woman on videoconference with coworkers
From creating an agenda beforehand to assigning roles to various employees, there are several ways to ensure that videoconferences are productive, effective and worthwhile. — Getty Images/ake1150sb

In a cross-industry survey by Harvard Business Review, 71% of managers said that meetings were “unproductive and inefficient.” Even when everyone is working in the same office, meetings can be a waste of time at best, painful at worst.

In situations where most of your team is working remotely, meetings are more necessary than ever to coordinate, communicate, and keep your team motivated. Video meetings are especially tricky due to bad connections, at-home distractions (like kids and pets), and the fact that people tend to talk over each other inadvertently.

When your team is working remotely, meetings will be more important than ever. Here’s how to make your video meetings count.

Get acquainted with video chat tools

There are plenty of free online meeting tools out there, each of them working in a relatively similar manner. The most popular ones include Zoom, Google Hangouts and Miro. Take the time to test different tools outside your meeting time so you're nothing but professional during the video call. Make it a habit to dial in at least five minutes early, so you're always set up and ready to go. Keep your camera on and mute your mic if there’s background noise.

Invite the right people

Ever been invited to a meeting and had no idea why you're there? Whether it's brainstorming, problem-solving or project updates, only include people who need to be in the videoconference. Unnecessary attendees breed distractions and inefficiencies. If you want to update a larger group, send them the minutes over email or Slack.

[Read more: Must-Have Tech Tools If Your Team Is Working Remotely]

Set the agenda in advance

It’s a basic rule of any meeting, but help your team stay on track by sending an agenda around ahead of time. “Prior to the conversation, set clear objectives, and send a pre-read if appropriate,” suggest the experts at HBR. Ask attendees to do some preparation to make the most of your time on video.

Give everyone a role

Give each person time in the agenda to get feedback on a problem they may be facing. Encourage collaborative problem-solving, rather than simply reporting on what activities were achieved during the week. Avoid spending time on anything that could be just as easily condensed into a report. Ideally, video meetings are interactive, collaborative and inclusive.

It seems like a no brainer, but multitasking one of the most common contributors to inefficient meetings.

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Connect and engage in your meeting

People tend to perform better if they're comfortable with their colleagues. Take a moment to check in on a personal and professional level with everyone. Then, use shared visuals to accompany your agenda. There are plenty of practical online solutions like online whiteboards, shared screens and spreadsheets. Use a conferencing tool with a chat function or poll to keep participants engaged with the material being covered.

[Read more: How to Keep Employees Engaged While They're Working Remotely]

Ban multitasking

It seems like a no brainer, but multitasking one of the most common contributors to inefficient meetings. It’s especially hard to keep participants in a video call engaged when there are plenty of other websites calling for attention. Ask attendees to shut down email and put their phones away to avoid temptation.

Keep meetings short and sweet

What's worse than an unnecessary meeting? A never-ending presentation with too much information. While visual aids are essential to engaging attendees, don't waffle and overcomplicate things. Meetings should be guided discussions that prioritize efficiency at every turn. Keep each presentation limited to 10-15 minutes.

Assign objectives and action points

Every person needs to leave the video call with a clear objective or action point. You need to be on top of deliverables and next steps as well as due dates. If you are the meeting host, make sure everyone leaves with a clear to-do list.

Switch up the roles

“For a recurring meeting, change the roles between participants from meeting to meeting by running a kind of lottery, so nobody knows who will be lucky to be the timekeeper or scribe, writing down the meeting minutes,” said one expert. A fresh face facilitating the meeting each time keeps your team on your toes and engaged.

Tackle the tough stuff

It may feel uncomfortable to address harder topics during video meetings, but don't let this deter you. “It may seem natural to wait to discuss tough issues until everyone is in person, but that may not be an option. So don’t shy away from controversial topics,” wrote HBR. Transparency is key in remote teams. Don’t let your role as a leader take a backseat just because your team is working virtually.

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