Connecting in a time of remoteness

By Lisa Peluso

In the face of a pandemic, remote working is now a requirement.

Facilitating group meetings can be challenging when face-to-face, but what happens when all you have is a voice and – if you’re lucky – a shared screen?

Engaging successfully is more than just mastering the technology. Follow these rules for electronic meetings and you’ll keep everyone engaged, move the meeting forward and meet your objectives. Here is how:

Call roll and make introductions

Make sure everyone knows who is on the call. If you are using a web meeting service, you can read aloud the participant list. If a mystery phone number shows up, ask their name. And don’t forget to have brief self-introductions if it’s a new team.

Objectives first!

Clearly articulate what questions you are seeking to answer on the call. Ensure everyone is aligned on the goals.

Rules for call and time limits of agenda

Lay out how you’ll run the meeting, and how much time you’ll allot to agenda items. For bigger groups, ask people to do a virtual “hand raise” in the chat function, and on the phone, ask everyone to state their name when they speak.

Orient people to slides – briefly

Remember that we can read five times faster than you can speak. So, tell us where to look and topline the key message. Describe the slide in more detail if you have phone-only participants.

Navigate Q&A by facilitating/leading

Don’t just let Q&A happen. Provide structure and direction to the team. Ask open-ended questions to catalyze discussion.

Allow pauses for questions & comments

Stop often and elicit input. Ask if there are questions. If people pipe up at once, assign a speaking order. “I heard Alice and James. Alice, please go first, then you, James.”

Voice matters! Use yours effectively

Speak clearly, with energy. Nobody likes a bored voice on the other end of the line. Speak with adequate volume. Need to bump it up a notch? Stand up! Or, put a mirror in front of you.

Implement a parking lot or “issue bin”

Be careful not to get the whole group bogged down in matters that should be addressed offline. This goes for sticky questions/issues as well as small talk.

Restate and synthesize conclusions

Listen well, take notes, and demonstrate that you heard all of the voices. Learn to synthesize discussion and sum- marize succinctly.

Use final minutes to agree on next steps

Be careful not to run out of time. Give the group a 10-min warning and begin wrapping up 5 minutes before the call ends. Who’s doing what? By when? Calendar the next call.

Summarize points & decisions in email

Ensure you send minutes or notes to the team, including to those that missed the call. If there’s no output, you didn’t need the meeting.

Our expert team is continuing to prepare sponsors to present their best case to regulators, whether in person or remotely.

Follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn for additional insights from PharmApprove on the state of virtual FDA advisory committee meetings as well as tips for other high stakes regulatory meetings.


For 20 years we’ve helped innovative life science companies prepare to win at high profile, high stakes meetings such as Advisory Committees, Oral Explanations, expert panels and advisory boards. We’ve coached thousands of professionals and led more than 250 clients through critical junctures to successful outcomes.

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