#01: Remote meetings
How to make them more than remotely effective
Welcome to Pass It On—a monthly newsletter bringing the tech and non-profit sectors closer together through knowledge sharing, written and edited by Lauren Crichton.
Since launching last week, Pass It On now has 54 subscribers, and I'm grateful for each and every one of you!
I'm kicking off with remote meetings as they're the indirect reason that this newsletter exists. For many charities, they're also an important piece in the remote working puzzle right now.
And you're not alone. We've all experienced the pain of virtual meetings riddled with connection issues, awkward interruptions, and unexpected silences. The team dynamic feels off; decision-making seems harder somehow.
It doesn't have to be an uphill battle. With a bit more upfront planning and facilitation, the path to better meetings is smoother and closer than you might think. And I'm going to show you how with two simple techniques.
💥 Plan meetings POWerfully
Ever joined a sync call just to find out what the sync’s about? Or left a strategy offsite without a single concrete decision or next step?
Enter: the POW, a.k.a the "Purpose," "Outcome," "What's in it for me (WIIFM)" technique. It's like an agenda, but much much better.
How does POW work?
The POW principle is simple: whenever you schedule a meeting, you include a summary of those three elements in the calendar invitation. Like this:
Purpose: [Why are we having this meeting?]
Example: Review the latest grant proposal
Outcome: [What are we trying to achieve?]
Example: Decide whether to submit and what’s left to revise if not
WIIFM: [What will you gain by joining and participating?]
Example: Share final suggestions for improvement and feel confident in what we’re submitting
Ideally, you should allow enough time for your attendees to read the POW and decide before the meeting whether they can meaningfully contribute. If they can't, they should decline. By declining, the attendee signals to you that they are comfortable with any decisions being taken in their absence.
Why is POW so powerful?
1. It forces you to reflect
Struggling to write a POW usually indicates you need to reconsider something:
Clear purpose, no outcome → more meeting prep needed
Clear outcome, no purpose → swap the meeting for another method, e.g., email
Clear purpose, no WIIFM → rethink the attendee list
No purpose, no outcome → abandon the meeting altogether
Whichever the scenario, celebrate! 🎉 You're saving time in the long run. After all, four people on a video call for one hour isn't a one-hour meeting; it's a four-hour meeting. It pays to reflect on how you spend people's time, especially given the rise of Zoom fatigue.
2. It empowers others
POWs enable people to prepare for meetings. Not only does this increase the likelihood of a constructive discussion, it also increases the chances that more introverted colleagues will share their thoughts and ideas because they won't feel so put on the spot.
So, next time you find yourself hovering over the invite button, why not pause and write a POW first?
↔️Check-in and out with your team
Contrary to how we'd like meetings to happen, they don't run themselves. If you're bringing a group of people together, however large or small, someone needs to be responsible for guiding the discussion towards the desired outcome. That responsibility (and skill set) is called facilitation.
One of the most straightforward ways to steer an effective meeting is to use a Check-In/Check-Out—two quick exercises that act as collaborative bookends to your meeting.
How to check-in
Choose a few questions that set the tone of the session and encourage focus. For example:
"What's one thing you hope to contribute to this session?"
Reinforces active participation.
"What, if anything, is preventing you from being fully present in this meeting?"
Allows for vulnerability. Extra important when non-verbal cues are hidden behind screens.
"If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?"
Breaks the ice. Helps new teams get to know each other.
Work your way around the group. Once everyone's completed their check-in, it's time to start the meeting.
How to check-out
Once the meeting's over, it's time to invite reflection.
Maybe you ask everyone to pick one adjective to describe the session, or turn on their videos and show a quick thumbs 👍👎? Go round the group at random until everyone's answered and checked-out. It’s that simple!
Why is it important to keep checking in and out?
Aside from focus and reflection, checking in and out builds empathy. And empathy cultivates psychological safety—the no #1 contributing factor to high-performing teams. (More on psychological safety in upcoming issues.)
📚 Bonus material
Extra reading and resources from leading tech companies
That's a wrap on our first knowledge share!
How are you feeling? Did you learn something new? Let me know by hitting reply to this email or:
To any subscribers already fluent in these techniques, please keep me honest: share your experiences/thoughts in the post comments and help spark a discussion around these topics.
Speaking of topics, next time I'm planning to touch on workshops, the meeting’s close cousin. If there’s anything else you’d find equally or more valuable, you know where to find me.