Hybrid meetings are here to stay and we need to find ways to manage them effectively so as to optimise collaboration, communication and productivity.
Hybrid meetings are ones where at least one meeting participant joins remotely, while others are onsite in the office. This may be the result of having some employees choosing to work remotely or because of travel restrictions or global pandemics preventing in-office work.
If a hybrid meeting is not well facilitated or organized it can be very frustrating and interruptive for all participants – or may result in those online being sidelined.
Sometimes hybrid meetings fail because of connectivity issues, a lack of inclusiveness by the facilitator or meeting host – and sometimes it’s a matter of general lack of engagement. Distractions, noisy work environments, and different time zones can also have an effect.
There are many challenges that we need to overcome and transitions we need to implement to achieve optimal hybrid meetings. Being aware of some of the challenges, and taking steps to mitigate those, can help improve your meetings. That in turn can have many positive effects on staff happiness, motivation and general collaboration.
Some of the largest companies in the world have said they want to continue with hybrid meetings in the future. This new trend of hosting hybrid meetings will therefore remain indefinitely part of the new office culture, and we need to optimise hybrid meetings accordingly.
Companies that are able to master the art of successful hybrid meetings are likely to reap the many associated benefits. These include being able to facilitate improved collaboration, effectively engage all employees, achieve meeting goals, and motivate staff to be productive.
Meetings are also a way of cultivating company culture and reflecting company values – so companies that transition successfully to hybrid meetings show their commitment to innovation, staff happiness, flexibility, being on-trend, inclusiveness, and being future-ready.
8 tips for managing successful hybrid meetings
Below we highlight 8 tips to help you run more successful hybrid meetings. These tips are aimed at helping you to create more engaging, inclusive, collaborative and organised meetings.
1. Take time to plan hybrid meetings
Any meeting you hold should have some thought put into planning it, to ensure everyone gets the most from the meeting, to help make it succinct, and to ensure that planned outcomes are achieved. This is even more relevant for hybrid meetings.
Proper planning includes creating an agenda and outlining the purpose of the meeting, including any relevant attachments participants might need, sending out a calendar invite, and hosting the onsite meeting in a room that has good internet connectivity and other necessary technology like big screens.
2. Share meeting goals
Taking time to prepare for a meeting is important and part of that means giving thought to meeting goals and then sharing those with participants ahead of time.
If everyone knows what the aims of the meetings are and what needs to be achieved, this gives the meeting purpose and helps provide a guide for communication. It also helps participants know what to prepare for the meeting and can make their contributions more meaningful.
While goal setting is important for any meeting, it can really have an impact in hybrid meetings which need to be more streamlined and coordinated than on-site meetings.
3. Manage the meeting strictly
Strict time management and attendance requirements for meetings also helps make meetings run more smoothly. If the meeting host is good at keeping the meeting focused on the agenda with the aim of keeping the meeting succinct, then participants are more likely to stay focused and not become distracted or frustrated as a meeting rambles on endlessly.
Managers can also create an office culture that requires employees to be on time for meetings, taking attendance registers and helping prevent overly long meetings.
It’s also important to keep meeting participants to a minimum – only those who need to be in a meeting should be invited and you could make attendance by others as optional.
Also take into account different time zones when scheduling the meeting and try to find the most suitable time for all – ideally not in the middle of the night for any participants.
4. Focus on great facilitation
To lead hybrid meetings successfully, managers may need to learn new skills and incorporate more technology to engage and empower participants.
Managers also need to aspire to being great facilitators and to learn about how to create more engagement, how to be more inclusive, how to enhance productivity and how their own management style could be adjusted to make meetings more succinct, organized and streamlined.
5. Be inclusive
We’ve all been in meetings where the host has rambled on endlessly, without ever asking for anyone’s opinions or thoughts on matters being discussed. This approach can lead to employees feeling disengaged and frustrated as they get the feeling that their voices don’t matter.
That’s why meeting hosts need to actively drive inclusivity and ensure that all employees have the opportunity to have their voices heard. This can be done by actively making sure everyone gets to participate and asking participants to raise their hands before speaking. The host can also ask anyone who didn’t get the chance to speak if they would like to provide any input or insights or ask any questions.
Digital technology can also help to drive inclusiveness during hybrid meetings – for example by giving all participants access to an online poll so everyone can easily provide feedback on any issue being discussed.
6. Share meeting rules
It’s important that you have rules for hybrid meetings and that these are shared widely with all participants. In addition to sending these rules to staff, the host should refer to the rules to make everyone aware of them.
Meeting rules can cover topics like the need to be on time, to be inclusive, to ensure your camera is on and your mic is off. You can also ensure that all conversations are kept to the company’s working language and to ensure inclusivity.
7. Use digital meeting tools to enhance communication and collaboration
If you adopt a remote-first approach to interacting with staff during hybrid meetings, then you are able to be more inclusive and engage everyone more fully. This can be achieved by using technology for collaboration.
You can help to make the use of digital meeting technology the norm among colleagues by consistently using technology in meetings to engage participants and drive collaboration and communication.
This can help to normalize the use of technology, making it part of your company work culture. For example, digital whiteboards and other forms of collaborative software can help to visually share ideas and save them for later reference.
Smart tech can also be used for meeting hosts to get insights and inputs from participants – for example by requesting digital polls, feedback, or questions and answers. By engaging all participants during a meeting using digital technology tools you can keep everyone participating and feeling included.
And by encouraging everyone to connect during the meeting via cloud-based software, you can foster asynchronous collaboration and feedback.
8. Record and share decisions
Effective meetings need to achieve the goals they set out to, discuss most of the agenda points and then record and share the decisions that were made.
Any key action points that need to be addressed by particular people should also be indicated on the meeting minutes so that it makes it easy for people to see what’s been assigned to them.
Meeting minutes also make it easier for people to follow up later and see if goals have actually been achieved.
Technology can be used to record decisions and meeting notes – for example, all meeting minutes can be captured and saved on a messaging board that is centrally located and accessible by all. This helps ensure follow-through and also creates online access to all meeting participants – whether onsite or remote.
Final thoughts on hosting successful hybrid meetings
Many of the principles that apply to hosting successful on-site meetings also apply to hosting successful hybrid meetings. Being a good meeting facilitator is a skill and there are many things that we can all do to improve on how we host meetings.
But there are also many subtle differences to hosting hybrid meetings compared with onsite ones. By addressing these and creating more collaborative, engaging, and inclusive hybrid meetings you can create more motivated and happier employees while also being focused on productivity.
The use of digital technology can also help to create more engaging hybrid meetings and can also help to record everyone’s thoughts and opinions.
One of the key components to hosting successful meetings, whether hybrid or onsite, is to carefully plan and organise the meetings. For hybrid meetings this goes beyond setting agendas and goals and includes planning how to enhance engagement for those who are remote and how to foster collaboration using digital technology. It also requires us to plan how to create the best experience for remote staff, and how to connect and include all staff in conversations and decisions.