Hybrid meetings are no longer avoidable. Cisco research found that up to 98% of all meetings will include at least one participant attending remotely. To ensure a great employee experience, hybrid meetings should meet the needs of both in-person and virtual attendees.
Effective facilitation of hybrid meetings need to address challenges around communication inequity, engagement and attention, access to information, and technical issues. Addressing these challenges requires a combination of technology, communication strategies, and a proactive approach to inclusivity and engagement.
While there is no single “right” way to lead hybrid meetings, there are key elements and best practices to keep in mind to meet the needs of your in-person and virtual employees. Below, we explain how organizations can incorporate top hybrid meeting best practices to create a more balanced and productive hybrid work environment.
1. Pre-Meeting Preparations That Minimize Confusion
Hybrid meetings require more preparation due to the increase in required technology, multiple methods for inviting participants, and being inclusive of a wider audience who may be located all over the world in different timezones. Here are key points to consider when making preparations:
Meeting Room Setup
Although your meeting room may not have to accommodate all your participants, you do need to make sure you have the correct audio and video equipment to connect virtually with your remote participants. There are many tech tools for that these days, so familiarize yourself with the technology beforehand, such as cameras, microphones, and screens.
To account for technical glitches, poor internet connectivity, or audio/video problems, provide clear instructions for technology setup, offer technical support, and have backup plans in case of technical failures.
To minimize confusion and ensure that hybrid meetings run smoothly, clearly outline meeting objectives and share the agenda in advance. That way, all attendees can come better prepared to participate. Make sure to allocate time in the agenda for in-person and virtual interactions to help prevent proximity bias and any group from dominating conversations.
“It wasn't that people were leaving me out on purpose. It was an unconscious bias that because I was not there in the building, sometimes I was not being thought about or undervalued.” - Sacha Connor, Founder & CEO of Virtual Work Insider
When meetings can take place in both virtual and physical locations, it’s important to send out invitations with clear instructions. That means providing virtual meeting links along with physical location details. Using a conference room reservation system that syncs with existing calendars that you use can make it easier for participants to view all necessary information in one platform.
2. Setting the Stage for Smooth Meeting Interaction
In hybrid meetings, you’ll have to consider what to do to introduce and connect both your in-person and virtual participants. For some of them, this might be their first time meeting each other. Here are strategies to help them connect and feel more at ease with one another:
Welcome and Icebreakers
Building a sense of camaraderie and team spirit can be difficult when some team members are physically distant. Make sure to welcome both your in-person and virtual participants and use video conferencing for everyone to enhance face-to-face connection. Additionally, incorporate team-building activities that can be done both onsite and remotely and consider some form of sharing between both parties to further make the connection.
“We linked up our remote folks with each other while the people in the office did something else together. At the end, we designated a spokesperson from each group to share what the group did. The goal was to make sure that these folks had fun together and came out feeling like they’re connected and belong.” - Bethany Nicole Smith, Founder of the HERitage Network
Establishing Ground Rules
Clearly communicate meeting etiquette and expectations. For instance, start meetings on time and end a little early so people have time to move to their next meeting or take a bio break. Make sure to address potential challenges in the moment so that you don’t waste time troubleshooting problems later, which can be harder in a hybrid environment.
Keep in mind that in-person participants may inadvertently dominate discussions simply because the physical presence allows for that. As such, use collaboration tools and implement strategies such as rotating speaking turns to encourage equal participation.
3. Strategies To Facilitate Engagement and Discussion
When facilitating hybrid meetings, be mindful of the dynamics between in-person and virtual participants. It’s easy to slip into an imbalanced power dynamic where in-person participants dominate the conversations and have their opinions heard more. Here are strategies to balance in-person and virtual dynamics:
Take Turns Speaking To Include Everyone
Proximity bias refers to our brain’s tendency to favor the people and things that are physically closer to us. This bias can make remote team members feel undervalued or left out. Assign a facilitator to ensure remote participants have an equal opportunity to contribute. This person monitors remote participants for raised hands and makes sure the leader brings remote voices into the conversation.
Use Technology for Smoother Interactions
Leverage virtual collaboration tools (e.g. whiteboards, polls, project management platforms) for synchronous interactions. That way, remote participants can also demonstrate their ideas in realtime for everyone to see. Encourage everyone to use video conferencing tools with their cameras turned on to include remote workers and make for easier interactions. Using the chat feature for non-disruptive questions or comments and the “raise hand” feature to indicate a desire to speak, especially in larger meetings, are also great for ensuring all participants get a chance to speak.
“We also have a practice of being on Zoom during meetings regardless of whether you’re on-site or not—so that those who are remote can easily observe facial expressions, and because the chat functionality has become such an integral part of communicating during these meetings.” - Jackie Dube, Chief People Officer at The Predictive Index
Use AI To Enhance Efficiency and Productivity
Using AI to document your meeting proceedings frees attendees up to fully focus on the discussions at hand while still creating detailed meeting notes for participants to review later on. AI can also act as a virtual assistant for meeting management and facilitation of Q&A by prioritizing questions and providing instant responses, which contributes to a smoother flow of communication.
Incorporate Breakout Sessions for Deeper Discussions
Using breakout sessions is a technique where you organize people into smaller groups for discussions. The smaller groups make it easier for everyone to have the opportunity to voice their opinions. To ensure that in-person participants do not dominate the conversation or have side conversations that remote participants cannot hear, make sure to provide clear speaking instructions beforehand.
Embrace Flexibility To Enhance Engagement
Constant virtual meetings can lead to fatigue and decreased productivity. You can help improve engagement in hybrid meetings by limiting meeting durations, encouraging breaks, and considering asynchronous communication for tasks that don't require real-time interactions.
4. Tools and Skills To Ensure Clear Communication
There is a much higher chance for words to get lost in translation when communicating them across different platforms in hybrid meetings. Here are best practices to help ensure clear communication among all parties:
Summarize for Better Understanding
Speaking at a moderate pace is always good practice when communicating but even more important in virtual settings when sound quality can be a problem. Internet connectivity can also be an issue when using video conferencing platforms, causing remote workers to miss parts of the meeting. To help mitigate that, summarize the key points at the end of the meeting to reinforce understanding for all and to help clarify next steps.
Use AI To Document Meeting Proceedings
Assign a note-taker or use AI to help with automated transcription and detailed note-taking. AI-powered transcription services like Otter.ai can automatically transcribe spoken words into text during the meeting. These notes are then saved in documents that you can share with all participants right after the meeting ends.
“The ability to record conversation, distill conversation, turn that into action items, and spread that out to a team – that's going to become really important in hybrid environments. AI is really well situated to do those types of things.” - Rob Sadow, CEO & Co-Founder of Scoop
Limit Distractions To Help With Focus
Hybrid meetings can pose additional distractions such as remote multitasking or troubleshooting technology. Easy tips to help participants better focus include muting the microphone when not talking to minimize background noise and only unmuting to speak. You can also encourage participants to minimize multitasking and stay focused on the meeting by closing unnecessary applications and browser tabs.
5. Post-Meeting Follow-Ups That Create Momentum
The post-meeting follow-up is a good time to clarify any confusion and collect feedback for making hybrid meetings better. Here are strategies to ensure you’re wrapping up hybrid meetings on a good note:
Document Action Items and Next Steps
Communication between in-person and remote attendees may lead to additional confusion caused by tech issues and side conversations. Documenting clear actions items and next steps for participants to review after the meeting can help reduce some of this confusion. Using AI to analyze meeting minutes and automatically generate follow-up action items is a quick and easy way to summarize ideas discussed. This helps ensure that decisions made during the meeting are implemented correctly and next steps are outlined for ongoing collaboration, improving overall productivity.
Collect Feedback For Improvement
Gather feedback on the meeting format and encourage participants to share their experiences. Remember to use various feedback collection methods so they are accessible for both your in-person and virtual attendees. This can be as simple as asking them to complete a short electronic survey. To ensure that people feel safe to share, be mindful of building an inclusive culture where people feel like they can voice concerns without retaliation. There are also many ways to anonymously collect feedback.
“It's critical to train managers on how to work with employees working in a variety of locations. This includes how to provide regular check-ins and feedback and how to deal with potential challenges, such as time zone and communication differences. Managers should also be open to feedback from their teams, and willing to make changes as needed.” - Tracie Sponenberg, Chief People Officer at The Granite Group
Track Progress and Make Adjustments From Insights
Hybrid meeting effectiveness will vary from team to team so it’s important to gather insights on what’s working and what’s not. Using a conference room reservation system can provide you workplace analytics and data about your space usage, attendance rates, and more. These insights can be used to track progress and make adjustments to your hybrid meeting strategy. It can also be proof to show that what you’re doing is working and that leadership should invest more in the strategy.
By implementing these best practices, organizations can streamline the management of hybrid meetings, enhance collaboration, and create a more inclusive and efficient meeting environment for both in-person and virtual participants.
If you’re ready to start making conference room bookings for your hybrid meetings, create your free Skedda account today.