A survey by McKinsey revealed that 9 in 10 organizations plan to adopt a combination of remote and on-site work in response to the pandemic. The new hybrid work model is expected to become the default way of working in the near future, offering a number of important benefits to employees and employers alike.
But the hybrid work model also creates new challenges for organizations to overcome, and figuring out how to plan and hold productive hybrid meetings is one of them. When participants can disappear from a meeting with one wrong click or one technical error, every ounce of preparation can be the difference between time well spent and time wasted.
At TechGen, we have extensive experience with hybrid meetings because we not only rely on them ourselves but also empower other organizations with the tools they need to take advantage of them. In this article, we share our top tips for holding productive hybrid meetings to help you avoid common mistakes.
What Are Hybrid Meetings?
Hybrid meetings are meetings that include two types of participants: attendees who are physically located in the same meeting room and those who join remotely through an audio or video call. This type of meeting existed before the novel coronavirus prevented employees from gathering in the same meeting room and exchanging ideas face to face.
But before the remote working boom of 2020, the hybrid meeting experience was downright abysmal. Most organizations had a single conference phone placed in the middle of their conference table, allowing a remote attendee to join in and hope that the audio quality will be good enough to understand what everyone’s talking about, let alone tell individual participants apart.
Modern hybrid meetings can be inclusive, interactive, and engaging, which are just some reasons why the recent Global Workforce Survey predicts that 98 percent of meetings will include at least one remote participant in the future.
The problem is that hybrid meetings can also easily be the opposite, making remote workers feel left out and causing on-site participants to feel frustrated as they attempt to share important information with people located in different parts of the country or even the world.
3 Tips to Make Hybrid Meetings More Productive
The hybrid headwinds may be strong, but the good news is that it doesn’t take much effort to make them more productive. Here are our top 3 tips on how to plan and hold meetings that include both on-site and remote participants.
1. Spend Enough Time Planning Hybrid Meetings
To hold a successful hybrid meeting, you can’t go in unprepared. If nothing else, do the following:
- Choose a suitable meeting place: Your go-to meeting room may not be the most suitable place for hosting a hybrid meeting—at least not without some modifications and improvements. To make it suitable, cover it with a strong Wi-Fi signal and install the audio and video equipment necessary for everyone to be heard and seen without any issues.
- Create a detailed meeting agenda: A meeting agenda not only helps the person conducting the meeting maintain control over the flow of discussions, but it also motivates participants to actually participate by giving them time to think about what you’ll be covering. Put the agenda in the meeting invite you’re sending out (or link to a OneNote page or Word Document so participants can easily collaborate).
- Send relevant materials in advance: The last thing you want is to start your hybrid meeting by troubleshooting issues with PDF files not opening and Word documents being formatted incorrectly. That’s why you should send all relevant materials in advance so that participants have enough time to go through them. (Again post the materials directly to the invite or post them to a shared SharePoint Online folder)
Initially, hybrid meeting preparation may take you more time than the actual meeting, but it will become second nature over time, so don’t feel discouraged.
2. Use the Best Hybrid Meeting Technology Available
Before the pandemic, not many people knew what a “Zoom meeting” was. The global disruption of established work routines caused many organizations to explore better hybrid meeting technologies, and the companies behind them went into overdrive, trying to win as many users as possible.
Now, in 2021, organizations of all sizes have a lot of options to choose from when it comes to hybrid meeting technology. Besides Zoom, another company that has emerged from the turmoil as a winner is Microsoft, offering its Microsoft Teams business communication platform.
Microsoft has even developed a purpose-built calling and meeting room solution that brings HD video, audio, and content sharing to meetings of all sizes, calling it Microsoft Teams Rooms.
With Microsoft Teams Rooms, employees can easily connect across the hybrid workplace and be seen, heard, and otherwise included regardless of where they happen to be located physically at the moment. Microsoft Teams Rooms includes features such as live captions, intelligent capture of analog whiteboard images, and one-touch join, just to give some examples.
3. Set and Enforce Ground Rules for Your Hybrid Meetings
Without rules, there’s chaos. To understand how chaos looks like, you just need to attend one or two hybrid meetings where participants are not expected to follow any rules.
While it’s certainly true that having too many rules can be just as bad as not having no rules at all, there are some ground rules that are always worth enforcing:
- Cameras stay on: When hosting a hybrid meeting, your goal should be for on-site and remote participants to feel equally included and be equally engaged. By requiring cameras to stay on all the time, you help create a shared experience that feels like true team interaction and less like a mandatory virtual event.
- No side conversations: Because of how audio is recorded and reproduced during hybrid meetings, it’s very difficult to understand what’s being said when multiple people are talking at the same time. To maintain clarity and prevent hybrid meetings from dragging on too long, only one person should be talking at a time, and side conversations should be prohibited. In fact, it’s a good idea for participants to mute themselves unless speaking.
- Follow the agenda: The agenda you’ve created before the meeting is supposed to keep the meeting on track, so make sure everyone follows the time allotment for each topic. In situations where more time is needed, it’s often best to follow up using asynchronous means of communication.
Of course, each organization has a different culture, needs, and priorities, so make sure that your ground rules for hybrid meetings reflect them.
Hybrid Meetings Are the New Norm
Hybrid meetings are here to stay because they enable organizations to be productive in a world where physical interactions are guided by rules that are changing just as quickly and often just as unpredictably as the weather.
The tips provided in this article can help you hold hybrid meetings that don’t leave their participants feeling like their time was wasted. At TechGen, we can help you implement the best hybrid meeting technology available.