By Valentina Kibedi
Running great meetings has never been a more important skill, especially when considering hybrid work styles. This is where an organization’s hybrid capabilities are put to the test.
We’ve all been part of terrible online meetings, so we already know what’s off-putting to remote participants. Thankfully there are new ways to connect and ensure your remote meeting participants have just as good of an experience as in-person participants.
There are two common barriers to good engagement in hybrid meetings: inadequate, non-inclusive technology, and poor meeting design. Both can be addressed with some intentional planning.
Design your meeting to energize and engage – not leave people frustrated by an inability to hear or be heard, or gain the facilitator’s attention with a question. If people aren’t engaging, it’s time to revisit your meeting design and format.
- Create a good agenda. Always have an agenda. Even for the simplest meetings. And make it purposeful! If it doesn’t seem relevant or interesting, people may not show up, or worse yet, they will come to your meeting prepared to multitask their way through it.
- Set expectations for cameras on by clarifying this in the agenda and meeting invitation. We always encourage cameras on for hybrid meetings. This encourages connection and cohesion, and builds trust.
- Eliminate status differences between in-person and remote team members. Ensure remote participants are treated as equal participants. In fact, the best designed hybrid meetings tend to prioritize the experience of remote participants, with an understanding that in-person participants are inherently at an advantage. For example, when questions are put out to the group, go to the virtual participants first. Not only does this demonstrate you are willing to give their contributions primacy, but it also disrupts any co-location bias.
- Design engagement right into the meeting. One way to do this is to share responsibility. Find and assign opportunities for others to facilitate, to keep time, or take notes. Perhaps the role assignment is on shuffle so that everyone takes a turn doing something (e.g. for recurring meetings).
- Consider how any engagement activities will work in advance. For example, if you’re doing live breakout rooms, how can you create a mix of hybrid and in-person participants? If you have an activity with a handout, how can you make sure that remote workers can join in and participate fully?
- Budget some time for small talk. Recall from our previous post, cohesion work is real work that deserves time on the agenda.
- Provide strong facilitation. Work to engage remote participants first and not as an afterthought. Facilitators must both facilitate good questions and make sure everyone has opportunities to speak. They may also have to repeat what’s happening in-person so that the remote individuals can understand what’s happening in the room – offer a recap of side conversations inaudible to anyone listening in remotely.
- Solicit honest feedback from remote participants. What worked well? What can be improved?
When integrating your physical spaces and technology for hybrid arrangements, consider the following elements: equity, engagement, and ease.
Some organizations have identified key meetings that will continue to be conducted virtually, even if most attendees are onsite, because it improves equity. For example, in the past, a cross-country check-in facilitated from a Toronto head office might have skewed to the (416) more than it should have. But when everyone’s offsite, it’s less likely that a particular location or group to dominate the facilitator’s attention.
If you’ve been putting it off, now’s the time to invest: updated technology is important both onsite and off.
- Explore technology boosts for in-office meeting spaces and for remote office spaces, too. Consider investing in new hybrid meeting technology for the office (e.g. Meeting Owls). Many organizations are also supporting their hybrid/remote employees with home office improvements such as lighting or computer upgrades with improved camera and mic capabilities.
- Fine-tune your meeting audio. Clear two-way audio is key. In fact, good audio is more important than good video quality. Consider investing in onsite hybrid meeting technology that goes beyond that crackly speaker phone. Aim to eliminate the feeling that remote participants are observing another group having a meeting.
- In your meeting room, display remote participants as close to full-size as possible by using a large screen display(s).
- Test the tech in advance when you’re thinking through the design for the meeting, especially if you’re using features you haven’t used before, such as Google Jamboard, Zoom Breakout Rooms or in-room speakers and display screens.
- Assign someone to be a ‘meeting tech expert’ in case participants struggle with systems or features of your collaboration software. That way, they can quietly message this person with questions without disrupting the flow of the meeting.
Do you have additional tips we can add to our list?
Please let us know if so.
This is the third in a series of posts dedicated to leading within hybrid work environments. Please also see Has Hybrid Killed Team Cohesion and Building Trust on Hybrid Teams.
Meetings are such an essential part of work culture that it’s important for leaders to invest the time in learning to do them well.
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If you would like help to become a better meetings facilitator or would like an audit of your current meeting style, just reach out.
Laridae offers coaching and assessment services geared toward developing the skills you need to enhance team cohesion and further your organizational goals.