Outside Contributors

Seven Tips To Run An Effective Hybrid Meeting

Seven Tips To Run An Effective Hybrid Meeting

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First, there were on-site meetings. Then there were remote meetings. Now, it looks like the way forward is increasingly likely to be hybrid meetings. These bring all the challenges of on-site meetings and combine them with all the challenges of remote meetings. Fortunately, these challenges can be overcome. Here are some tips to help.

Make sure your infrastructure is up to the task

If you’ve already been running fully remote meetings then your infrastructure is probably in good shape already. That said, remember to avoid the trap of complacency. Have a plan for handling server failure at your side and connectivity issues in the remote locations.

Similarly, make sure that all participants are in a suitable meeting space. If you’ve reconfigured your office since the pandemic, check that meeting areas function as intended. In particular, remember that the real test of your soundproofing comes when you have a full office.  

If you want a dry run try playing audio outside your meeting area and checking how it sounds inside. Then reverse the exercise. If you’re not happy with the result, then you have a couple of potential solutions. One is to invest in extra soundproofing between the meeting area and the rest of the office. The other is to use headsets, possibly with noise-reducing capabilities.

You might also need to consider the lighting in your meeting space. Human eyesight functions pretty well even in dim light. Cameras, however, need plenty of light. What’s more, they need it right in front of the subject you want them to capture. You may therefore need to bring extra lights into your office, proper photography lights could be a good investment.

Check everyone has the right equipment

Again, if you’ve been running fully remote meetings then your remote participants should be good to go. If, however, you’ve onboarded new remote staff, then you’ll need to make sure that they’re properly equipped. Your challenge may actually be your on-site equipment.  

Depending on your pre-pandemic working habits, you might not have any. Even if you do, it may need to be substantially upgraded. After all, it would be rather ironic to invest in voice enabled Teams but have nobody able to see or hear your on-site participants.  

In the average meeting, sound is usually a lot more important than sight. This goes at least double when some of the participants are remote. In a pure on-site meeting, people can often move to be able to hear better. If you have remote participants, they’re stuck with whatever audio feed you have. That means you really need good microphones and plenty of them.

It’s useful if you also have decent visuals. At a minimum, you need to make sure that any presentations can be screencast effectively. In general, you want to make sure that anyone presenting is classed as an organizer. If this isn’t possible, make sure that an organizer is present and has the slides in advance.

Make sure everyone can prepare

This is not remotely unique to hybrid meetings but it does have a higher level of importance for them. Hybrid meetings, by their very nature, are more complicated to run than either fully on-site meetings or fully remote meetings. You, therefore, want to do everything you can to make sure that they run as smoothly as possible. Effective preparation is often key to this.

Ideally, you want to give people the opportunity to raise any questions or concerns well in advance of the meeting. This will allow you to take the necessary steps to address them in advance of the meeting. If possible, actively confirm to people that their feedback has been taken on board and will be addressed.

In some cases, you might even want to post materials out to people or give them a budget to buy designated materials themselves. For example, one of the headline benefits of on-site meetings is that you have scope for creative group activities.  

If you’re planning on having on-site staff have fun with art supplies (or just sticky notes and colored markers), then it can be good to provide remote participants with a similar opportunity. This doesn’t actually need to mean a whole lot of organization. It can be as simple as giving people an online shopping voucher and a shopping list. It does, however, need to be done in advance.

Start the meeting with a check-in

What this will mean in practice will depend on what kind of meeting it is. In particular, it will depend on how many participants there are and, more specifically, the ratio of on-site participants to remote participants.

It’s great if meetings can allow time for a bit of social interaction between participants before the proper business begins. Even if participants already know each other, having a bit of a preamble can help everyone settle down. If participants don’t know each other then having an icebreaker can be really useful to get the meeting flowing smoothly.

Of course, as meetings scale up, then check-ins often need to get a bit more formal. In fact, there’s often an element of safety-briefing to them. On-site participants may need to be reminded of how to find break facilities and toilets and what to do in the event of a fire. Off-site participants may need to be reminded of what to do if they have connection issues.

Set out protocols for communication

Even with small hybrid meetings, you often need to be particularly vigilant about making sure that everyone has a fair chance to speak. Remember that it may be harder for you to see a remote participant raising their hand. It’ll certainly be harder to pick up on more subtle body language which could indicate that a more reserved participant wants to speak.

Again, as meetings scale up, it’s likely to become more complicated to monitor both the on-site and remote participants to ensure that everyone really does get a fair chance to be involved. As numbers go up, you may want to designate deputy organizers/chairs to monitor subgroups of participants. If so, you may need to delegate more people to the remote participants to make sure that they get enough attention.

Whatever approach you take, make sure that you think it through in advance and communicate it clearly. Be prepared to answer any questions participants have, again, preferably in advance. Remember, instructions which seem clear to you may not be so clear to other people.

Wrap up with a check-out

This is useful in any meeting. With hybrid meetings, however, remember to be very explicit about the fact that the meeting is now complete. On-site participants may see people leaving and realize that they can now go. Remote participants, however, may hang around wondering what is going on unless you specifically tell them that the meeting is now over.

Make the most of breaks

This is essentially a bonus tip, hence the fact that it’s at the end. If you’re running a long meeting, the chances are that you’re going to have at least one break. Try to make this a scheduled break. Make sure that there is enough time for all participants to use the bathroom and/or get a drink or food.

You may need to allow extra time compared to a fully on-site or fully remote meeting. For example, on-site employees may need to queue for the bathroom whereas remote employees probably won’t.  

By contrast, you can organize catering for on-site employees, to save time whereas remote employees may need time to prepare drinks and food. If, however, time is tight, you could get around this by giving them a food budget so they can have something delivered.

If possible try to add in some time for people to socialize and encourage interaction between the on-site and remote participants. You might want to consider priming some people to lead the way on this so that other people have an example to follow.

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