How to Stay Engaged During Remote Meetings

Whether you’re working remotely a few days a week thanks to partial telecommuting or you’re working from home for the foreseeable future, the distractions of your home can become a lot more apparent during remote meetings. Both over the phone and through video chat platforms, remote meetings are a lot easier to tune out than when you’re in person. If you want to stay engaged, these 5 tips can help you focus.

1. Find a Quiet Place & Check Your Sound: Before your meeting starts, you should set aside a few minutes to find a really quiet spot at home and check your sound. If you’re in a video meeting, make sure there’s nothing too distracting in the background too and make sure your lighting isn’t too dark. It’s amazing how many distractions these small details can cause once the meeting starts, both for you and your coworkers. You don’t want to be the one responsible for sending the meeting off the rails if you can help it.

2. Take Notes: Another thing to do before the meeting starts is to (preferably) grab a pen and paper for taking notes. Yes, you can type your notes but most keyboards are a little louder than pen to paper would be and, if you’re looking at a screen during a meeting, you’re more likely to be distracted by things like emails, social media, or other work you need to get done. Make sure you’re taking notes so you can remember the key takeaways from each meeting and annotate any task that’s assigned to you during the meeting. Plus, you can reference these notes before your next meeting to see what’s already been addressed and what still needs to be done or mentioned again.

3. Ask Questions: One thing that can be the most distracting during remote meetings is getting your wires crossed or not fully understanding the point someone else is trying to make. It can be challenging to find the right moment to interject with questions, but if you’re confused about a point it’s very likely that one of your coworkers is too and they just haven’t said anything yet. Plus, if you get the ball rolling on asking questions, others will often follow your lead and the meeting will continue as more of a dialogue where everyone can keep up.

4. Contribute Ideas: Brainstorming through video chat or over the phone may not feel as natural as it does in person, but contributing ideas is often an essential part of staying engaged in a meeting so it’s worth the effort. If one pops up but you feel it isn’t the right time to mention it, make note of it and bring it up when there’s a better opening for you to speak up.

5. Create Clear Goals & A To-do List: For remote meetings to be worth their time and effort, they should come complete with some goals or takeaways you can translate into a to-do list. At the end of the meeting or after it’s over—whenever feels most appropriate for you—use your notes to create clear goals, takeaways, and a to-do list based on what you’ve absorbed in the meeting. Even if there’s just one nugget of something you can take into the rest of your workweek, knowing a meeting is worthwhile will help you pay attention during future remote meetings.

Some meetings are hard enough to pay attention to on their own, if you add in the distance of a remote meeting it can be particularly easy to get distracted and miss important information. Hopefully these tips can help you conquer your remote meetings and stay engaged.