Running Impactful and Inclusive Hybrid Meetings

Hybrid Meetings
Hybrid Meetings – Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

After almost a year of remote working, the highly anticipated return to office-life is finally upon us, or is, at least, in plain sight.

The World Economic Forum cites research by Gartner, which estimates that nearly two thirds of employees can work remotely at least some of the time.

While this may be the case, there are a number of different working options that employees may find themselves choosing from in a post-pandemic working world.

For some of us, this will mean returning to a physical office, either part-time or full-time, and for others, this may mean drawing a line in the sand and never returning to an office again.

Remote working due to COVID-19 fundamentally changed how and where employees worked.

A New Era of Meetings

Throughout my career working with global teams, hybrid meetings became the norm.

According to Forbes, remote working is here to stay, but the future is hybrid.

Hybrid meetings are those in which there are meeting participants who are physically present and those who are joining the meeting remotely.

The benefits are obvious – anyone can attend the meeting from wherever they are based at that moment in time.

But not everybody in your hybrid meetings will understand the new etiquette!

  • I’ve looked at the back of people’s heads for entire meetings
  • I’ve tried to speak or interject but was drowned out by the voices in the physical room.
  • I’ve found it difficult to hear because people in the room had been typing on their laptops
  • I’ve waited for the participants who forgot to connect to their meeting link.

How you handle and prepare for complexities will be the difference between a positive or a lacklustre meeting experience for your clients, right?

Overcoming these Challenges 

With a little preparation and thought, your hybrid meetings can be highly impactful and inclusive for everyone attending. Here are 3 key areas to consider: 

  1. Set Expectations from the Outset
  2. Prepare to be purposefully inclusive
  3. Start each meeting on the right note

1. Set expectations from the outset

Questions you might want to consider when defining norms are

  • Should virtual participants have cameras on, where possible?
  • Will people in the room have laptop lids down or open?’‘Who will act as note-taker?
  • How are people expected to participate in the meeting?
  • What should participants do if they have a question or want to comment?’

Set guidelines which establish expectations and lead to a more seamless experience across physical and virtual spaces. 

  • Treat physical and virtual spaces equally
  • Ask people to consider all audience members when they are speaking
  • Ensure conversations are directed to everyone, both in the room and virtually
  • Ask the participants in the room to treat the camera or screen as a colleague

The goal here is to avoid a situation where people outside the room are only looking at the screen or where people in the room are only looking at each other.

2. Prepare to be purposefully inclusive

A little planning will ensure a seamless meeting experience for participants, regardless of whether they are physically present in a room or joining as a virtual participant. 

  • Get participation both from people present and those who are remote
  • Plan your meeting agenda well in advance
  • Choose a mix of people to lead or talk to those agenda items

This creates a level-playing field across virtual and physical rooms and demonstrates that you can be in either space to play a role and have a voice in the meeting. 

In a previous company I worked at, we rotated the meeting moderator for our standing weekly team meeting to give everyone an opportunity to learn the skills of moderation.

Your moderator is responsible for seeing that all voices in the meeting are heard.

The meeting moderator can identify when people are looking for that opportunity to speak, as well as offering space to get others involved.

3. Start Hybrid Meetings on the Right Note

Get the meeting moderator to start promptly so you respect everyone’s time and set the tone for an effective meeting.

Use the start of your meeting to build rapport across physical and virtual spaces and set the tone for the rest of the meeting. 

Consider using a quick icebreaker at the start of your meeting if time allows.

This could be something as simple as asking questions like: ‘What’s your favourite place on earth?’ or ‘What’s one thing you couldn’t live without?’

Depending on the size of your meeting, you could have people answer a question in chat.

Keep the conversation moving quickly. Put an end to in-the-room side conversations and get started.

Concluding thoughts

If the last year-and-a-half has taught us anything, it’s that we have the ability to adapt to whatever situation presents itself. You should expect that there will be a learning curve with hybrid meetings.

Now that everyone has experienced remote working, many of us are heading into this next stage of working life aware of what it’s like to be in a hybrid environment.

According to McKinsey & Company, employees now want flexibility in their working models. Hybrid meetings are therefore part of your future.

For anyone experiencing hybrid meetings for the first time, be prepared to consider what’s working and what’s not in order to evolve your approach.

Be proactive in looking for feedback and asking for alternative suggestions so you can find out what works best for you and your team. 

Continue to adapt and refine your ability to meet in different ways which are still impactful and inclusive, regardless of how people take part in your meetings.

How are you running impactful meetings these days?

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