How to Improve Your Hybrid Meetingsby MIT Endicott House
As the corporate world begins its return to a more normalized in-person schedule for some, but not all, hybrid meetings will be a permanent component of most organizations. Even though virtual meetings have evolved, many companies are still working toward designing and facilitating standard criteria for their staff to meet both in-person and from other locations as one group; hence, the need to standardize the best practices for hybrid meetings. There are several criteria to consider.
Design from the Participant’s Perspective
Try to walk in the shoes of the meeting participants instead of the person arranging it. Ask some questions that cover visual devices, technology, and what the audience will need to participate:
- What needs to be sent out prior to the hybrid meeting for both in-person and virtual participants to be prepared?
- Are there differing time zones that need to be accommodated?
- Are titles for specific participants being used on screen and verified?
- How should the on-screen configuration be set up so that all attendees can view one another?
- What will be used to share presentations (flipcharts, PowerPoint, whiteboards)?
- Are physical documents prepared and sent out for both in-person and virtual participants?
These are just a sampling of the standard questions to begin designing a hybrid meeting as the participant experiences it. Additional questions will include anything unique to the topics at hand, especially if it involves specific technology or video hookup involving the IT department.
Engage All Hybrid Meeting Participants
Avoid the call to “open your laptop and join the meeting” because it turns into a mass group of people disengaging almost immediately and simply turning off their cameras and sitting there until someone calls their name out.
Instead, each activity within a hybrid meeting should engage both in-person and virtual participants as much as possible and equally so that one group does not feel left out of the discussion. So, create a specific list of activities in advance that includes exercises in which the meeting members can actively engage. Keep in mind the technical needs of both groups of participants that will allow them to partake in each activity. For example, a great way to derive each participant’s opinion during a discussion is through polls or surveys. Incorporate a phone app such as Survey Monkey and Poll Everywhere to gather everyone’s vote during a decision-making process instead of verbal replies and a virtual hand-raise.
Additionally, utilizing the caption and recording functions for hybrid meetings helps alleviate issues for some meeting participants that could cause distractions. Often, virtual meeting participants experience sound issues, and the person leading the discussion will stop and try to help that individual, leaving everyone else disengaged and losing focus.
Letting everyone know from the beginning that the meeting will be explicitly captioned and recorded for future viewing for anyone having sound difficulties can help prevent unnecessary stopping and starting. It will also keep both in-person and virtual participants on task during the meeting content.
Ensuring In-Person and Virtual Shared Experiences
Even though each group of meeting participants is in a different environment, they can still have productive and collaborative shared experiences. First, create an atmosphere of collaboration, beginning with ice-breaker exercises where the groups engage one another instead of within their groups. Next, try to include breakout groups with a mix of in-person and virtual participants on the same team—make sure that technology is in place that will accommodate this task to avoid a frustrating experience. Finally, encourage both groups to mingle during breaks, especially during longer meetings that include several intermissions.
If one element of the discussion calls for the in-person group to interact with an in-person presenter, make sure virtual participants have the same visual access to the presented content and have their turn to interject their opinions or ask questions beyond just typing chat window. Announce before the presentation what the process will be to allow everyone to be heard and make that the standard process for each hybrid meeting.
Keeping all of this criteria in mind when planning a hybrid meeting should set your team up for success!
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