For most employees, the frequency and length of meetings has only continued to rise since the pandemic. In fact, companies have seen a staggering increase of nearly 70% more meetings since 2020, leaving employees now spending an average of 21.5 hours in meetings every single week.

Every face-to-face interaction has turned into an online meeting. And for companies skeptical of remote work, the easiest way for employees to publicly announce they’re working is to, well, fill up their calendar with meetings. 

The solution to this meeting madness? Plan more effective meetings by using the concept of design thinking and utilizing apps like Mural, Whiteboards, and Multivote & Enterprise Survey.

What is design thinking?

It refers to putting the user at the center of an experience and prioritizing their needs. While popularized by designers, this approach is universally applicable.

When applied to remote meetings, the design thinking stages – Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test – in addition to utilizing apps can help facilitators act on employee feedback to redesign recurring meetings and plan better one-offs.

Empathize: check in with attendees before planning meetings 

Designers use the “Empathize” stage of design thinking to conduct research that helps them develop empathy for users. 

Just like designers attempt to recognize the consumer’s pain points, check in with potential attendees prior to your meeting to build trust and understand their needs and challenges around the meeting’s topic. You can share the meeting topic with a quick summary, outline, or even a full-blown agenda if you have it ready. 

You can lead with empathy by asking your team questions like: :

  • What challenges and opportunities would you like to discuss in this meeting?
  • [For recurring meetings] What parts of the meeting do you like and dislike?
  • [For recurring meetings] What would you change if you were running the meeting?

Be open to asynchronous work versus planning a meeting for anything and everything.

Define: set a clear purpose and desired outcomes

The “Define” stage of design thinking is marked by examining all of the data in one place in order to break it down into a manageable and actionable problem statement. The “problem statement” is synonymous with the meeting’s objective and outcomes.

Use virtual whiteboards, like Mural or Whiteboards, to jot down feedback from participants and spot a pattern of employee issues.

mural whiteboards screenshot

To set a clear purpose and outcome, ask yourself 4 W questions: 

  • Who is affected by the problem?
  • What is the issue?
  • Where does it occur?
  • Why does it matter?

Say you’re planning an all-hands, and the feedback from most attendees is that they don’t want to pore over company-level metrics. 

In this case, the “problem” is the enormous amount of time it takes to painstakingly go over each metric.

The meeting’s purpose then shifts from relaying how the company has fared that quarter to answering questions employees have about the company’s growth. And the desired outcome is to ensure employees are aligned with the goals.

Ideate: brainstorm ideas to engage meeting participants 

Designers use the “Ideate” phase to think creatively about the potential solutions, and “How Might We” (HMW) questions help spark that creativity. For instance, “How might we make using this product more exciting?”

When it comes to meetings, a common problem for facilitators is encouraging active participation and maintaining engagement levels because traditionally meetings have been designed to share information and leave it at that (or only prompt for any questions at the end.)

Research from TED found that nearly 90% of participants reported daydreaming in meetings, and 73% admitted to doing something else. Since the risk of this happening in remote settings is likely far greater, your HMW questions might look like this:

  • How might we make meetings more engaging?
  • How might we increase participation?
  • How might we use technology to analyze attendee sentiment?

Here’s a brainstorming template from Mural you can use:


Create opportunities for attendees to break away from the conventional meeting flow and actively participate with these tools:


Run the Ritual Reset playbook to streamline meetings.

Prototype: plan out your meeting agenda

Designers create product prototypes to test how users perceive them and make changes based on that feedback until it resembles the finished product.

Treat your meeting similarly by writing a team meeting agenda. While it’s important to have an agenda for in-person meetings, it’s equally, if not more important to ensure you have one when it comes to remote meetings. This will help keep your audience engaged and ensure you stay on track and tackle the action items you set out to accomplish. 

Map out exactly how your meeting will unfold by creating an agenda that includes the meeting topic, objectives, outcomes, action items, and time allocated for each topic. 

Share the draft agenda with participants along with a short Loom video to explain your thought process and ask for feedback. Use those insights to tailor the meeting’s flow or action items as needed.  


When planning an especially important one-off meeting, consider doing a quick practice run with willing participants so you can test the virtual space, technology, and setup.

Test: keep iterating to create employee-centric meetings

The final stage of design thinking, Test, is where designers mull over qualitative and quantitative feedback to identify areas of improvement, make changes to the product, and test them out. 

After meetings end, ask participants what went well and what didn’t to improve ongoing meetings and design better one-offs. Sometimes, this might also mean returning to a previous stage or circling back to the first one. It can take quite a few iterations to get it just right. 

While using design thinking to plan remote meetings may initially seem like a lot of work, the alternative is to spend time and money on poorly organized meetings – or to have ineffective meetings that could have instead been accomplished asynchronously.

To learn more about products and apps that can help you plan more effective meetings and/or tackle work asynchrously, visit our Marketplace.

How to plan better remote meetings with apps and a design-thinking approach