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I’ve been reading lots of good advice on how to run hybrid meetings – but most of it has left me thinking the authors haven’t actually run any…. and here’s my take on why.

Any organisation that has implemented flexible working properly may have had the occasion where some colleagues attend a meeting ‘in-person’ and others are dialling/zooming/or video-conferencing in from elsewhere.

Calling it a ‘hybrid’ meeting doesn’t really serve anyone. I guess it’s part of the legacy of the last year, with schools moving to ‘hybrid’ teaching models, which, if you ask any teacher, is a complete disaster. Teaching is not like a meeting, however, so let’s leave that at the door.

The hazards with hybrid meetings

My experience of mixing in-person and remote attendees at meetings is not great. Having been in conference rooms with others dialled in on phones or on large video-conference screens, I would feel for those on the end of the line anytime those in the room made small-talk or chat that couldn’t be picked up by the microphone. Those that are remote are cut out of lots of the interaction, and staying on-line through all the silences are a real drag (I’ve been on the other side too).

Keep the tech equal for everyone

I know this is counter-intuitive and those in the same proximity will naturally want to be in a communal meeting space, but my advice would be to not to use a conference room for those that are in the office, but for them to each be behind their desk joining in on the call. That way the tech is equal for everyone and there isn’t the face to face/remote person split.

The other thing people love doing (but is really bad) is to share a pc/laptop to join in on a call. This is not great as the camera/microphone won’t pick up both people equally so it’s not a good experience for those on the other end. There’ll be lots of ‘what did they say?’ and things having to be repeated.

The importance of the Chairperson

I had a particularly uncomfortable remote meeting experience once when I joined a meeting virtually. Everyone else was in the actual room except for me, I had been invited to attend virtually only. The camera was positioned so I couldn’t see everyone in the room, including the chairperson. With the audio-visual barriers (not being able to see the person speaking to me or identify who was speaking at any one time), made it difficult to put my point across and I left the meeting feeling very unsatisfied. I felt,  that the chairperson could have taken a couple of minutes to explain who was in the room, and even if it wasn’t possible for everyone to be ‘in view’, a protocol for each speaker to say who it was that was addressing me would have been helpful.

So, in summary, things to consider are:

  1. If more than one person (in the office) is joining, consider having everyone at their separate workstations/work areas and joining the meeting that way so the meeting dynamics are equal for everyone.
  2. If you are going to use meeting room video conference tech, know how it works, where the microphone is, and place it in the right place where it will pick up everyone in the room. Have everyone seated so they are visible for the camera (and adjust the lighting if needed).
  3. Good preparation is key for any online meeting, this is still the case even if some participants are ‘in the room’. For example, sending round the agenda and any information prior to the start, being clear what the meeting outcomes are.
  4. Having a chairperson that is confident to bring in those that aren’t in the room and to lead effectively. Doing a ‘round robin’ at the start and at the end to make sure everyone has had their say is an easy way to ensure all are welcomed and get to contribute.
  5. If people join part-way through the meeting, properly acknowledge their presence and ‘reset’ the meeting. A lot can be learnt here from the new audio-only app Clubhouse, where the protocol is for speakers to state when they have finished speaking, and for room hosts to ‘reset’ the meeting by giving a quick summary at appropriate intervals for anyone that’s joined.

 

Interested in hybrid working? Read my experience of implementing flexible/hybrid working.

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