Thriving in Tough Times: Making Remote Meetings Successful

This is the eighth and final part of the Mayfield series, “Thriving in Tough Times: Expert Insights.” In this series, we have shared key takeaways and lessons learned from experts across a variety of fields. Check out the previous posts in the series for content on reputation management, leveraging marketing, leading in challenging times, sales strategy in times of crisis, pivoting field marketing to digital, and more.

For our final installment in our Thriving in Tough Times webinar series, we heard from Steven Rogelberg, Chancellor’s Professor of Organizational Science at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. His newest book, The Surprising Science of Meetings is the go-to book on meetings as it shows the science behind successful (and unsuccessful) meetings. In this session he turned his focus to remote meetings, which have a set of unique challenges in addition to those that affect in-person meetings. Here are some of his key takeaways on what leaders can do to make remote meetings more engaging and successful. 


Know what you’re going to discuss in advance, and who needs to be there.

Maintaining focus is a huge challenge in remote meetings, and creating and sharing an agenda ahead of time is helpful for centering the discussion. Even more helpful in remote meetings is creating the agenda around a set of questions to be answered, rather than a traditional list of topics to be discussed. Having a list of questions clarifies the end goals of the meetings and helps keep the conversation on track.

Over-inviting is an issue that plagues in-person and remote meetings alike, but in remote meetings where “social loafing” is very common, it’s especially important to only invite those who absolutely need to be in the meeting.


Be thoughtful and accurate with timing.

Everyone’s attention spans are suffering right now, so try to keep meetings as short as possible. Try experimenting with non-traditional meetings lengths, like 20 or 25 minutes instead of 30. 

When it’s time for the meeting, make sure you are ready to start the meeting on time, even if that means logging on early to make sure all the technology is working. Starting late makes meetings feel sluggish and low-energy.


Set the emotional tone for the meeting. 

As the host, it’s your job to make sure that the meeting starts off on the right note – your mood will set the tone for everyone else. This includes non-verbal cues, which are a huge part of communication. Steven recommends always using video to create a more personal connection with meeting attendees.


Be an active facilitator. 

If you want to have a great meeting, you have to think of yourself as the host for that meeting and embrace the role of a facilitator. Actively engage other attendees by asking them for their thoughts directly, and make sure everyone’s voice is being heard.

By following these guiding principles, you can lead your meetings more effectively and drive productivity for your organization. Thanks to Steven for sharing his insights – if you’re interested in learning more from him, please visit his website. He also put together a remote meetings quick hits primer, which you can find here. Finally, he is engaging with a host of organizations from Amazon to PayPal on quick hitting ways to improve remote meetings – feel free to email him for more information at


For more expert insights on thriving in tough times, check out the previous posts in the series.

  • Originally published May 4, 2020, updated June 15, 2022