Organising Remote Meetings#

A successful meeting in the context of research or team-based science is organised by first defining the purpose - why this meeting is being organised and what input from participants will be expected. Some main considerations are the setting up goals of the event, tools for collaboration, identifying effective approaches for stakeholder-engagement and plans for managing all the associated tasks. A 1:1 meeting may be organised by simply sharing a link to join the call or details of a physical location on an agreed date and time.

However, often meetings involve multiple team members, presenters and guests from different groups, possibly some of them attending the event remotely across different time zones and locations. Furthermore, collaborative activities like breakout discussions and documentation are often integral for creating a welcoming space when bringing a diverse group of participants together. Hence, there is more to organising a team meetings than just sharing a joining link or location details.

This subchapter provides a structured list of tasks that go into organising a team-based meetings. We have listed them in chronological order and divided into sections for “before”, “during” and “after” the meeting.

Though we assume ‘virtual first’ approach for inclusive events, these recommendations have been drawn from in-person conference planning, and hence can be used for remote or in-person meetings with changes to adapt to a physical location.

Before the meeting#

  • Identify the most suitable slot that is time zone compatible for all the members using tools like Doodle or when2meet.

    • If you are planning a meeting that includes time zones with over 12 hours difference, consider having two sessions to avoid holding a meeting very early or very late in the day.

    • Assign different chairs when holding calls in two different time zones.

  • Use a standard time with a custom link like arewemeetingyet or to different time zones when communicating.

  • Set a protocol for your meeting participants (if there is not one available already), which should include basic etiquette explaining the following:

    • Is keeping the webcam and microphone on recommended? Can they be turned off during the call?

    • Is there a password needed to join the call? Can attendees join before the host?

    • How can attendees ensure the privacy of their family members? Provide instructions for blurring their background, or using a virtual background?

    • How will attendees be able to participate in an ongoing discussion? How can they raise their hands to ask the chair personally?

    • What kind of challenges may attendees face while joining the call/meeting and how can they troubleshoot them?

  • Identify a chair and note-taker for the meeting.

    • Share guidelines and protocols for chairing and note-taking.

  • Decide if there will be designated speakers with presentations.

    • Share the speaker’s guidelines and protocols with them.

  • Establish a shared document that can be updated online for agenda and note-taking. For example, using Google Docs or HackMD.

    • Create a template for this meeting (that can also be used for future meetings).

  • Create a shared document to share the following:

    • Participation guidelines.

    • Code of conduct and contact information of people who can help with any issues regarding the meeting.

    • The exact date, time, location (if any!) and choice of tool that will be used for communication.

    • Agenda of the meeting.

    • A place to indicate their participation or absence.

  • Share this document via an email to all the attendees and also add this to a calendar invite so that people have it handy when needed.

  • The choice of tool should be preferably an open source tool to avoid inaccessibility.

    • If using a tool that is available only upon subscription, make sure that all the members have the access information.

    • Share a how-to guide to ensure that everyone knows how to use the tool.

    • If possible, offer help with installation and testing of the tool in advance.

  • Distribute the shared document a few days before the meeting.

    • Ask everyone to add any agenda items that they would like to discuss at the meeting.

    • Ask everyone to write their name indicating their participation in or absence from the meeting.

  • Remind everyone to arrange a microphone or headsets.

    • If possible, provide any hardware that the organisation prefers to use.

    • Ask people to check before the meeting that their system and headsets are working.

  • Send a reminder with a link to the document and other important resources to all the participants a day in advance.

  • Create slides or a presentation that might be needed by the organiser’s (welcome, wrap up).

    • Add contact details, date and location of resources and licence, to make your slides reusable.

  • Set-up your calls with closed-captioning (cc) such as by using software like or cc options in google slides or hangout.

Designated venues to participate from#

If there are physical office locations, or co-working spaces accessible for most members.

  • Reserve conference room(s), or similar venues, with high-speed internet.

  • Share details on how members can access this venue.

  • When possible, use individual cameras to simulate remote participation so that those who are not attending in person don’t feel left out.

  • If the reserved location has a webcam and microphone, check that they work properly.

    • Plan the seating arrangement so that people are facing to the main screen/camera.

    • Test the screen with different light intensities.

    • Arrange all the required materials and equipment, like extension cords or power strips.

    • Arrange for beverages/snacks for the breaks, and ensure that the catering service will label the food for contents/allergens.

  • Make sure that the protocols are written to favour the remote participants.

During the meeting#

  • Re-share the links to the collaborative notes for the meeting in the chat system or email.

  • Give a reminder of the community participation guidelines and the Code of conduct.

  • Introduce the chair and notetaker, and let the chair take over for the rest of the tasks.

  • Introduce the format of the meeting and briefly describe the overall schedule, such as the timing of breaks.

  • If possible, keep the video call separate from chat system to ensure that the speakers are not distracted and the conversations can be recorded on the chat system.

  • Explain the basic protocols for participation.

    • Muting microphone when not speaking.

    • Using a chat system during the meeting - if there is one.

  • Request everyone to keep their camera on whenever possible.

  • If recording the call, make sure that all the participants are aware before you hit the record button.

    • Allow people to turn their video off when recording.

  • Give a reminder of the guidelines for participating in discussions.

    • Raise hand - on chat, or virtually (like in Zoom) or physically.

    • Other ways to involve others in the discussion equitably.

  • Start the meeting with an icebreaker question that can be either written down or shared out verbally depending on how many people are on the call.

    • Create opportunities for everyone to share something personal (about their hobby, or experiences) on the document or verbally.

  • Facilitate questions and answers, or discussion on the agenda points.

  • Help answer procedural questions like “where is this button that I should click”.

  • Direct technical questions to the organiser when needed.

  • Use breakout rooms whenever possible to ensure that people can connect with each other while discussing questions or issues of mutual interest (more tips below).

  • For gathering opinion and response, use silent writing time rather than open discussion.

    • Give clear instructions of what’s expected from the writing exercises and how long it should take.

    • Give a reminder in the last minute to wrap up.

  • Ensure that the discussion is inclusive of everyone, aim to have a fair discussion, don’t fixate on one argument or speaker.

    • When do people get to speak, how long?

    • Who gets to speak first (keep in mind levels of seniority, gender and ethnicity - having minorities speak up first will empower them in participating in discussions)?

  • Indicate if the speakers should speed up or slow down, or if there is a technical issue that the speakers should check.

  • Notetakers should document important outcomes from every discussion.

  • Encourage everyone to help the notetaker in documenting correct information.

  • In the last part of the call, create action points and delegate them to different people while on the call.

    • Ask people to volunteer to assign themselves to each task, but be inclusive and equitable in this process.

  • End the meeting on time by thanking everyone and sharing the date for a next call, if any!

  • If possible, stay a few minutes extra on the call to make sure that people have a chance to clarify their questions after the meeting.

Breakout rooms#

If using breakout rooms in Zoom, or a similar tool, make sure that each breakout has a chair, or someone to help.

  • Create groups that are more diverse (they will have better discussions).

  • Create some breakout rooms for speaking and some for writing to be more inclusive of those with English as a second language. Remember to ask participants before hand what their preference is.

  • Remind everyone to give others a fair chance to speak.

  • Ask them to write notes from their discussion in the shared document.

  • Send messages periodically reminding everyone of how much time is left for discussion.

    • Reminding them to move on to the next person if only one person has spoken so far in their group.

  • When people come back from their breakout rooms, ask them to share the main arguments from their discussion.

After the meeting#

  • Create a debrief document to capture what went well and what could be improved.

    • This can also be requested from the participants by circulating a feedback form.

  • Request any additional documents or information mentioned by others/speakers during the meeting. These links can be added into the shared documents or in the chat.

  • If the meeting call was recorded, process and share the recorded video with everyone.

  • Send a thank you email with the link to the complete notes and other relevant information.

Additional resources#

Chapter Tags: This chapter is curated for the Turing Data Study Group (turing-dsg).