Mastering Remote Meetings: Practical Guide

Ruslan Halilov

Meetings are very expensive activity. I was always surprised seeing 5-10 people with salaries over 100K discussing things that could be easily done async. Being in constant zoom calls is expensive since it requires synchronous time. Most common meeting problems can all be addressed by following the above guidelines. First let’s look at some of the most common meetings problems:

1. Get rid of unnecessary recurring meetings

Recurring meetings can be valuable, but once their purpose has been served, it's okay to cancel them. After each meeting, the meeting organiser should assess whether it can be cancelled or if the frequency and duration can be reduced.  Anything that doesn't tangibly contribute to core biz should be cancelled.

2. Don’t schedule  meetings for brainstorming

It’s usually counterproductive to brainstorm during the meeting without any preparation beforehand. Many studies prove that brainstorming sessions without preparation can lead to the loudest voice being most heard.

Ideally you want people to prepare proposals async and building upon them in meetings if needed. Use a shared google dock for that.

3. Each meeting should have an agenda, summary and action items.

People are inherently lazy and no one wants to write so much fore each meeting.

At some companies like GitLab it’s part of their culture from the day one and meetings can’t be started without agenda. I understand some of you wouldn’t be able to introduce such a rule for the whole organisation. However, you can try it with one small team. Here is what the simple agenda should include to be 80% more efficient than the meeting without the agenda.

  • The reason for the meeting and a clear desired outcome
  • Summary & action items of the meeting
  • After the meeting, a link to the recording (if applicable)

Having a detailed agenda ensures that everyone is on the same page and ready to make the most of the meeting.

4. Recording of the meeting with the transcript is the best way to document the meeting.

It’s very common for people to loose track of the conversation because they try to write down every idea or decision of the meeting. Even though documenting the decisions is for successful meetings, sometimes you need to have a tradeoff - break the conversation  and write down the ideas/feedback or continue the natural flow of conversation.

How often have you had a situation when something interesting and useful was said during the meeting but you just forgot to write it down? Well, it happened quite often with me and that’s why I’m firm believer that recording the meetings is the only way to make your meetings more efficient.

The recording of the meetings isn’t something new, it has been for long time used by folks like Ray Dalio at Bridgwater. GitLab & GitHub were the pioneers in tech and now it’s very common for  remote/hybrid organisations to record the meetings.