Mastering Remote Calls: A Guide to Productive Virtual Meetings and Effective teams in 2023

Twimbit, a 100 percent remote company born during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our teams are spread across more than 20 cities in 6 different countries. This kind of global distribution would have seemed unimaginable just a decade ago. But thanks to technology, we now have a unique opportunity to challenge traditional norms and access talent from around the world. We're lucky to have team members living in smaller cities who can serve clients worldwide. Remote work is more than just a necessity; it's a competitive advantage for us. However, this 100 percent remote environment isn't without its challenges, especially when it comes to running and managing effective meetings. Our goal is to become a role model for other companies in mastering remote work. We're not there yet, but we're taking small steps to get better. So, I want to share some insights and ideas on how to ace remote calls.

The Evolution of Remote Calls

Before we dive into the how-tos of remote calls, let's rewind a bit and explore how they came to be. Remote calls, also known as conference calls, started as a substitute for in-person meetings. They emerged during a time of limited bandwidth, subpar internet connections, and rather clunky user interfaces. I can vividly remember the days when the running joke was, "What time should we show up for the 10 am video call?" But fast forward 36 months, and we've seen an incredible transformation. Technology has improved, become more accessible, and is now affordable for businesses of all sizes. Even small businesses can access high-quality tech at reasonable prices.

Embracing Change

While technology has evolved, our personal habits during conference calls have, unfortunately, remained stuck in the past. Many of us from the millennial and Gen Y generation tend to conduct ourselves as if it's still 2019. On the other hand, there's a new generation of colleagues who joined the workforce in 2020, having never experienced a traditional office setting. They thrive in remote work environments, embracing the flexibility it offers. However, succeeding in remote calls requires discipline and structure. I've put together a basic list to help us navigate this new norm. We're not remote call masters just yet, but we're on a journey of improvement.

A Simple 8-point Checklist for Success

  1. Punctuality Matters: Just as I remember waiting in Tokyo for a client who arrived ten minutes early to ensure a prompt start, showing up a few minutes ahead of schedule sets the right tone for a remote call.
  1. Steadfast Connectivity: Don't use poor connectivity as an excuse. It only shows a lack of preparation. Invest in a reliable internet connection.
  1. Embrace Video: During office hours, opt for video calls. Exceptions can be made if you've informed others in advance that video isn't possible due to your location. But consider showing your face for a brief introduction.
  1. Tame the Mute Button: Background noise isn't a good reason to keep your microphone muted. Make sure you're in a quiet space for the meeting, and don't make others remind you to unmute.
  1. Focus on the Meeting: Multitasking during a call isn't generally acceptable unless you've informed the host in advance and your role is limited. Communicate your involvement to others upfront.
  1. Say No to Snacking: Eating during the call can be distracting and annoying for others. Those favorite chips can create background noise. It's best to keep them aside.
  1. Invest in Quality Equipment: High-quality headphones, a good camera, and proper lighting make a big difference in call quality.  
  1. Dress for Success: Treat virtual meetings with the same importance as in-person ones. Dress professionally; it leaves a positive impression.

As we navigate the evolving landscape of remote work, following these practices will not only boost professionalism but also help us adapt seamlessly to the changing work environment. Remember, success in remote calls is a journey we're all on together.