In 2020, many of us were forced to work remotely. What was once reserved for the early adopters and tech-savvy folk, soon became the norm, and workers worldwide began to appreciate the freedom that ensued. As employees started to head back to the office, they were unwilling to give up their flexible schedules…and suddenly the world went hybrid.
Not without some challenges, however. While hybrid work might be the future, there are still some kinks to iron out. One of the biggest hurdles to overcome is hybrid meetings, which require in-person workers to meet with their virtual counterparts and have been the source of a giant headache for many.
Karin Reed, author of Suddenly Hybrid, says “[Hybrid meetings], when done well, can be just as satisfying. They have higher levels of participation because people do less monologuing and less surface acting, and [members also] require less recovery time because meetings tend to be shorter.”
For more of Karin’s invaluable tips on how hybrid teams can make their meetings successful, read below.
Making hybrid meetings successful
- GO INTO IT WITH INTENTION. Many people think that a good hybrid meeting will just happen organically, but this is not the case. Leaders much take a proactive approach, meaning there is agenda and certain policies put in place before the meeting begins.
- HAVE A ‘TURN-TAKING POLICY. A lot of leaders have a ‘free-for-all’ approach to opinion sharing. But if you try to do that in a hybrid setting, a two-tiered system will often develop, where the people who are in the physical conference room have plenty of opportunities to share their thoughts, but those who are joining virtually have a hard time getting a word in edgewise. As a facilitator, you should implement a “turn-taking” policy so that everyone’s voice is heard. This could be allowing the people joining remotely to speak first or having people raise their hands if they want to speak.
- ALLOW MULTIMODAL DISCUSSIONS. Validating both non-verbal and verbal participation is essential in a hybrid setting. It can be difficult for remote participants to insert themselves into the discussion so being able to use chat as we have in our fully virtual teams, is really a great practice to carry into a hybrid setting. In order to do this, you must “know who is present and ensure there is presence for all”. It may be helpful to assign someone to tend to the chat, otherwise, people’s thoughts, comments, and questions may get lost in the ether.
- ASSIGN ROLES. It’s critical that team leaders create new roles to share the burden. Just as stated above, having a chat monitor is essential, especially if it’s a larger meeting. If there are only a couple of people on the screen, it’s easy to see people chiming in on the chat. But if you have a larger meeting, say 7 to 10 people and beyond, someone must keep track so that everyone is aware of what comments come in.
- HAVE A TECH PERSON. An entire meeting can be completely derailed due to something as simple as a microphone not working. So, what you can do is if you’re using your virtual meeting link, you can take those two people and put them in a breakout room and have them work on it outside of the meeting at large, so that you are able to continue to get business done.
- TURN YOUR CAMERAS ON. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, turning your camera on in a hybrid meeting is vital. Not only does it allow the speaker to see that everyone is engaged in what they are saying, but it also keeps the listener from multitasking, thus ensuring high participation levels. Not turning your camera on is the same as going into a physical meeting room with a bag over your head.
- HAVE THE RIGHT TECHNOLOGY. There are technology considerations for in the meeting physical meeting room, and then there are also technology considerations for those who are joining remotely. If you think about meeting room design in the conference room, that means at a minimum, Having a great conference room camera should be considered the minimum standard so that it captures everybody in the room.
TECH FOR OFFICE ATTENDEES
- Good audio system that picks up the sound from everyone in the room. If remote attendees can’t effectively hear the conversation in the conference room, participation levels will fall. This can be due to people using one microphone that’s set up in front of the conference room, in which case, it won’t pick up the voices of those seated in the back of the room.
- A large monitor in the conference room is important so that people who are joining remotely make just as much of a presence as those attending in-person. If there is only a small monitor in the corner, or as mentioned the laptop screen with their small faces, that is not going to create participation equity.
- Invest in great microphones. If there are a lot of in-person attendees and everyone else is dialling in from home, it may be hard to hear what’s going on. Using mics, at least for the people leading the meeting, will ensure that important information is heard by all.
TECH FOR VIRTUAL ATTENDEES
- A good, high-quality webcam to prevent your image from being grainy.
- Good audio input so you can be heard. Sometimes laptop microphones are fine, but sometimes they aren’t, it all depends on your space. Hardwood and tile floors, high ceilings, and old, single-paned windows can all create an echo, making it difficult for others to hear you. Be sure to try different audio options to see what works best before the meeting. You could even test it with a friend who will be honest with you and say ‘it sounds like you’re talking in a tin can’.
- Lastly, good lighting is essential, and something that is easier to control than the other two. Natural light is usually a great source and will evenly illuminate your face. Remember to face the window rather than having your back to it to avoid creating a silhouette.
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