As companies return to having employees in the office, they may realize hybrid operations are a must.
Now instead of having meetings with everyone in person or everyone online, you need a hybrid solution. However, this solution creates a new set of meeting challenges to overcome.
Here are a few smart tips for including video attendees in important in-person meetings without making it awkward for everyone.
1. Share the Agenda
Meetings run smoother when you have an agenda and stick to it during the meeting—sharing it before the session helps attendees prepare. It also helps keeps remote workers connected so they know what is going on and meeting expectations. Add any online references or links to resources that everyone will need. The central information center will help keep the entire team in sync.
2. Use the Most Current Technology
If your conference room equipment hasn’t been updated in a while, now is the time to do it. After a year of everyone being on video conferencing, people expect to see and hear everything clearly. As a result, old conference room telephone systems and outdated audio need to be replaced to keep remote participants engaged.
Don’t forget to check for software updates too. For example, platforms are adding emoji options to give video participants ways to react and share feedback without disrupting the meeting. Some providers are also developing new tools so participants in the room can use chat along with online members.
3. Show Everyone’s Face if Possible
Remind online participants to keep their videos running and show their faces. If that isn’t possible, encourage them to use a professional headshot for their off-video setting. You also want to have cameras set up in the conference room to capture people’s faces in the room.
It also helps if you can use a big screen to show the gallery view of participants. Helping everyone be able to see each other’s faces and expressions builds a connection with online participants. In addition, it helps remind speakers to make eye contact with people not in the room by looking at the camera as another person in the room.
4. Start the Video Before the Meeting Starts
Assign someone to start the online meeting room before the official start of the meeting. This can serve a couple of purposes. First, it’s a good time to troubleshoot any technical issues. Second, it gives you a chance to ensure video and audio are working so you can save the meeting time for the agenda.
Finally, it also gives online participants a chance to accomplish a tech check of their own. They’ll be more engaged and less stressed if they aren’t trying to fix their tech issues after the meeting has started.
As a bonus, they’ll be able to take part in the informal conversations and watercooler talk that happens between in-person attendees while they are waiting for meetings to start.
5. Discourage Side Conversations
Online members can’t hear what’s being said clearly when more than one person is talking. Microphones will pick up the side conversations, even whispered sounds. It’s a sign of respect to your video participants to make sure only one person is talking. That way, everyone can hear and participate.
Sometimes the conversation may get exciting, and people try to talk over each other. You may want to add a touch of humor and a trick to moderate this by using a physical “talking stick.” The only person allowed to talk is the person with the stick. When they are finished, they can pass the stick to the next person. The meeting leader should proactively make sure that online members get a virtual stick and a chance to speak too.
6. Be Deliberate to Include Online Members
It’s easy to overlook people who aren’t in the room. To keep them connected and engaged, be deliberate about making sure to include them. For example, when the meeting starts, greet them by name and ask them to recap their weekend. Giving them a chance to share helps people in the room connect with the virtual audience as well.
As the meeting occurs, don’t forget to ask those on video if they have questions or comments. And remember, silence can be your friend here. It may take people a moment to come off mute, so don’t be in a rush to fill the quiet.
At the end of the meeting, go around and ask everyone for their takeaway from the meeting. And start with those online. That guarantees members have a chance for any final questions or comments they needed to add.
7. Plan Facilitation Help
Meeting leaders may find it helpful to ask a co-worker in the room to act as a facilitator. Their role here is to watch the online participants for indications they need to add a comment. For example, virtual members may turn off mute or use the raise hand function to indicate they want to speak. If members in the room don’t notice, the facilitator should mention it to the room so the online members can share.
8. Use Group Collaboration Tools
Many times, meetings include whiteboard activities. Most platforms have added virtual whiteboards that video participants can also see. If the virtual whiteboard isn’t an option, make sure you have a way of showing the papers in the room on camera so that everyone can read them.
Another good practice is to use polling software that can consolidate responses from people in the room and online. That may mean employees in the room also need to have an online device with them in the meeting. Let them know this ahead of the meeting to have their device with them and the app installed.
9. Get Feedback
As people start returning to offices and in-person meetings, hybrid meeting practices will grow and evolve. Seek feedback from meeting attendees. Ask them to rate the meeting and provide suggestions for how to improve the experience. It may also help to make sure facilitators occasionally attend hybrid meetings virtually. This first-hand experience will help them get a feel for the online experience and what can be done better.
A recent survey conducted by McKinsey shows that nine out of ten executives expect to have hybrid work. Moreover, as people return to in-person operations, most people expect more remote work than before the pandemic.
The tips above can help make sure your hybrid meeting runs smoothly and keep everyone engaged wherever they happen to be located.