Inclusive hybrid meetings

Six tips on how to facilitate meetings that take place virtually and physically at the same time.

14 August 2021

How do you facilitate inclusive meetings that take place virtually and physically at the same time? Here you get six tips on how to design effective hybrid meetings that create value for your organisation and your participants.

You’ll probably recognise this meeting scenario.

You’re sitting at home, working efficiently and joining a number of virtual meetings. It’s going well, but then you join a meeting where five colleagues are physically present in the meeting room at the office, while you and another colleague from the team log into Teams from home.

There’s talk across the table, you can’t see your colleagues’ faces, and everyone in the meeting room is facing away from you.

The feeling of being a second-rate participant in the meeting and in the team is striking, both visually and emotionally. For most people, this type of meeting typically ends with a feeling of having wasted time and not having made a difference. Maybe they even feel less valued and unimportant to the team.

This is of course not an acceptable scenario, as this type of meeting has become popular due to our new ways of working as employees return to the office.

Rethink your meetings

The hybrid meeting can easily become the battleground between flexibility and inclusion, team spirit and own needs. The easy answer is to get all your employees back to the office so you avoid that type of meeting, but then you miss your chance of creating flexibility and adapting to the individual employee’s situation.

The correct answer is therefore to rethink these meetings to a much greater extent, design them in a different way and improve the quality of these meetings.

The first step is to talk about it. Everyone wants to have more productive meetings and avoid wasting time, so don’t be afraid to talk to the team about how to create more inclusive and impactful meetings.

The next step is about spending a little more time designing and planning the meeting, and if it is a recurring meeting, the investment is quickly recouped.

Six tips for a successful hybrid meeting

Here are six tips for facilitating a successful hybrid meeting.

  1. Clarify the purpose: If the purpose of your meeting is team building or relationship building, hybrid meetings are probably not the answer. If, on the other hand, the purpose is knowledge sharing, status meetings etc., a hybrid meeting could be the answer. Clarifying the purpose helps to find out who should participate and how in order to achieve the purpose.

  2. How to participate – matching of expectations: Can your participants join the meeting from the car or join without a camera, or is it necessary to sit at a computer in order to contribute to the meeting? Be clear in your meeting invitation and at the beginning of the meeting in terms of how you expect the participants to join the meeting. It’s your meeting, so take responsibility for it even before it starts.

  3. One person, one device: Plan the process to include all participants. This requires that you make sure that everyone is sitting with their own device, including those participating physically. This makes it easier to see each other’s faces and actively contribute in the chat or on collaborative platforms. In practice, you should also handle the sound so that everyone in the room is muted while one person has a speaker connected to his/her computer. That way, the sound works best, and the conversation flows most naturally.

  4. Remote facilitator: It may be an idea to have one of the participants who is not physically present in the room facilitate the meeting. It will automatically bring more attention to the screen and move the dynamics of the meeting away from the meeting room.

  5. Start “out there”: Consider starting your meeting by checking in with the participants sitting “out there” rather than at the end of the meeting. It changes the dynamics of the meeting and creates a greater sense of inclusion for the participants “out there”. In general, conversations do not flow as well in this type of meeting, which is why you as a facilitator should clarify the series of speakers and the rules of the game for participation in the meeting.

  6. Clear recaps and next steps: In this type of meeting, it is even more important to be clear about progress, decisions and subsequent actions. You should therefore prepare how you want to facilitate the meeting and be very clear from beginning to end as well as visualise and repeat decisions and make sure that the meeting keeps progressing.

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