Some meetings happen in a clearing in the woods with a table full of jelly donuts. Most don’t. Most meetings not set in Twin Peaks happen over the phone or by video conference and email. Remote meetings are especially common in web design.

Meeting remotely lets everyone keep a tighter schedule. And like a good pot of hot coffee, digital tools are supposed to smooth the way for good discussion. Unfortunately, the message often gets lost, even when the mail goes through.

Let’s use email and video better and improve the quality of web design meetings.

How to Email Like A Web Designer

Email is critical for web design meetings. Even a face to face meeting often concludes with promises to go back and send emails. To get the most out these meeting follow ups, be specific about each question, answer and request. Want a video of your company on the local news posted to the site? Explain exactly which page the download link should be on. If you’re not sure, tell me you’re not sure and ask for a recommendation.

Example of marked up screenshot using a Mac computerWhen you provide web design feedback, take screenshots to explain your concern. These are still pictures of your computer screen you can share with your web designer to be more specific about feedback. Below are links to instructions for taking a screenshot with computer’s operating system. Some web browsers can take screenshots with the addition of plugins and extensions.

The last and most important thing to getting your project done on time without face-to-face meetings? Respond promptly. Your web designer will do his or her absolute best to accommodate you, but without prompt feedback and information from you, the process stops.

More Tips for Better Emails

Write better subject lines. Just like the message itself, keep your subject line brief, specific and useful.

Bad Example: Help with last week’s web design notes.

First off, any subject line that starts with “help” is getting ignored. But the length (less than 50 characters) is just fine. Unfortunately, this one is so vague as to make me anxious about the email’s content. Worse, it doesn’t help me decide to open it now or file it for later.

Good Example: Three requests for the About page. Content attached.

I know exactly what this email’s about. It has feedback and questions related to the website’s About page. And it has content attached, which means it requires special attention.

Make the message short and specific. Just like your subject lines, the message itself should get right to the point. Avoid niceties and small talk. This is not a Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movie.

Pick up the phone to communicate complex ideas or a large volume of information. Recognize that email is best used for quick, easy to digest messages.

How to Run Remote Meetings Like a Boss

There’s a huge market for video chatting. You can Skype, Facetime, Hangout, Faceflow, even ooVoo, whatever that is. But if you’re trying to run a semi-serious meeting, make sure to pick the right software. You want something that’s easy to use, but feature-rich.

GoToMeeting lets you schedule sessions and automatically creates invitations with your meeting access information. Easily hold meetings where all participants can choose to join with their computer for video and audio, just by phone, or a combination of both. Full-featured GoToMeeting sessions require the organizer to pay for an account. However, Google Hangouts and Skype have some of the same basic features for free.GoToMeeting

Whatever you do, get your people to use the right audio input. A bad connection or awful echo will ruin productivity for everyone. Participants using their computer microphone and speakers should consider using a headset to prevent feedback. If someone’s dialing-in, ask them to use a headset or hold the phone to their ear. Avoid speakerphone. It’s just the worst.

Once you’ve got your meeting going, take notes. At the end, you’ll want to wrap up the meeting by reviewing the discussion and identifying what needs to get done. Assign tasks and due dates to the participants. Yes, deadlines, commitment and even responsibility. They’re not so bad.

More Tips for Better Remote Meetings

Sometimes you just need to show something to get your point across. Share your screen to show everyone what you’re doing as you do it. Screen sharing is great for conducting training sessions, demonstrations and other meetings that depend on visuals. Premium meeting tools often include screen sharing. But if you don’t have it with your tool, try Join.me to do that one thing for free.

Want to relive your past meetings? Me neither. But paid accounts with GoToMeeting, Join.me and other tools often let you record meetings with complete audio and visuals. Great for keeping a detailed communication record.Example of screenshare with GoToMeeting

Excited for your next meeting? You should be. We have tools today that 50s futurists couldn’t dream of. Video chatting isn’t a flying car, but does free up time and breaks all kinds of physical barriers to good meetings. Email may be our generation’s great bane, but only because we let it take over. Use the full potential of these tools to improve the quality of your meetings. And don’t forget the jelly donuts.

Want to know how your current website stacks up in the modern age of web design? Check out our website self-audit tool to get started:

Web Audit - How does your website stack up

Peter and Lorraine spent some time chatting about this topic recently. Listen to the episode now:
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