10 Zoom Backgrounds HubSpotters Love

When I first started working remotely, I quickly realized that I didn’t like the available backdrops in my house.

First, there’s the cluttered living room. Then, there’s the rarely spotless kitchen. Or I could go with the yellow wall.

That’s when I started looking into Zoom backgrounds.

I found a few funny ones, some professional ones, and even a couple of creative options. It turned out to be really fun to express myself with a Zoom background.

If you’re in the same predicament, look no further.

Below, let’s learn how to set up a Zoom background, and then we’ll show you our favorite ones.

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1. Open Zoom

Before we dive into our favorite Zoom backgrounds, let’s learn how to set one up. To start, open your Zoom app and log in.

Zoom log in screen.

2. Go to Zoom “Preferences”

Once you’re logged in, click “zoom.us” on the top left and then hit “Preferences.” You can also get to this page by clicking your profile image on the top right corner, and then clicking “Settings.”

Zoom "Preferences" options.

3. Click “Virtual Background”

When you’ve opened your settings, click “Virtual Background” on the left-hand side.

Zoom settings.

4. Click the “Plus” sign and “Add Image”

Now, click the plus sign on the right, and click “Add Image.” Voila. Now you can add any image that you have the rights to and that meets the image guidelines.

Zoom virtual backgrounds settings.

Tips for Determining When to Use a Zoom Background

So, when should you use a Zoom background?

Well, some days you might wake up and your living room is a mess, or the dishes haven’t been washed, or your roommates are walking around.

In fact, I’ve actually had to take meetings in the bathroom because it was the only empty room in my house and I had an important meeting.

Whether it’s a noise-related issue or you want to limit distractions in the background, that’s when Zoom backgrounds come in handy.

Plus, these backgrounds can be a great way to break the ice. They can often be used as a conversation starter. A lot of people on my team were actually surprised when they learned that my house did not look like the Zoom background I always use (see screenshots above).

However, it’s important to remember the tone of the meeting when you’re choosing a background.

If there’s a professional meeting, it probably isn’t time to break out a Taylor Swift concert background (which I have and use for informal meetings).

Additionally, your Zoom backgrounds shouldn’t be distracting. In fact, sometimes the point of the background is to lessen distractions.

So try to avoid super bright, or complex images. Also, make sure you have the rights to use the images you’ve downloaded. Your images shouldn’t require licensing or attribution.

How to Troubleshoot Glitchy Backgrounds

Now, this probably isn’t a surprise, but sometimes technology doesn’t work as planned. If your background is glitching, try a few of these quick options to fix it.

  • Sign out and sign in again
  • Ensure virtual backgrounds are enabled
  • Make sure your background meets the image requirements
  • Update your Zoom app

Our Favorite Zoom Backgrounds

Now for the fun part. Choosing Zoom backgrounds is one of my favorite activities. Below are some of our top picks at HubSpot.

Zoom Backgrounds for Casual Meetings

1. Vacation Vibes

Zoom background option of a beach.

Image Source

2. Cute Animals

Zoom background of a white and black cat yawning.

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3. Nature

Zoom background of the woods.

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4. Concert

Zoom background of a concert.

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Zoom Backgrounds for Formal Meetings

5. Library

Zoom background of a library.

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6. House

Zoom background of a clean house.

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7. Minimalist Architecture

Minimalist Zoom background.

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8. Splash of Color

Zoom background of a green splash of color.

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Original Zoom Backgrounds from HubSpot

9. Colorful Background

Green Zoom background made by HubSpot.

10. Bubbles

Blue Zoom background with bubbles made by HubSpot.

Zoom backgrounds can be a great way to limit distractions and start a conversation. Just remember to think about the tone of the meeting when you’re choosing your background images.

remote sales

Originally published Aug 31, 2020 4:30:00 AM, updated August 31 2020

The Ultimate Guide to Managing Remote Marketing Teams

Behind many great teams are great managers.

Take my manager for example. Each day, she oversees a team of blog writers and editors, reports on the HubSpot Blog’s progress to stakeholders, and also manages many of the logistics and processes that keep our site running smoothly.

But, the blog’s editorial processes and traffic strategies aren’t the only things she focuses on. Most importantly, she takes time to empower each individual on our team. She mentors us as we lead projects that benefit the blog, plans team bonding activities, ensures that we’re getting the tools and training we need to do our jobs, and checks in with us regularly to make sure the work we’re doing is fulfilling.

It sounds like she does a lot, right? And the kicker? Half of the team she manages, mentors, and empowers isn’t even based in HubSpot’s Cambridge office.

By this point, you might know that managing a team, even isolated to one office, isn’t for everyone. On any given day, you need to balance your own workload, overall team success strategies, and working with individuals within your department. To do this, you must balance being a team player and a leader. You also must be highly organized, strategic, and have a high level of emotional intelligence.

→ Free Guide: The Marketing Manager Playbook [Download Now]

In a company that’s primarily in-office, a manager can directly impact the success of their team. But, this role is even more important when it oversees a fully or partially remote team.

Why? When your team is widely dispersed, a manager is tasked with bringing together their employees and giving them the tools to work well together. In times of confusion, questions, or ambiguity related to remote work styles, the manager is expected to make calls or answer critical questions.

As the manager of a remote team, you need all the skills of an in-office manager — and more. Not only do you need to be tactical and organized, but you also need to take extra time to make sure that colleagues feel in the loop, included, and like they can succeed at your company. This takes added time, much more communication, and a strong sense of inclusion and empathy.

Whether you’re a new or experienced manager, moving from leading an in-office to a dispersed team can be a major transition. To help you, I’ve compiled a guide of 10 tips for remote team management. These tips relate to logistically planning your remote team’s processes, building an inclusive culture, and using emotional intelligence as a team leader.

How to Effectively Manage Remote Teams

Creating Processes Around Remote Work

1. Create an effective remote hiring and onboarding process.

Before you can manage a remote team, you’ll need to hire and onboard your talent.

To get started, use digital platforms such as Indeed or LinkedIn to announce and promote your new job position. Be sure to note that the position can be held remotely in any location. This descriptive language will make it easier for prospective candidates to find your listings via search engines, as well as your own promotions.

Our managers have seen that one of the best ways to interview and evaluate a remote candidate is through a virtual hiring process. While this process could include video interviews with hiring managers and the candidate, it could also include other steps such as a writing test to evaluate a candidate’s writing or other virtual tasks that allow a candidate to show off their level of skill in a given area.

If you can accept candidates in different locations and timezones, you should also take steps to accommodate them in the hiring process. This could include hosting an interview during their work hours.

When you interview remote talent, you’ll also want to put any judgments related to a candidate’s location aside and interview them in their natural work environment.

Additionally, “If you’re hiring for a position that is open to being remote or in office, conduct all interviews via video call to avoid any location biases in your hiring panel,” says HubSpot Marketing, Sales, and Service Managing Editor Meg Prater.

After you complete the hiring process, you’ll want to welcome your new hire with a smooth virtual onboarding process that teaches how the company works while allowing them to get to know their teammates remotely.

As you prepare an onboarding process for a remote employee, identify ways that you can digitize your current onboarding process. For example, if there are documents or resources an employee should read up on, make sure they are in a PDF, Google Doc, or online format. You might also want to create an internal training website, or knowledge base, where employees can find these documents even after they’ve completed a new-hire orientation.

If there’s an aspect of your onboarding that is too complex for a PDF format, consider doing a virtual training session where you walk your employee through various tasks. This will allow them to see a demonstration of a process they’ll do first-hand and ask you questions about it as they learn.

On the HubSpot Blog team, each employee’s onboarding process lasts roughly 100 days and can be fully virtual. During this process, remote employees receive virtual training sessions, links to blog posts, and digital resources that relate to their role, self-paced mini-online courses that familiarize them with our software, and informal virtual coffee chats which allow the new employee to get to know colleagues.

On top of virtual onboarding, every employee has regular check-ins, career chats, and ongoing training with his or her supervisor to ensure that they’re progressing in their role.

Ultimately, the goal any manager should have when onboarding remote employees is to make them feel supported, informed about how their company works, and more confident in their new role.

To start an employee off on the right foot, think about your current onboarding processes and where they can be improved to add more communication and decrease confusion. Then, determine how you can make these processes virtual.

As you identify elements of the onboarding process that can be made virtual, create an outline for your process. Then, to help you refine or improve on this process, ask new remote employees who undergo it for feedback at the end of their first few months. This will give you an idea of what’s working and what needs to be improved.

To learn more about the logistics behind onboarding, the paperwork you’ll need to have your employee filled out, and the things you can do to make their experience feel welcoming, check out this detailed onboarding checklist. If you’re looking to onboard an employee in a customer-facing role, you can also check out this remote onboarding guide.

2. Schedule and run effective virtual team meetings.

When you or your team members are remote, team meetings will be a crucial means of communication. Not only do they allow you to all join on one video call to talk about projects or goals, but they also enable teammates to get to know each other and stay visible.

Determining Which Meetings You Need

When you have a remote or global team, you’ll want to have at least one fairly regular meeting to regroup and get on the same page. For example, you might want a monthly meeting with your team and other stakeholders to discuss team performance and goals, and a weekly standup meeting to learn what your immediate team is doing.

“Conduct a weekly standup meeting for everyone on your team to be together in the same virtual room,” advises Prater. “It’s important to have that face-to-face time each week.”

“Our team starts by giving a one-word overview of how they’re feeling, followed by an ice breaker, a roundup of what everyone’s working on, and then a discussion article provided by a different member of the team each week.” Prater shares.

Preparing for a Virtual Meeting

If you haven’t already, you’ll want to designate a meeting software, such as Zoom or GoToMeeting based on your needs, budget, and how large your virtual meeting will be. Then, you’ll want to make sure that all of your team members have the program on their computers.

When you’re ready to schedule the meeting, be sure to pick a time that works for team members in different timezones. Stick to this meeting time and avoid canceling to ensure that remote employees who didn’t get a cancellation notice don’t tune in.

Send an email and calendar invitation to your team explaining why you’ve decided to hold the meeting and what they should do to prepare for it. You’ll also want to include meeting login information or a number they can call into if they aren’t near a computer.

If you’d like employees other than yourself to present at the meeting, it can also be helpful to create a slide deck ahead of time so each teammate asked to speak can submit and get their slides approved by you beforehand.

Allowing teammates to submit slides beforehand will help you ensure that each teammate will give the most valuable information to other remote employees in the time they have to present. Using one slide deck will also limit any issues related to switching screen-shares during the meeting.

Running the Meeting

Just before you launch the meeting, make sure that your computer’s sound and video are working and that you have a work-appropriate background. You should also ensure that the environment around you is quiet and not distracting to your teammates.

Once you launch the meeting, wait a minute or two before starting the discussion, just in case other remote employees are running late from another virtual meeting. During this time, feel free to mingle with teammates and get to know them.

If you have colleagues that can’t attend the meeting, plan to record it. This way, someone who wasn’t available or had technical difficulties can listen to the meeting discussion after to stay in the loop.

If the meeting includes a small group of people or a new employee, leave time in the beginning for everyone to introduce themselves and give a brief description of what they do at your company.

You can also consider a quick virtual ice-breaker. As Prater mentioned above, this is something that the blog team has embraced in our weekly meetings.

“Ice breakers might sound cringe-worthy, but they single-handedly transformed our meetings from transactional run-downs of everyone’s to-list to a fun, personal opportunity to get to know our teammates a little better,” Prater says.

Wrapping Up the Meeting

At the end of the meeting, leave time for questions. If you have some in-office employees and some remote employees, it can be helpful to invite remote employees to ask questions first to avoid teams accidentally speaking over each other.

Then, send the slide deck and meeting recording link to your team so they can reference these resources later on.

Refining Your Meeting Schedule

As you start to run multiple virtual meetings, Nataly Kelly, HubSpot’s VP of Localization, says you should continue to evaluate their effectiveness.

After each meeting, Kelly says you should try to answer questions like, “Are the right people in the meeting?”, “Is this the right frequency for meetings?”, “Is the meeting too long or too short?”, and “Is this the best use of everyone’s time?”

“Often, you only need to change one variable to make things work better for a remote team,” Kelly says.

While it might be tempting to book your team with tons of virtual meetings to stay on the same page, Kelly instead advises that you leave team members with some flexible calendar space each week.

“Make sure you’re not filling your calendar with eight hours of video calls per day. Encourage your team to block time to work on other projects,” Kelly adds. “Or, if the team lends itself to it, consider doing most of your meetings in the mornings and leaving afternoons for other work. Just make sure you give people time in their day that is unscheduled.”

To learn more about scheduling an effective virtual team meeting, check out this list of tips and strategies.

3. Check-in with individuals on your team regularly.

When you or your teammate is working remotely, you can’t easily turn to them to ask them a question, get to know them, or have a casual work conversation. This is why, on top of your roster of remote meetings, you should also consider booking one-on-ones or informal virtual coffee chats with people you don’t often see daily.

This will allow you to keep up with your employees, discuss their work with them, help them with any blockers they might be facing, and offer visibility so they can feel like you’re an accessible manager.

Aside from discussing work with each employee, Prater says you should also schedule times to discuss your employee’s career growth and progress.

“The biggest worry I hear from remote folks or those being managed by a remote manager is that they won’t have the same opportunities for advancement,” says Prater. “I over-communicate when it comes to career growth.”

“I have weekly check-ins with each of my direct reports where we talk about what they’re working on. But I also schedule quarterly career chats where I draw up a personalized growth plan for each of them, and we run through prompts to check their satisfaction in their current role and their aspirations for what’s next,” Prater explains.

Aside from scheduled one-on-ones, you should also consider leaving some areas of flexible time on your calendar. This way, if a remote colleague has a question or concern that’s easier to discuss in person than via text-based message, you’re able to quickly jump on a call.

“Be ready to jump on a phone call or video conference without having to schedule a time for it,” advises,” Susanne Ronnqvist Ahmadi, HubSpot’s VP of International Marketing advises. “Let your team know you’re available over your instant messaging software and build “air-time” into your calendar for check-ins and quick talks.”

4. Embrace and implement digital productivity tools.

On top of video call software, there are many helpful tools that you can use to manage remote or dispersed teams. Here just a few types of tools you should consider implementing:

Scheduling Tools

When everyone is remote, having an email or Slack discussion just to determine a good time for a meeting can be redundant and non-productive. Luckily, there are plenty of tools that allow you to request, manage, and schedule meetings with your team.

For example, if you have Microsoft Outlook or GSuite, you can see your teammate’s calendars, working hours, and availability. Then, you can send a meeting invite for a time that they’re free. From there, your teammate can accept, reject, or suggest a new time for an event.

Task Management Systems

With a task management system like Trello or Asana, you can create a joint team project and assign different team members to tasks virtually. You can also give tasks deadlines and check to see if they’re been marked as completed.

Instant Messengers

Ever got caught up in a giant email thread where multiple people were replying to the same message? An instant messaging app, such as Slack, will allow you to create group threads to discuss projects, upload assets within the conversation, and see when other team members have replied clearly. This is also a helpful way to communicate with your team about topics that don’t require a full video call to discuss.

Aside from quick conversations, you can also host mini-meetings on your instant messaging platform. For example, the HubSpot Blog has a weekly meeting where we submit blog titles to a group chat and request feedback on them virtually. This takes little time and provides us with an opportunity to work with in-office and remote employees.

To learn more about 35 remote work tools, check out this detailed guide.

5. Be mindful of timezones and remote employee boundaries.

Remote work options allow you to hire talent from every area of the world. This is a great way to boost the level of diverse thinking on your team and learn about different marketers.

However, one challenge global teams face is adapting to teammates in different timezones.

As a remote team manager, it’s important to navigate around your teammates’ differing work hours, while also encouraging teammates in your timezone to be mindful of other remote teammate schedules.

As you onboard employees or implement a team calendar, ask remote teammates to mark their working and non-working hours on their schedule. You can also have an intro conversation with teams to discuss timezones and preferred work hours, just to ensure that all team members are up to date with who will be working when.

If a large chunk of your team is in another timezone, you might also want to consider working on that timezone’s schedule one day a week or doing a split shift, where you complete half of your work hours when one chunk of your team is most active and another do another shift when a team in another timezone is online. This strategy could help you be more available to your global teammates and stay in the loop of what they’re up to.

6. Align with outside teams virtually.

At a company with remote or dispersed employees, you shouldn’t just focus on your own team. You should also be sure to communicate regularly with other departments to see where your team’s work can align with there’s and where you can benefit the bigger business.

One example of this is sales and marketing alignment. While marketers aim to reach goals related to traffic and brand awareness, salespeople are focused purely on the bottom line. While both teams are vital for their businesses, they can get disjointed due to their differing success metrics. However, when these two teams work well together, marketers can hit their KPIs while also benefiting the company’s overall sales.

As a marketing manager, you should try to plan virtual chats with sales managers and other teams to discuss goals and where your team can align with theirs. You can also use digital tools, like marketing attribution software, to get an idea of how your work impacts the greater company.

In the long run, these meetings will allow you to think of the company with a broader scope rather than just focusing on your team’s efforts all the time.

Creating an Inclusive Culture

7. Take steps to ensure all teammates feel included.

Commonly, remote employees struggle with feelings of disconnection and a lack of visibility.

Without an office filled with people, remote employees don’t have the opportunity to make small talk with colleagues, ask questions, or have a quick work-related chat. This can leave them feeling unincluded or out of the loop on team projects. They might also worry that it will be hard to excel at their company if they aren’t as visible as other employees.

To help each employee feel a sense of belonging, identify where you can make processes and group events more inclusive.

“We often remind managers that it truly is the little things that can make a difference in allowing a remote employee to feel included,” says Siobhán McGinty, a Principle Marketing Manager.

“That feeling of inclusion can make such a difference to employee retention, happiness, and performance — so the little things actually matter quite a lot,” McGinty adds. “During the remote week, we heard lots of examples of how managers and teams go above and beyond in ensuring that their remote counterparts are included in the day-to-day.”

In a recent post about the HubSpot marketing team’s experimental work-from-home week, McGinty offered a list of actions that could make remote teammates feel more included. These could include sending e-birthday cards, inviting remote teammates to in-person get-togethers via video call, or organizing a virtual gift exchange around the holidays.

Aside from making your remote employees feel included through simple actions, you can also schedule activities that allow them to offer ideas or work virtually with the rest of the broader team.

For example, you could host a campaign brainstorm where all remote members are invited to share their ideas. Or, before you leave for the holidays, you could expense your team’s dinners and host a virtual hack night where you work ahead to ensure the business still runs smoothly when everyone’s on vacation.

Not only do team bonding activities allow the team to work together, but they also allow remote members to feel included and get to know their colleagues.

8. Identify opportunities for virtual team bonding.

It can be easy to think that your team is bonding during business meetings and team celebrations. But, the truth is, your colleagues might only see each other during these times.

To build an even better team, consider virtual opportunities that allow teammates to get to know each other on a more human level.

Just the other day, my team took part in a virtual Pictionary-like game called Drawasaurus. While this meeting had nothing to do with work, it allowed us to chat, learn about each other, and have fun with teammates we don’t get to see daily.

If your schedule is incredibly limited, you can also make time for virtual bonding in regular team meetings. For example, as Prater, noted earlier each of our blog meetings begins with at least two icebreakers.

Aside from enabling teammates to get to know each other during virtual events, you should also identify opportunities where you can get to know the individuals on your team more personally. For example, rather than scheduling a one-on-one to discuss only work with a remote employee, you could schedule a remote coffee chat that’s just devoted to getting to know teammates.

“As with any relationship, time spent together is important. And if you’re remote, that time naturally is more limited. As a result, building rapport is even more challenging,” says Susanne Ronnqvist Ahmadi, HubSpot’s VP of International Marketing.

“I try and make an effort in getting to know the people I’m working with to understand how we can best work together, communicate, and interact with each other,” Ronnqvist Ahmadi explains.

Using Emotional Intelligence

9. Encourage empathy among in-office and out-of-office teammates.

When it comes to remote work, some of the biggest challenges that employees face are feelings of loneliness and disconnection. They also find it hard to unplug at the end of the day because their work is not clearly separated from their home life.

As a remote team manager, it’s important to recognize the challenges your employees might face and give them any other guidance when necessary. If you have any teammates who are in-office, you should also encourage them to consider the challenges a remote employee might go through on a regular basis.

Recently, to help in-office employees understand the benefits and challenges of working from home, HubSpot asked the entire marketing department to remote for one week. While some people really enjoyed the opportunity to work remotely, some struggled with staying focused, communicating with teammates, and finding an effective workspace. Although the experiment only lasted for a week, it gave in-office employees a taste of the workstyles benefits and challenges.

10. Use emotional intelligence at all times.

While you might be calm and collected when managing a team in the office, overseeing remote teams might feel different to you emotionally. Even though you can’t see a team and they can’t see you, you should still use emotional intelligence at all times.

Emotional intelligence, also called EQ, is a sought after skill that enables you to understand your emotions and train yourself to react in an appropriate way to certain scenarios.

For example, when managing a remote team, you might need to resist the urge to mistrust or micromanage colleagues that you can’t see every day.

In this scenario, leaders that lack emotional intelligence might panic about their team going off-course and begin to control every aspect of everyone’s work. Meanwhile, an emotionally intelligent leader might address this concern by scheduling check-ins with teammates to make sure a project is on the right track.

“Resist the temptation to micro-manage, even if you feel uncomfortable about having less visibility into the day-to-day,” says Kelly. “Autonomy and flexibility are hugely important for managing remotely.”

“Keep your team focused on the critical goals, and don’t worry about how they get there,” Kelly adds/ “Trust them to solve problems and make good decisions, but set a high bar to show you trust them to accomplish great things with the privilege of autonomy and flexibility.”

In another common team management scenario, you might find that your employee made a big mistake when you were offline.

While a less emotionally intelligent leader might send a long ranting email, someone who understands their emotions will take a minute to note what frustrated them about a situation and then plan a chat to discuss constructive feedback with the employee.

“No angry emails,” Kelly advises. “Trust and respect matter hugely for remote teams to operate well, and because email is more important for remote teams, it’s important to keep emotions out of it where possible.”

Kelly explains that email and other digital communication should be respectful and “not a place for venting.”

Emotional intelligence can also help you in scenarios when there’s a disagreement amongst your teammates, according to Kelly.

“When you sense someone is angry or disagrees with a decision on a remote team, jump on a call quickly to resolve it,” Kelly says. “Don’t let things fester.

“Sometimes, the lack of face to face interaction makes it easier for people to jump to conclusions or feel misunderstood. It’s important that you signal to your team that if they are upset or concerned, that you’re there for them,” Kelly advises.

While you should use emotional intelligence to manage your own responses, you should also encourage your team to use the skill in their work life, too.

For example, if you find that someone is inappropriately venting over a communication platform. “make it clear what people should do instead.” Alternatively, ask your teammates to schedule one-on-ones or send polite messages requesting a quick chat to discuss a situation.

“Give your team an option to vent about things that won’t be disruptive to others, and importantly, won’t lead to side chatter either,” Kelly says.

When you use emotional intelligence properly, your teammates will feel comfortable coming to you with questions and concerns more often. They’ll also develop a stronger sense of trust in you as their manager. Ultimately, a manager who understands their emotions and the emotions of others can manage teams in a number of different scenarios.

Navigating Remote Work

If you’ve never worked remotely or managed remote teammates, it might take time to develop the perfect dispersed team management strategy.

As you build up your management tactics, your most important goals should be to help the team to function smoothly, build an inclusive work culture that enables employees to succeed, and use emotional intelligence at all times. While building solid processes is key to ensuring work gets done, taking time to build a positive company culture will allow team members from every region to feel like they can contribute their diverse thoughts, ideas, and strategies.

Want to learn more about the remote work style? Check out this blog post on remote work stats or this post on work-from-home productivity tools. If you’re curious about how work styles like remote work could expand and evolve, this post will walk you through how the marketing workplace could change in the near future. You can also check out our Ultimate Guide to Management for more tips for running in-office and remote teams.

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Originally published Jul 27, 2020 2:16:01 PM, updated July 27 2020

How to Host an Inclusive Virtual Meeting, According to HubSpot’s Remote Work Manager

As HubSpot’s remote population has grown from a handful of folks to over 300 in the past few years, we’ve learned a number of lessons on how to pivot in-person communications into a virtual environment.

When it comes to a team meeting, we’ve learned that while the content often remains the same, the way in which that content is presented and discussed often needs to be modified to ensure that the information resonates and all attendees are actively engaged.

We’ve all been on a conference call that goes something like this:

But, with remote working on the rise, conference calls are no longer the only option.

Today, there are loads of options available to host meetings over a virtual meeting platform such as Google Hangouts, Zoom, WebEx, or Join.me.

While every business will have different needs to consider, if you’re just starting to think about virtual meetings, we recommend starting with a platform that allows video, audio, and screen sharing as these tools allow for better engagement and collaboration during the meeting as opposed to the standard conference call.

Here, I’ll dive into some of the best practices I’ve picked up along the way as HubSpot’s Remote Work and Inclusion Program Manager.

How to Host an Inclusive Virtual Meeting

1. Have ground rules in place for your first meeting.

Whether it’s your first time managing a remote team or your team is suddenly working from home, virtual meetings are often a new environment for everyone. So it’s important to lay some ground rules for how meetings will work and what you expect from your attendees.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Video: Encourage attendees to use their video for meetings as this allows us to better engage with each other through non-verbal communication.
  • Audio: Generally speaking, it’s best practice to stay muted in a virtual meeting unless you’re presenting or answering a question. This prevents background noise from becoming a distraction and creates a signal (unmuting) when someone has something to say.
  • Engagement: Be clear about how you expect participants to engage in meetings (see Tip #3 for more details).
  • Etiquette: Be intentional in calling out meeting etiquette expectations. Some common ones that come up are use of phones, having to step away from your desk, checking notifications, or eating during meetings. If you have specific expectations around meeting etiquette, be explicit about this up front with your attendees.
  • Set the Stage: If you’re meeting with a larger group, it can be helpful to set expectations on a starting slide that attendees will see upon entering the meeting.

For instance, at HubSpot, I often present with this slide at the beginning, so my attendees know ground rules for the meeting:

how to work from homeAdditionally, you might consider including a slide that says, “Record the meeting”, as a reminder for yourself, in case anyone misses the meeting or wants to refer back to it later. 

2. Take some time to break the ice.

Virtual environments can be intimidating, especially if you aren’t accustomed to them or if you’re meeting with folks you’re unfamiliar with. To warm things up, we recommend starting your meetings with an icebreaker. It’s a great way to test that everyone’s audio works properly and it’s an even better way to learn more about each other and get everyone feeling comfortable before jumping into the agenda.

To make this easier, we suggest:

Keep it simple: Depending on the meeting, it might make sense to start with a standard question such as “How are you feeling today?”

Mix it up: If you have the time, try mixing in some unique ice breakers to get to know each other better (take a look at some of our suggestions here).

Pass the microphone: We’re all likely familiar with that awkward silence that occurs when everyone is expecting someone else to jump in. To solve for this, encourage teams to “Pass the Microphone” to each other after their own answer.

If everyone is expected to provide an answer, have the host start and then pass the proverbial microphone to any participant. Once that participant answers, they’ll end their statement with, “Next, I’ll pass the microphone to [name].” This keeps the conversation moving and prevents the awkward silence of waiting for someone else to jump in.

3. Determine a structure for how you expect participants to engage during the meeting.

It’s not always obvious how folks should provide feedback or answers during a virtual meeting. To keep the conversation flowing, determine a structure for how you expect participants to engage during meetings, and be upfront about these expectations at the start of the meeting.

A few of our favorite strategies are:

Raise your virtual hand. Many virtual meeting platforms have non-verbal feedback tools that allow a participant to indicate they have a question — for example, Zoom’s “raise hand” feature. For large meetings, ask folks to use these tools to indicate when they have a question or input and the host can then call on them directly. This can also be a great way to have a quick yes/no question answered by the group and expanded upon.

Example: “Raise your hand if you have had a positive interaction with an external Support team.” Based on who raises their hand, you can then call on one person to expand on that answer if needed.

Use the chat feature: For quick questions, you may ask folks to enter their answers into the chat (for instance, Google Hangouts’ Chat feature). This allows you to quickly hear answers from a large group and allows everyone to learn from each other’s answer. In addition, as our APAC Customer Success Trainer, Mariel Argonza, points out, this is also a great way to be inclusive of attendees who use English as a Second Language.

Example: “How is everyone feeling today? Describe it in one word in the chat pane.”

Jump in: Depending on the size of your meeting and psychological safety of your attendees, you may opt to have folks simply jump in with their feedback and questions. As the facilitator, it’s important to be cognizant of participation in order to ensure that one individual isn’t dominating the conversation.

Example: “Can anyone tell me the definition of Inbound Marketing? Feel free to jump right in.”

4. Ensure every attendee is on the same page.

Depending on the nature of your meeting, you may need some additional tools to get on the same page with your idea, such as a virtual whiteboard or collaboration tool. Some of our favorites include:

  • Virtual Whiteboard: Many of the virtual meeting tools have a native whiteboard tool built in that will allow attendees to whiteboard their ideas as well as save their whiteboard images for future use.
  • Share Your Screen: Looking at an email you need help with or struggling to explain a glitch you’re seeing? Use a screen sharing tool such as Zoom’s Screen Share so that your attendees can see what you’re seeing from your point of view.
  • JamBoard: Part of GSuite, JamBoard allows you to use a virtual whiteboard, insert pictures and text, and save/share your whiteboard for future use.
  • LucidChart: Lucidchart is a visual productivity platform that helps individuals understand and share ideas, information, and processes with clarity.
  • Miro: Miro is an online whiteboard tool that allows distributed teams to collaborate virtually from wherever they may be seated.

5. Stay on track with a clear agenda or slides.

Even with a clear agenda, it can be challenging to keep a conversation on track — and on time — in a virtual setting. To help your meeting stay on course, try:

Circulate the agenda: In the meeting invitation, make it clear what topics you’ll be discussing, what’s expected of attendees in terms of preparation, and what the outcomes of the meeting will be.

Pause: When everyone is on mute and staring at you on camera, it can be instinctual to race through your notes without coming up for air. However, in a virtual atmosphere, it’s more important than ever to slow down and pause often to ensure that folks have an opportunity to jump in, slower WiFi connections can catch up with a delayed sound response, and participants have the opportunity to digest your words.

Ask for questions: In a virtual setting, you may not always catch a confused look and folks might not feel as comfortable interrupting you for clarification. So, intentionally ask your participants – what questions do you have for me? Pause longer than you normally would to wait for questions.

Use slides to stay on-track: Having a visual to keep you on track will allow everyone to be more organized and focused during the meeting. You can choose to send slides out in advance of or following the meeting, but it’s a helpful way to have a record of what was discussed. In addition, sending out slides means that folks won’t have to take as many notes (and therefore won’t spend the meeting typing).

how to use slides to stick to your agenda

Even with preparation, you’re likely to encounter some awkward pauses, technical glitches, and uncomfortable moments. But, we encourage you to embrace these moments, learn from them, and move past them. We’re all in this together after all!

If you’re just starting out with virtual meetings, we encourage you to be honest with your team that this is a skill you’re working on. Practice different techniques to find what works best for you. Ask for feedback from your team on what’s working in the context of your meetings and what isn’t.

Plus, when you find something that works for you, share it with others so that we can all learn together.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Originally published Jul 22, 2020 8:00:00 AM, updated July 22 2020

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Remote Working

14 Signs Your Remote Team is Communicating Ineffectively

Every weekend, my friends and I have online video calls to catch-up with each other.

Sometimes it feels like certain people dominate the conversation and others don’t feel comfortable speaking up.

These types of communication issues via remote conversations are actually normal.

Continue reading “14 Signs Your Remote Team is Communicating Ineffectively”

17 Fun (Not Cheesy) Ice Breaker Games Your Employees Will Enjoy

Asking “How is everyone?” at the beginning of every meeting isn’t always the best way to encourage connection and team bonding. Sometimes, you need to take it a step further with an ice breaker.

Continue reading “17 Fun (Not Cheesy) Ice Breaker Games Your Employees Will Enjoy”

17 Online Team Building Games to Try with Colleagues

“As the saying goes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is especially true in the context of distributed teams,” says Meaghan Williams, HubSpot’s Remote Work and Inclusion Program Manager.

Essentially, this is why team building is important. Team building gives your team a greater sense of togetherness.

Continue reading “17 Online Team Building Games to Try with Colleagues”

Working Remotely? Try These 35 Tools for Better Communication, Collaboration & Organization

Today, you and your team are expected to perform at the same level no matter where you’re working from. 

With the help of internet connection, it’s relatively easy for us to get most our daily work done, whether it’s related to publishing a blog post, sending a follow-up email, conducting a video call with a team member of prospect, or setting up a workflow to nurture prospects and customers in your CRM.

But, when it comes to remote work, we all know internet connection doesn’t solve everything .

Tasks and obstacles are bound to arise that are challenging to manage remotely — when it comes to these complex tasks and cross-team collaboration, communication and productivity can get messy.

Download Now: How to Move Your Company Online

As the need for productive remote work has grown, many companies have discovered and started implementing tools and resources that enable employees to be as productively as possible while working from home.

To help determine which tools are ideal for your remote team, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best tools for you to experiment with.

35 Helpful Remote Work Tools and Software

The following 35 remote work tools are segmented by use case to help you determine the type of resource you and your team would benefit most from.

Let’s get started.

Remote Work Tools For General Collaboration

1. Google Suite

G Suite products for remote or dispersed teams

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Google Suite (G Suite) is a budget-friendly Google platform that allows your teams to collaborate on Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slide, among other easy-to-use Google Drive tools. You can also share a team calendar and create work emails through the GSuite.

2. Microsoft Office Teams

Microsoft Office Teams

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While GSuite can be used entirely online within one platform, Microsoft Office Teams allows you to download apps like Excel, Outlook, Word, and PowerPoint to your computer or mobile device. Like GSuite, you also can use this general suite of tools to manage, share, store, and edit documents in team folders.

Aside from the more specific apps, Microsoft Teams also allows you to communicate with your teammates via video calls, email, and through an internal discussion platform where your colleagues can create posts or ask questions.

Remote Work Tools For Task and Project Management Software

3. Trello

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Trello allows you to create a dashboard that highlights large projects or categories and tasks related to them. Each small task, called a “card” can be labeled with a colored tag and text.

For example, if you want to say something is “Urgent” you could create a red card tag that says “Urgent” on it and stick it to the appropriate Trello cards. You can also assign cards and deadlines to members of your team and track each card’s progress through its Activity area.

4. Asana

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Asana lets you create and delegate tasks, organize, and check off tasks into shared projects, chat within each task so conversations stay organized, and add attachments from your computer, Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive. It also has calendar features, dashboards for projects, and your very own to-do list.

5. Assembla

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Project management for web developers seems to be Assembla’s niche, though it could handle project management for just about any type of freelancing. It tracks tickets and time, produces reports, and simplifies product releases and bug-fixing — plus many say it’s easier to set up than Jira.

6. Basecamp

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Basecamp is a simple and easy-to-use project management software that helps you arrange your calendars, set meeting schedules, track assignments, and store documents.

All of your project management occurs on one organized dashboard to give you a digestible birds-eye-view of everything that’s happening.

7. RingCentral and Glip

Glip RingCentral project management and communication app

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Ther’s another great tool by Ring Central and Glip. While RingCentral enables company calls to your business line to be forwarded to a mobile phone when you’re working remotely, Glip helps you manage basic project management and text-based team communication.

For task management, shared calendars, file sharing, annotating images, and real-time group chat, Glip is a strong tool. It also helps ensure all those chats are fully searchable.

Along with group chats and standard project management features, you can activate video chats on the Glip app which allows you to talk to your teammates about ongoing tasks.

8. Github

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Web developers will love GitHub because it’s designed to build software with remote teams. The platform allows teams to virtual participate in code review and the management of both open source and private projects.

The GitHub Marketplace offers coders a variety of tools that can help them do their jobs more efficiently, regardless of where they log in.

9. Jira

Jira Hub which displays as backlog of tasks

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Jira is another project management tool primarily for developers, customer support, and IT reps that allows you to assign and track work as well as issues that need to be solved. It also has a handy mobile and desktop interface for project management on the go.

10. Podio

Podio project management platform for teams

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Part project manager, part Facebook for companies, you can use Podio to keep track of what you need to do, and chat while doing it.

With the mobile app and website, you can create “workspaces” for different aspects of your work or projects. These workspaces look similar to a Facebook page as colleagues can comment or share information on them similarly to how they would share a Facebook post.

You can also use the platform to communicate with teammates or manage client contacts privately since it has a wide range of privacy settings.

11. Taskworld

Time tracking feature creating a time log for a task in Taskworld

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The sweet spot for Taskworld is managing projects and keeping track of tasks and subtasks. Its evaluation feature lets you measure and give feedback on job performance, setting it apart from other similar project management programs.

12. Wunderlist

Wonderlist To Do List App

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Marketed more as a personal to-do list for your phone, Wunderlist is also used by some of us to keep track of client work. There’s not much to the app except for a handy to-do list that you can manage and check off as you go.

13. Monday.com

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Monday.com is a web task management platform specifically for businesses and agencies. It offers similar features to Asana and Trello in that you can watch the progress of tasks on a dashboard and assign projects to team members.

But, additionally, it also allows marketing teams to plan tasks with their budget in mind.

Remote Work Tools For Scheduling and Hosting Virtual Meetings

14. Zoom

Zoom meeting on mobile and desktop device

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Zoom is an easy-to-use desktop platform and app that allows you to schedule, launch, and record virtual meetings with your team. These meetings can be entered remotely from a computer, smartphone, or voice via a dial in phone.

During Zoom meetings, you can also share your screen with teammates so they can see your work or presentations.

15. Go ToMeeting

GoToMeeting Group meeting on desktop and smartphone app

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GoToMeeting allows you to schedule and launch virtual meetings or webinars where users can log in or call to hear only hosts speak. These meetings can be recorded and sent to participants after they’re completed.

16. Google Hangouts

google hangouts remote work tool

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Google Hangouts is a popular option because Google is usually convenient for those who use Google Calendar to manage your schedule and GMail for emails.

17 Join.me

join.me remote work tool

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Join.me is great for fast and easy screen-share meetings. In addition to being able to schedule and launch quick virtual meetings with screen-share, you can also create a shareable URL to your own personal meeting room that people can log on to when they’d like to meet with you.

18. Skype

skype remote work tool

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At this point, many of us have already used Skype. Along with allowing you to host free small virtual meetings, Skype also enables you to create group chats. If you want to use the paid version of Skype, you can also have meetings with groups or make international voice calls.

19. Uber Conference

Uber Conference call with remote team members

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With Uber Conference, there’s no wondering who joined the call, who said what, or what the heck your meeting PIN number is. It also allows screen sharing and has a mobile app.

You can create video calls in your own name and when someone signs in, you can easily see them on the video calls dashboard. Then, when someone is talking, their video feed will be highlighted so you can easily see what’s happening and stay focused.

20. Google Calendar

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Rather than having a full conversation over an instant messaging platform about when to have a meeting, you can use GSuite’s Google Calendar feature.

With the feature, you can share your Google Calendar with your colleagues. Then, when you want to schedule a meeting with them, simply search their names and book a suggested time that works.

When you do this, you can also put notes in the description area such as, “I’d like to book this meeting to discuss the marketing newsletter. Let me know if this time doesn’t work for you.”

Remote Work Tools For Quick Chats With Colleagues

21. Slack

Advanced Search Slack

Slack is great for real-time communication for one-on-one conversations or with everyone on your team. You can also organize chats by subject, and integrate activity from platforms like Github, Trello, and Pingdom.

I like the thought expressed here that Slack is as close to a virtual office as you can get. You can even create one channel for every client, and invite only the people on that project to be on that channel.

(Want to learn more about Slack? Here’s a guide to all the hacks you didn’t yet know you could do with the platform.)

22. WhatsApp

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If you have a remote or globally dispersed team, or communicate regularly with international clients or prospects, WhatsApp is a great communication platform that allows you to create group chats with them, send text messages, host multiple-person video calls, or make voice calls for free on a Wi-Fi network.

23. Flowdock

Flowdock Instant messaging app for remote and dispersed teams

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Flowdock is simple and easy-to-use instant messaging app and website similar to Slack. It also integrates with Jira, GitHub, Basecamp, Asana, Assembla, Trello and many other apps.

Remote Work Tools For Asset Management

24. Google Drive

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I love Google Drive, but it does tend to update rather frequently — meaning, just when you’ve figured it out and have all your things organized, things change.

With that said, it’s free, stores and organizes all of your content and information, and you can work on the same document with multiple people at the same time.

25. Dropbox

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Sharing large files doesn’t work so well over email, which is where Dropbox and Dropbox Business come in. This is a great tool for organizing freelancer work. Just have the freelancer upload their documents into monthly folders and message you when their work is in.

26. Adobe Creative Cloud

adobe creative cloud remote work tool

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Adobe Creative Cloud programs like Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator allow you to create design files or visual assets that can then be edited or updated by your team.

27. Canva

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Similar to Adobe, but easier to use for design novices, Canva allows you to create team accounts where you can share design templates and assets with your colleagues remotely. This ensures you’re able to access and edit any design files or brand imagery you might need while working from home.

Remote Work Tools For Announcements and Internal Documentation

28. Confluence

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Confluence allows you to create an internal blog or wiki for your team. It’s more of a team manager, keeping documents, notes, best practices, product requirements, and plans all in one easily searchable place.

Pro Tip: You can also use the Gliffy integration to do quick wireframes.

29. GitHub Wiki

github wiki remote work tool

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Savvy inbound marketing companies use GitHub Wiki for employee onboarding by organizing helpful resources for new employees.

30. Loom

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Realize that speaking out loud is a better way to communicate a team announcement, but don’t have time to book a meeting?

With Loom, you can record a presentation or just your voice to give an announcement or play-by-play to your team. Then, you can get a link to share the recording and easily circulate it across channels like instant messengers or email.

Remote Work Tools For Tracking Team Progress

31. Time Doctor

Live Support from Time Doctor

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Need to keep a close eye on how your team is spending their time, for client billing or productivity purposes? Time Doctor can help you do just that.

With the tool, you and your team and/ or remote freelancers can create projects and start a clock when starting a new task. Then Time Doctor’s dashboard shows a report of how many hours your colleague has worked throughout the day and which projects they’ve spent the most time on.

32. Harvest

Harvest's easy intuitive timer dashboard.

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For keeping track of time and expenses, this is a simple few-frills tool. With Harvest, you simply create projects or to-do list items and start the clock when you start working on each tasks.

Then you can see how much time you’ve spend on different list items, such as writing blog posts, strategizing, or producing marketing emails.

33. iDoneThis

idonethis remote work toolSource

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can’t remember what I did yesterday. iDoneThis solves that problem for individuals and teams by sending a “digest” of what everyone did.

Remote Work Tools For Team Decision-Making

34. Polly.ai

polly.ai remote work tool

When your team needs to make a decision that doesn’t require a full meeting, Polly.ai enables you to create a survey that you can then send through platforms like Slack. From there, your colleagues can simply vote on an option.

35. Doodle

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Need to plan a group meeting? Doodle is a polling platform that allows you to ask quick questions to your team and see how they vote. You can also create a meeting-time poll which enables your team to vote on a meeting time that works best for them so you’re able to accommodate schedules.

Navigate the Remote Work Landscape with Helpful Tools

Today, your employees must have the ability to effectively do their jobs remotely — they need access to the right resources to help them be as productive at home as they are in an office space.

It’s no secret that everyone works a little differently and has a unique set of challenges. But when our problems have to do organization and productivity, try implement one of the tools mentioned above.

To learn more about how to master remote work, check out success tips from HubSpot’s remote workforce.

Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in April 2015, but was updated for comprehensiveness and freshness in April 2020.

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