Today, we may no longer expect all employees to work from the office. However, some will still want to, and some will need to. So, how can you hold productive meetings if half the team is working from home?
• You can open up to a much larger audience, or reach markets that may not have been accessible before due to their geographical location.
• Your office might not have enough space for the size of the meeting you need, so a hybrid gives you the option of inviting more attendees.
Firstly, since hybrid meetings are a little more complicated to organise and plan for, can you eliminate the need for so many meetings in the first place? If there are ways to keep them to a minimum, for example by using applications such as Teams for a daily check in or by updating each other via a workflow management tool instead, then use them and save the hybrid meetings for the most important stuff.
• Plan, plan, plan! Establish the aim of the meeting. What are your priorities? Do you want as many people onsite as possible, or will most of your attendees be offsite? Will there be people presenting? Will they be offsite or onsite? This information will feed into how you structure the tech, format and agenda of the meeting. It’s always best to confirm the attendance and duration of the meeting beforehand. What tech are you going to use? Do you know how to use it?
• What are you expecting from your attendees? You will need to let them know whether you expect them to contribute, and whether they need to use video to do so. How will you capture the video of the onsite participants to relay to the others? Is video even necessary? You can just use a conference phone, but remember that some nuance may be lost without being able to see people’s facial expressions. What other ground rules might you need?
• Will there be a facilitator, and will this person be attending onsite or off? With complicated setups, it may be worth having someone who can ensure that everyone who wants to can speak, and how this will work in practice. Plan with this person before the meeting to ensure that they understand how to bring participants into the discussion both in-person and remotely. Perhaps they can also monitor the online chat so that no one gets missed out.
• Use digital meeting tools, for all participants. If you get everyone on board with whiteboard software such as Miro for all meetings, it won’t be such a surprise when you use it for hybrid meetings. Take notes in a collaborative document. This means that everyone can feel connected, and not left out of the conversation as it happens in real time. • Don’t forget your onsite participants! Keeping the balance between answering questions from both sets of people is important.
• Structure interactions. Use specific agenda time for discussion. Do you need virtual breakout rooms to enable these? How would this work with your onsite participants?
• TEST EVERYTHING. Prior to the meeting, ensure that everything works as it should at your end, including cameras, sound and lights. Have a back-up plan in place should something fail on the day. On the day, ensure that you do a sound check for everyone at the start of the meeting. Then it’s probably best to turn everyone’s mics off while particular people are speaking, if you have more than five participants.
• Recap after the meeting. This is important for all meetings, but especially hybrid ones. A recap ensures that everyone feels included in the round-up, and can fill in any gaps for people who had unavoidable tech issues, or had to go and answer the front door to the postman!
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