent challenges sparked by widespread work-at-home mandates are revealing an essential need to ensure productivity and engagement for remote meetings.
Many of us are familiar with the internet meme video, A Conference Call in Real Life. It may resonate as all too real (but still very funny!).
With the right approach, however, remote meetings can be productive, engaging, and spark creativity.
Since distributed teams and remote work environments are how we’re already accustomed to working here at Promet Source, we’ve been able to adapt many onsite Design Thinking meeting techniques, using Human-Centered Design activities and adjust them to a virtual format.
We often accommodate remote teams who have attendees in varying areas throughout the globe that find it impossible to all get together for an onsite meeting, but still need to put their heads together to define an organization’s priorities or innovate together toward common goals.
On many levels the uncertainty and upheaval of our recent change in workplace environments represents limitation, but one of the main principles of design thinking is that creativity thrives in an environment of time constraints and limitations, which provides the opportunity for innovation and creativity when a few key guidelines are followed.
Planning and Facilitation
A productive meeting has an agenda. Create a written agenda and share it with participants prior to the remote meeting, as well as at the beginning of the meeting itself. Be sure to include time slots for each discussion item, even if it is only 10 minutes.
Follow the agenda items closely and assign someone the “timekeeper” function to give a 2–5-minute warning before the planned agenda item is due to time out and stick to it!
Use Interactive Tools for Alignment
Oftentimes, the loudest voices in the meeting or those of upper management are the only opinions that get heard. Utilize online tools to facilitate discussions and to ensure every voice and opinion can be shared, regardless of hierarchy and position.
Interactive tools can also help document what is being discussed in real-time without “note taking” so attendees can see what is being discussed and agreed upon.
Creating an interactive forum also allows open discussion, presentation of ideas, and collecting maximum input from participants. If the users can contribute anonymously to the meeting, it allows for critical evaluation of ideas as a neutral and anonymous format.
Interactive tools we like to use during online meetings include:
- Originally a Sprint Retrospective board we have co-opted for interactive meetings.
- Allows multiple users in a document at the same time for meeting collaboration.
- In addition to a good design and prototyping tool, InVision also has a great virtual whiteboard that allows multiple people to draw on the whiteboard at the same time.
Prioritize & Gain Consensus
Working with the group to prioritize items that come up during the discussion helps to gain group consensus. Act as a facilitator for the meeting, listen to what is being said, and put your opinion aside in order to encourage participation and optimize input. Create follow-up activities for what the group sees as most important and assign next steps assigned to team members. Let them come up with a solution and present it back to the group in this or a future meeting.
Remember, online meetings can be productive and innovative when we allow the space for people’s ideas to be heard and thrive. Leveraging the right tools along with an intentional focus on connection and engagement sets the stage for memorable meetings that get participants to perk up and be on their A Game.
Design Thinking offers a whole new perspective on running a meeting. Engagement and connection are a particular imperative in the current environment and never has there been a better time to put design thinking to work.