Remote work is here to stay and as the pandemic eases, many offices have switched to a hybrid mode – a blend of remote and on-site work. It’s only natural that hybrid meetings will become a permanent practice to ensure everyone stays connected. Supported by advanced technology and meeting transcription services, this combination of in-person and remote participants can drive teamwork, cooperation and decision-making in an organization. However, hybrid meetings come with their own unique set of challenges. The success of this meeting model largely depends on ensuring inclusive communication.
Hybrid meetings are not new, and organizations with remote teams have been holding them for many years. But now, far more companies are expected to adopt the hybrid workforce model. According to a McKinsey survey, up to 90% of organizations will implement some combination of remote and on-site work as COVID restrictions ease. So hybrid meetings are here to stay and it’s essential for companies to tackle associated challenges to ensure connection and full participation and make them effective. Let’s take a look at – best practices to make hybrid meetings work.
- Invest in good audio-visual equipment: Investing in the right equipment is the first requirement when it comes to conducting a hybrid meeting. The platform you choose should support your hybrid meeting plans and suit your space. For instance, a large meeting room and a small one will have different tech requirements. If your meeting space is large, have quality microphones set up throughout the room as excellent audio is critical for participants to hear the conversation clearly. Otherwise, they would end up feeling ignored and left out or have to ask the speaker to repeat what was said, which can be very frustrating. While participants need to be able to see the speaker, hearing what’s being said is more important. There are many advanced options and you should examine available technology upgrades that can help make your team’s experience more inclusive and effective. And don’t forget to test your technology in advance.
- Appoint a facilitator: For larger meetings, experts recommend having a facilitator or assistant in the physical meeting space to keep the conversation on track. The facilitator would have to see that the voices of both remote and in-room participants are heard. Importantly, a facilitator would need to ensure that remote participants are in the meeting, engaged and not interrupted or overlooked when they are speaking. The assistant should also be experienced in handling the online meeting platform and hardware in the room. Advanced platforms like Zoom come with features like hand raising, anonymous polling and chat, among others, which make meetings more systematic and more productive. The facilitator can encourage the use of these features to promote equal participation.
- Make sure remote participants have a forceful presence: Give each remote participant a noticeable in-room presence. This can be done by setting up additional monitors on either side of the meeting room showing life-size panes of the remote participants, says a Harvard Business Review article. This can act as a reminder to include them in the conversation. If some people don’t want to be seen, display their photos to remind all participants that they are present.
- Use chat, polls and Q&A: Enabling the chat functionality is a great way to keep virtual participants engaged. Chat allows real-time interactions with the speakers, peer-to-peer comments, learning, sharing of links, and more. In-person participants can be allowed to use a secondary device like their smartphone or laptop to engage in chat so that it won’t be disruptive, says the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp). With the poll feature, speakers can ask pre-planned, uniform questions with single or multiple choice answer options. Q&A sessions are another great way to foster participation. Zoom features Q&A module is structured to allow participants to ask questions. Whatever tools and techniques you adopt, make sure they can maximize interaction between remote and in-room participants.
- Maintain etiquette: Right from the planning stage to ending the session, follow the etiquette for a hybrid meeting.
- Set the agenda, explain the purpose, and invite participants to submit questions/discussion points
- Know who is attending and have participants introduce themselves and turn on the schedule
- Enforce punctuality so that everyone sticks to the schedule
- Outline discussion topics and outcomes to keep people focused
- Ask the facilitator to check in on remote attendees by name to ask if they have something to contribute
- Make sure participants mute themselves when not speaking and use the raise their hand if they wish to speak. Meeting technology is designed to support this.
- Educate remote employees about using headsets, earbuds, etc.
- Be patient if someone’s tech fails
After the meeting, distribute notes. A business transcription company can provide you with accurate audio to text documentation of the session that includes key points, decisions made, and next actions people need to take. Send these out without delay. Invite additional comments for submission by the end of the day so that they can be included in the next steps. Assess any challenges faced and take steps to tackle them before your next hybrid meeting.