As restrictions ease, teams and organisations are thinking about how to manage meetings when some participants may be at home and others may be office based: these are known as hybrid meetings.
A hybrid meeting is where some participants join through one method and other participants join by another method. This includes –
- where some people join by videoconference while others are physically present in one or more meeting rooms
- where some people join by videoconference and some by telephone
- where two groups of people are physically present in two different rooms which are connected by videoconference camera.
Just because hybrid meetings are possible doesn’t make them the best solution. It may seem simpler for a group of people in an office to cluster around the same video screen while others join via laptops, but this approach may make it difficult to participate on equal terms:
- those in the physical space see each other’s reactions more clearly and may gain a stronger sense of the mood than those joining remotely
- those joining on their laptops have individual access to the chat function to add comments or questions while those in the room do not.
As face to face and virtual meetings each have advantages and disadvantages, the risk is that hybrid meetings offer the worst of both worlds rather than the best. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
Hybrid meetings can be very successful. They do require particular attention in both the planning and facilitation phase to ensure that everyone is able to participate on equal terms. Here are some key thoughts across three phases: planning, during the meeting, and follow up.
Before the meeting
Confirm technology and face to face meeting details
Check technology e.g. webcams and microphones
Have a session plan including what technology will be used and how
Confirm expectations of participants – e.g. find a quiet space, have documents ready to view
Have someone acting as a ‘connector’ between face to face participants and virtual joiners. A technical support person is also helpful.
During the meeting
Agree ways of working up front recognising that people are joining the meeting in different ways
Move at the pace of the slowest – e.g. do not rely on visuals if not everyone can see them!
Have photos and names of virtual joiners displayed in the ‘in person’ meeting room
Ask virtual joiners to contribute first so they are not forgotten
Share visuals in advance – e.g. send out PowerPoint slides to those joining by phone and refer to them by number as you go through
Summarise and repeat back for the benefit of those joining remotely to check understanding and agreement (as you have less confirmation through body language)
Be prepared to say ‘no’ if someone suggests an activity that will not work for everyone
Mix up those joining face to face with virtual joiners in break out discussions to break down barriers
After the meeting
Circulate materials and action points including those that may not have been seen by all participants
Reflect and evaluate using the framework –
- What went well?
- What could have gone better?
- What can be improved for the next session?
Hybrids: best or worst of both worlds? It would be great to hear your hybrid stories.