Illustration of several people in video chat windows

If you’re like most office workers, you got an unscheduled crash-course in distributed teamwork in 2020. And you probably noticed that, in a remote-first world, collaboration becomes far more intentional than when we could spontaneously strike up conversations at the water cooler. Which means more meetings. Lots more meetings.

In a global study we conducted in partnership with research firm Paper Giant, 51% of participants reported attending more pre-organized meetings, while 49% said they noticed an increase in impromptu meetings. We feel that. According to our internal data, Atlassians spent 400% more minutes on Zoom in September 2020 than in September 2019.

That’s not to say that using video chat for real-time collaboration is a Bad Thing™ on the face of it. The intentionality of virtual meetings can promote focus and rich, meaningful contributions. But if virtual meetings aren’t facilitated well and attendees don’t make an effort to mind their manners, everyone leaves the call feeling frustrated.

Curious to know how your virtual meeting savvy measures up? (You are. Admit it.) Take this quick quiz to find out. Then come back for a few tips that will lead you to meeting mastery in no time – no peeking, though!

Well. That was fun (I hope). Now let’s see if we can improve your distributed meeting know-how. As a full-time remote worker since 2017, I’ve amassed a few pointers through my own experience and the experience of other Atlassians. (Did you know the Trello team is over 60% full-time remote? Those cats have some serious wisdom to share.) Here are my top three.

  1. Lighting matters – Even if you’re not the vain type, make sure people can see your face clearly so they pick up on your facial expressions and other body language. A ring light that clips to the top of your screen is ideal. But really, any type of light is fine so long as it’s shining toward your face, not at the back of your head.
  2. Etiquette matters – Y’know that thing where there’s a pause in the discussion and then everyone starts speaking at once? Often followed by an awkward game of “After you…” “No, after you.” For me, the hardest thing about participating in virtual meetings is getting a word in edgewise or just figuring out if it’s ok to start speaking. But as a wise man once said, everything I really need to know, I learned in kindergarten. The best solution I’ve found is to simply raise a hand when I have something to say. It feels goofy at first, true. But it’s a clear signal to the rest of the group and goes a long way toward keeping the discussion flowing smoothly.
  3. Purpose matters – As I’ve said in the past, there are six legitimate types of meetings. Six. Not seven, not eight. (I’m nothing if not opinionated.) And, spoiler alert, a meeting just for sharing out information ain’t one of them. So I’ll leave you with this little gem. Bookmark it and refer back to it the next time you’re wondering whether the meeting you’re about to schedule will be worthwhile.
Flowchart: when should you call a meeting?
Download this chart! Click here.

What’s your virtual meeting IQ?