Julia Evans

Surviving meetings while remote

in culture

I work remote. This means that in most of the meetings I'm in, I'm a remote participant. If you're in an organization that has a lot of remotes, maybe this will be useful to you! There are two scenarios I want to talk about:

  1. Every person in the meeting is in a different location (100% remote)
  2. There are 6 people in the meeting (5 local, 1 remote)

Scenario #1 is great! Everyone has the same connection problems.

Scenario #2 is a disaster. It took me a long time to understand why, but I think the primary reason is that it's very hard to interrupt and indicate that I want to speak when I'm remote. You can't indicate it visually as easily, so if I just wait for a break in the conversation to say something... well, it will never happen :)

Also, sometimes people can't hear me, and I've had this exchange a lot

  • other people: stuff
  • me: minor remark
  • other people: what? we didn't catch that
  • me: never mind.

I've gotten way better at being remote in meetings and interrupting. Now if I have something to say I just say "HI I HAVE A THING TO SAY". And people say "yes julia?" and then I say the thing. It feels awkward but it works for me. But it took me a really long time to learn how to interrupt! Recently I was in a meeting with 8 local people and me and I said more than 5 things! I am now a remote meetings wizard.

It's also hard to tell when a remote person is done speaking. I sometimes explicitly say "that's all I have" or something at the end. So my interactions are awkwardly delimited by HI I HAVE A THING TO SAY -- I AM SAYING THE THING - I AM DONE SPEAKING NOW YOU MAY PROCEED. This is great and it works.

local people can help

I once ran a meeting with 6 remotes and 6 local people, where I was local. Normally, this means that the local people do all the talking and the remotes are totally silent (because the barrier to entry is high). To combat this a little, I frequently asked the remotes if they had anything to say (Dan, I know you care a lot about this. What do you think?), and they frequently did have something really interesting to say! They were just not saying it.