Over the past several years, organizations have become adept at carrying out most of their operations remotely, as the COVID-19 pandemic made in-person gatherings infeasible.
As restrictions lift, many companies will turn to hybrid work arrangements in the coming months. Though one might think this transition should be relatively seamless, as hybrid models are just a combination of two arrangements that most organizations are already experienced with, the truth is more complicated. Hybrid work models can exacerbate old problems and present unique challenges that were not present in purely virtual or in-person formats.
Of all hybrid activities, hybrid meetings are particularly tough to execute. Whether it be keeping remote teams engaged, creating a level playing field for participation, or orchestrating smooth interactions between all parties, hybrid meetings require special care and attention to make them fair, inclusive, and productive.
By implementing the following pre-, during-, and post-meeting tips, businesses can ensure their hybrid meetings foster lively discussions and empower everyone involved.
Before The Meeting
- Assign an in-person remote attendee representative: Depending on the size of the meeting, watching over both in-person and remote attendees to ensure all participants have an equal opportunity to participate can become impractical. To alleviate this, ask one of your in-person employees to be on guard for signs of participation among remote attendees and share thoughts that have been included in the chat. Be sure to rotate who does this, so the responsibility is evenly spread out across all in-person attendees.
- Invest in proper equipment: For remote employees to participate, they have to be able to hear what is going on at the office. However, in larger meetings, it becomes challenging to ensure all in-person participants’ voices are clearly captured. One way to solve this problem is with throwable mics that can be tossed around the conference room. This not only makes it easier for remote workers to hear what’s going on, it also makes meetings fun.
During The Meeting
- Start with an icebreaker: Even during an all-remote meeting, it can be difficult for employees to speak up. Fearing they will be interrupted or ignored, remote attendees may feel extra pressure to stay quiet during hybrid meetings. Icebreakers are a great way to get remote attendees out of their virtual shells and help them feel more comfortable participating.
- Have everyone on camera: Employers should ensure that all speakers are on camera, especially those who are in the physical meeting space. Attendees working from home may find conversations confusing when they have no visual indication of who is speaking. If the group is small enough, arrange all physically present participants in a semicircle facing the camera. For larger meetings, employers may need to go back to tip #2 and purchase additional cameras to capture everyone present.
- Encourage everyone to raise their hand: For many in-person meetings, employees are free to voice their opinions when they feel it’s appropriate. In hybrid settings, those that are physically present may work under these same norms, unintentionally boxing out virtual participants who lack the same ability to contribute spontaneously. To prevent this problem, employers can require all attendees to raise their hand when they have something to say. Many digital platforms now offer a reaction feature so remote participants can virtually raise their hands as well.
- Look out for the un-muters: Though hand-raising has its advantages, it’s not a perfect solution as some meetings call for a more fluid exchange of ideas. When foregoing the hand-raising rule, it’s important to look for subtle signs that virtual participants want to contribute. For example, meeting leaders should be on the lookout for virtual participants who have unmuted themselves in preparation to speak.
After The Meeting
- Ask for feedback: Working out all the kinks requires employee feedback. Send out anonymous surveys to find out what’s working, what isn’t, and what should be tried next.
- Solicit unvoiced contributions: Despite one’s best efforts, some employees may remain reluctant to engage in hybrid meetings. Ask remote employees to send over any thoughts they didn’t have a chance to express during the meeting.