How to Run a Productive Retrospective Meeting Remotely

Retrospective meetings are even more important to remote teams than they are to co-located ones.

Because remote teams don’t get to work next to each other on a daily basis, they often miss out on opportunities to detect the complications in their workflow that can affect their performance and spirit early on, which may eventually delay the timely completion of their project deliverables.

Regular retrospectives can help remote teams avoid this by providing the platform for every team member to speak their mind, talk openly about the challenges or blockers hindering their work, hence completing everything efficiently.

This post will walk you through all elements of a retrospective meeting, with a special focus on running them effectively, remotely. All templates provided are editable online, and you can use them to start your retrospective meeting right away.

What is a Retrospective Meeting

Although originally was generally used in agile software development, retrospective meetings have been adopted by many other teams in marketing to HR management over time.

The basic steps

  • Go over each of the items put on the board by the participants and discuss them in detail.
  • Decide how to improve future projects based on what you’ve learned during the retro and create action items for implementing those improvements during the next iteration. Assign an owner to each of these actions. During the next retro, you can check back with the owner to see if it has been implemented; if not it will continue on to the next iteration.

Who should participate

What you need

During a remote retrospective meeting session, you need to however switch to an online whiteboard where you and your team can collaborate (perhaps even better than you would have around a physical whiteboard) on sharing your ideas, questions and opinions.

  • Creately is an online whiteboard/ online canvas tool designed for team collaboration. It comes with an infinite canvas, standard shape libraries for 50+ diagram types, in-app video conferencing, real-time change previews and mouse tracking, and in-line commenting. All of this combined, it makes a great tool for running retrospective meetings, brainstorming sessions, planning meetings, etc. online.

In addition, you may also need a video conferencing tool (only if the online whiteboard software you use doesn’t support in-app video conferencing) to facilitate the meeting online. Some options you can consider are,

Alternatively, you can also make use of a document collaboration tool like Google Docs or Google Sheets along with one of the video conferencing tools above to carry out the retrospective meeting.

Tips for Running Retrospective Meetings Remotely

However, it doesn’t mean that doing a productive retro remotely is impossible. Here are some tips to keep things effective and engaging online.

Make sure everyone participates

Make sure that everyone participates. If they are unable to, ensure that they at least provide their input prior to the meeting so they can still be referred to and discussed during the meeting with everyone else. You can use a pre-made retrospective template to gather their feedback.

Follow the general online meeting etiquette

Some of the general meeting etiquette to follow as attendees are,

  • Dress appropriately
  • Make sure you are set up in front of a background that is work-appropriate (i.e. no beds, messy rooms, etc.)
  • Mute your microphone when you are not speaking
  • Don’t get distracted. Don’t stare at your phone, type away on your keyboard or work on other tasks when someone else is presenting
  • Put your phone on silence and turn off other notifications
  • Don’t interrupt while others are speaking or talk over them
  • If you have a comment or a question, bring attention to yourself before speaking. Either make a hand gesture or say ‘question’ or ‘comment’
  • Be ready. Make sure your connection, camera, and microphone are working before the meeting

How to Run a Productive Remote Meeting | Best Practices and Templates

Collect feedback prior to the meeting

Share one of the retrospective templates below with the team ahead of time, allowing everyone to list down their failures and triumphs, and concerns, and suggestions. This approach can also help introverts feel more comfortable with sharing their ideas and encourage the members who may think their feedback is more critical to share it without feeling apprehensive.

Create an action plan

Or you can use a project management tool like Favro to create tasks, assign owners and track progress.

Use the correct retrospective technique

Start, Stop, Continue

This approach gathers participants feedback across 3 categories;

  • What should the team Start working on?
  • What should the team Stop working on?
  • What should the team Continue to work on?

Liked, Learned, Lacked, Longed for (4 Ls)

Split the canvas into 4 areas and ask the participants to individually provide their ideas on each of the Ls.

  • Liked — things they liked about the project
  • Learned — things they have learned
  • Lacked — things the team has done but could have been done better
  • Longed for — things that they wished for during the project

Mad, Sad, Glad

This approach lets the team share and group their feedback based on their emotions about the previous sprint

  • What they were mad about
  • What they were sad about
  • What they were glad about

Once the ideas are grouped, the team can vote for them. The ones with the most votes will be prioritized and will be taken action on during the next sprint.


This method technically compares the sprint to a sailboat, getting the team to compare the things that affected the sprint to what propel a sailboat forward or backward.

  • Sunshine — things that made the team happy
  • Anchors — things that held the team back from making progress
  • Wind and clouds — the things that helped the team propel forward
  • Rocks and pirates — risks and obstacles that may prevent the team from where they need to be


KALM stands for,

  • Keep (things that you need to keep)
  • Add (things you need to add)
  • More (things that you need more of)
  • Less (things that you need less of)

Find more retrospective techniques here.

Got More Tips for Running Productive Remote Retrospective Meetings?

Retrospective meetings give you the opportunity to reflect on the mistakes you’ve made and where you thrived in order to plan for a better future. Although running a remote retrospective may have put you in a difficult position in the past, we hope this post and the templates we have shared will help you do it successfully from now on.

If you have something that has especially worked for you when running remote retrospective meetings, please share it with us in the comments section below.

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