With many companies inviting employees back to the office, alongside the transition to a hybrid work model, there’s one piece of the puzzle that employers are struggling to optimize: hybrid meetings.
By now, the global workforce, by and large, is accustomed to fully virtual meetings. Sure, we had hiccups (like Zoombombing), and yes, we experienced video call fatigue—but 21 months into this “new normal,” and it’s safe to say most of us have gotten the hang of video meetings.
But hybrid meetings are different. They have the added complications of combining in-person and remote teams and hoping that effective communication comes out of it.
So if you haven’t yet mastered the art of the hybrid meeting yet—don’t fret. Below, we’ll show you everything you need to know about how to host meetings that both on-site and remote employees will appreciate and participate in.
How Do Hybrid Meetings Work?
A hybrid meeting is one where you have both on-site attendees and remote attendees. They work by leveraging technology (webcam and microphone) to allow everyone to participate in a meeting, regardless of individual location.
With many companies switching to a hybrid work model, hybrid meetings are becoming more common. But the truth is, we’ve been doing them long before the pandemic! Just think of the conference meetings of yore, when you’d have a telephone on speaker in the middle of a table, with on-site participants gathered around it.
It’s just that the hybrid meetings of today are more sophisticated, almost always featuring a video element and more advanced equipment than previously used.
What Is a Hybrid Meeting Room?
A hybrid meeting room is a conference room set up with the technology to include remote attendees. This means there’s usually a camera, microphone, laptops, and a larger screen displaying what remote attendees see.
Benefits of Hybrid Meetings
- Bring in diverse and engaging speakers, regardless of their location.
Hybrid meetings allow you to diversify your pool of speakers. Where in-person meetings often require extensive travel, hybrid meetings allow anyone from anywhere to join—making the possibilities for your events endless.
- Enable attendance from employees who normally wouldn’t be able to join.
Usually, remote employees wouldn’t be able to join on-site meetings. But with hybrid meetings, you’re able to increase attendance among your employees who work from home, keeping them in the loop.
- Cultivate a culture of inclusiveness, even when teams are distributed.
Even before the pandemic, remote employees and contractors often felt left out of office culture. With hybrid meetings, you can be more inclusive and create cohesion among your employees, whether they’re on-site or off.
Problems With Hybrid Meetings
- They could unintentionally cause division.
While yes, one of the benefits of hybrid meetings is increased inclusivity, one of the problems of hybrid meetings is exactly its inverse: It could actually create division. How? If you adopt a “One Zoom All Zoom” policy (attributed to real estate tech company Zillow), you require everyone to make accommodations for remote team members—even if only one of them is joining. This could create resentment in the on-site employees, who not only have to join from their laptop to accommodate the off-site employee, but also have to be reminded of the fact that they’re in the office while the remote employee gets to kick back at home.
Another potential for resentment is within your remote attendees, who might see their in-office counterparts enjoying each other’s company, while your remote attendees sit alone at home.
- More potential for technical problems
Sure, technical problems are a possibility even during 100% virtual meetings, but they become more frequent when you mix in-person and remote. That’s because hybrid meetings have more complexity; the technology is usually more advanced, such as a dedicated camera and microphone, and there are many opportunities for remote attendees to be unable to hear what’s happening on-site. While hybrid meetings enable higher attendance, they also have the potential for more tech headaches.
How to Run a Successful Hybrid Meeting: 10 Tips to Make the Most of It
Now that we’ve gone over what hybrid meetings are and the benefits and problems associated with them, how exactly does one run a successful hybrid meeting? Below are 10 tips that can help you make the most of your hybrid meetings.
1. Question whether you really need to hold a hybrid meeting at all
Just because you’re hosting an in-office meeting doesn’t mean you need remote employees to join—and vice versa. Yes, you want to create a culture of inclusion, but that doesn’t mean roping in everyone for meetings that are irrelevant to them.
2. Select a meeting leader
Having a meeting leader is a key part of virtual meeting etiquette, but it’s especially crucial when for a hybrid meeting. The meeting leader will be responsible for setting the agenda, sending out details on how to join the meeting (for both in-person and remote attendees), and smoothing over any miscommunication that might occur during the meeting. Additionally, for hybrid meetings, it’s wise to have a meeting leader with some technical prowess; that way, they can ensure the video is streaming properly and audio is coming through clearly.
3. Designate a “remote champion”
Here’s an effective hybrid meeting idea from Slido, a company that makes a virtual meeting interaction app. For their all-hands meetings, the Slido team appoints a “remote champion” whose job it is to facilitate the meeting for the remote attendees.
“Like a sports commentator, the online champion will engage the remote teams before, during, and after the meeting,” Katy Mrvova writes on the Slido blog.
Your remote champion can keep an eye on the virtual chat messages, too, and call attention to when a remote attendee (or in-person one, for that matter) has submitted a question or suggestion. This is just one of many ways to ensure you’re including your remote attendees. When someone is at home and joining the meeting from their laptop, it’s more of a challenge for them to pipe up than someone who’s sitting there in the conference room.
4. Invest in a quality microphone and external webcam
Because you’ll potentially have multiple people in the same room, each on their own laptop, it’s best to have everyone mute their laptops and then get a dedicated microphone to put into the room for the audio channel.
Typically, teams do video during a hybrid meeting in one of two ways:
- One external webcam on all of the on-site attendees gathered in one room. If you choose to have your in-person attendees gather in a conference room, get a quality external webcam that can show a view of the in-person group to the remote attendees.
- Individual laptop cameras for each on-site attendee sitting at their own desks. If you choose to have on-site attendees join from their own laptops at their own desks, you won’t need a dedicated webcam for the whole team.
5. Eliminate audio and visual distractions with Krisp
Whether joining from the office or elsewhere, attendees are bound to bring some of that pesky background noise with them. Press the “mute” button on unwanted sounds with Krisp, an AI-powered noise-cancellation app.
Installation is easy, and once that’s done, set the speaker in your chosen web conferencing software to “Krisp microphone” and toggle the Krisp app to “on” to ensure noise-free meetings where your voice and the attendees’ voices are heard clearly.
Beyond eliminating noise, Krisp also disguises unwanted background visuals. With Virtual Backgrounds, Krisp can help you have a professional-looking background without the need for a green screen. You can choose from one of the high-quality images provided in the Krisp app, or upload your own.
6. Be mindful of accessibility needs
Of course, making accommodations for accessibility is essential for every kind of meeting. But hybrid meetings held during the pandemic have a particularly tricky issue: Often, on-site employees who work in an open-plan office wear masks due to Covid. When these masked on-site employees join a hybrid meeting, remote attendees who are deaf or hard of hearing can’t read their lips.
So how can you fix this? One idea is to use video call software that includes live, automatic captioning.
But this is just one example. To find out what your employees’ specific needs are, ask them. Conduct surveys and meet with them one-on-one to capture their feedback.
7. Have everyone join from their own laptop—whether on-site or remote
This is becoming an increasingly popular approach to hybrid meetings, often referred to as “One Zoom All Zoom,” as taken from Zillow’s hybrid meeting policy. It means that even if only one person is joining the meeting remotely, everyone—even on-site employees—must join individually from their laptop (not gathered in a conference room).
The intention behind this is to ensure an equitable and inclusive meeting atmosphere. By having everyone join from their own laptop, regardless of whether they’re in person or not, you prevent on-site employees from having side conversations in person, and you avoid making remote attendees feel left out when they see the on-site team gathered in person.
There is a downside to this strategy, though. As one web developer told The Washington Post: “When everyone is doing Zoom from their desk, it’s impossible to tell who is in a meeting.”
So if you’re in an open-plan office, and some of your colleagues are at their desks attending a hybrid meeting while others are at their desks working privately, you might unintentionally interrupt a meeting.
8. Ask on-site attendees to arrive well before the call begins to catch up in person
This genius tip comes from Michelle Volberg, the CEO of Giledan Search. Her executive search firm asks in-office meeting attendees to gather in a conference room—where there’s a single dedicated microphone and camera—15 minutes before the hybrid meeting starts.
“This gives time for folks in person to say hello to each other, catch up, find a seat, and then dial in together to avoid delays for those dialing in remotely,” Volberg explains.
It also helps in-person team members bond without making the remote team members feel left out.
9. Remember, not everyone can see what’s going on in the room
One of the biggest challenges of hybrid meetings is that the on-site attendees tend to forget that the remote attendees are not in the room. That gives ample opportunity for miscommunication. For example, an on-site attendee might gesture toward something, but the remote employees can’t see what they’re gesturing to. This takes mindfulness and getting used to, and the “remote champion” we talked about earlier should be paying attention to hiccups like this and pointing them out.
10. Document your hybrid meeting policy
Once you decide on how you will hold hybrid meetings, document it and make it available to all employees. This will ensure cohesion in your teams and productivity during your meetings, since no one will wonder what they’re supposed to do.
In your hybrid meeting policy, be sure to answer key questions, such as:
- Will on-site employees join from the conference room or from their own desks?
- Should attendees use the online chat feature to submit questions?
- How will you appoint a meeting leader and remote champion? And what will their responsibilities be?
- What equipment will be used during each meeting?
- Are there any particular hybrid tools that can make the meetings more interactive?
- What happens if only one person is joining the meeting remotely? Will you require all in-person attendees to also join remotely from their own laptops?
Hybrid Meetings Don’t Have to Be a Headache
Much like the chaos of the switch to remote work in the early days of the pandemic, you can expect some bumps along the way to going hybrid. And even many months into it, you may never feel like you’ve nailed hybrid meetings. Ultimately, there’s always someone who ends up feeling left out, or some piece of technology that fails you, or a big miscommunication that pops up—and that’s okay. The goal isn’t perfection, but to get better each day. And by following the hybrid meeting tips above, you’re bound to make progress.