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With the right technology and facilitation, hybrid meetings can offer the best of both worlds: the benefits of face-to-face meetings, such as non-verbal communication and spontaneous collaboration, combined with the convenience and cost-effectiveness of remote meetings.
But to really reap the benefits of hybrid meetings, we need to overcome our intuition and gut reactions about managing meetings and invest in high-quality AV technology, develop new conferencing standards, and train attendees on how to use this technology and how to adhere to it. these standards. Otherwise, hybrid meetings can be a miserable experience for both in-person and especially remote participants, as I’ve seen advice for 21 organisations on how to implement hybrid works arrangements.
Related: What’s the Best Way to Run a Highly Effective Hybrid Meeting?
Importance of excellent conferencing AV technology
One of the most critical elements of a successful hybrid meeting is excellent audio and video (AV) technology that allows all participants to see and hear each other clearly.
Many meeting rooms are long and narrow, and cameras are usually located at one end of the table, so the cameras at the other end are not easily visible on video. That poses a problem for remote participants because they can’t clearly see the body language and gestures of the in-person attendees. Similarly, remote attendees should be able to hear everyone’s comments in the room, but the typical narrow meeting rooms aren’t set up to properly pick up audio for all attendees, just those at the head of the table.
Remote participants must be able to see the person speaking at any given time. To do this requires a camera that follows and focuses on whoever is speaking at the time. They also need a second camera that shows the whole room to pick up the non-verbal cues from their personal colleagues. After all, the point of a meeting is not simply one-way communication by the speaker; it is also observing the reaction of the meeting participants to the speaker. Finally, they need a third camera that shows the PowerPoint and/or whiteboard.
In-person participants, in turn, must be able to clearly see distant participants. That ideally means sitting on one side of the table and on the other a large screen in the meeting room with the attendees at a distance. Then the natural focus goes from the in-person attendees to the remote participants, not each other.
Separate facilitation for remote participants
Another key factor in successful hybrid meetings is having a separate facilitator for remote participants. Team leaders act as the traditional facilitator of meetings and have their hands full managing the personal part of the meeting and agenda while also being a participant.
Instead, the team leader must designate an in-person participant as a remote facilitator. This person’s role is to ensure that remote participants can fully participate in the meeting and that their contributions are heard and acknowledged. They can also help resolve any technical issues you may have. The remote facilitator should solicit feedback and input from remote attendees and intervene on their behalf when necessary. They should also read aloud chats typed by video conference participants asking the remote facilitator to make a point on their behalf.
Related: Making hybrid models work is no longer a luxury – it’s a necessity
Express yourself through emojis or chat
Remote participants should work with the remote facilitator and advocate for their perspective and full participation in hybrid meetings. They must express themselves in response to what people say through reaction emojis or chat.
The challenge is that you can’t see the reactions of remote participants to what the speaker is saying, so remote participants need to be more aware of their reactions. Fortunately, by using chat or reaction emojis, they don’t have to interrupt the speaker or hinder the flow of conversation. It is much easier to use such features, especially for introverted participants, making them more likely to excel as remote participants in hybrid meetings.
And since there is someone in the room whose job it is to make sure remote participants are heard – the remote facilitator – that person will interrupt the speaker on their behalf. For example, a remote participant can indicate that he or she has a question or comment in the chat. If that happened in the room, the speaker could see that someone had a frown or a confused look. But they can’t see that so easily for remote participants. However, the remote facilitator can intervene on behalf of the remote participants, address their confusion and ensure that the remote participants can contribute.
Standards of conduct for personal participants
In-person participants should pay attention to distant attendees and make an effort to engage them in the discussion. This can be done by logging into the meeting on their laptop or phone and monitoring remote participants’ responses via chat or emojis. They can even contribute to the conversation if they sign up for the meeting and make sure they don’t miss the valuable subtext in the chat.
Likewise, in-person attendees must overcome their intuitive and natural temptation to prioritize other in-person attendees. They should preferably pay attention to remote attendees and encourage other in-person attendees to do the same. That’s why it helps to face the distant attendees, not your fellow visitors.
Participants in training meetings
Achieving this change of norms and addressing cognitive biases is required course both the personal and external meeting facilitators and the attendees, including personal and external. The new standards will seem artificial and awkward at first as everyone will have to address their miscalibrated intuitions, but it will help maximize everyone’s participation and address the issues with typical hybrid meetings. Training – which should include practice and role play – will help overcome the initial discomfort and facilitate adjustment to the new norms.
Part of the required training is the establishment of feedback systems for continuous improvement. So, especially as teams begin to understand their new meeting standards, they need to measure the quality of the hybrid meeting experience and get feedback, for in-person and especially remote participants. As you make these transitions, ask participants about various aspects of the meeting, such as their overall evaluation of their meeting experience, how well they could hear and see others, how well they think others heard and saw them, how much they were able to participate in and influence the meeting, how well the in-person participants were able to accommodate remote participants, how well the facilitator was able to accommodate remote participants, how effective features like chat and emojis like “raise hand” became used, what could have been done better to improve their experience and impact, and related questions. Special feedback should be given to the meeting facilitators, including viewing recordings with a coach who can point out specific times when the facilitator has performed well, and other areas where they may need improvement.