How to Get the Most From Your Hybrid Meetings

29 July, 2020

Hybrid meetings, with participants in different (sometimes many different) physical locations, were a thing before the COVID-19 pandemic, of course. However, when the coronavirus outbreak hit the U.S., they became the norm as spare bedrooms, kitchens, and various other spaces in homes around the country were converted to offices—or, at least the camera-facing wall was!

In a previous post, we shared 9 Tips for Hosting a Hybrid Meeting for people who are coordinating this type of gathering, perhaps for the first time. They include things like setting and communicating clear goals for the meeting, having a designated facilitator, rehearsing presentations, testing technology, etc.

Below are seven additional proven tactics for getting the most value out of hybrid meetings.

  1. Encourage participants to do their homework in advance. Most people would say that they aren’t big fans of meetings. This may be especially true of hybrid meetings, where you don’t at least get the pleasure of engaging in person with your peers. Consequently, nobody wants to see a meeting go long simply because people weren’t prepared.
  2. Dispense with the progress reports. What many organizations have come to realize as the number of hybrid meetings has skyrocketed is that, in most cases, email works just fine for updating coworkers on project statuses. Try to keep hybrid meetings focused on topics where input from attendees is important in decision making. But, of course, if a particular update is likely to ignite an important discussion… bring it on!
  3. Resist the urge to mute people who aren’t currently speaking. Yes, it’s a common practice, and yes, the background noise from 10 different locations can be a little overwhelming. But the reality is that people who might provide great insights if they could do it spontaneously are less inclined to speak if they have to raise their virtual hand first. Ask attendees to do their best to minimize the noise, but leave them free to chime in as they feel moved to do so.
  4. Request that attendees not multitask. We all feel the desire to knock off a few side tasks while someone else is talking in a hybrid meeting. However, not being fully engaged means potentially missing an opportunity to provide valuable input or feedback. Explain to participants that part of the reason for tactics 1 and 2 above is to keep the meeting short and allow them to move on to other activities, so multitasking shouldn’t be necessary.
  5. Rotate facilitators. For recurring meetings, it can be a welcome relief for the default facilitator and good experience for attendees if others are encouraged or required to take the lead role from time to time. Plus, a different leadership style can produce a different meeting dynamic, and in some cases, different results.
  6. Don’t forget to take breaks. When people are attending a hybrid meeting from home, there can be a tendency to believe that they are comfortable and don’t need to get up and stretch their legs, use the restroom, or get a fresh cup of coffee. Not true. It’s important to pause for 5-10 minutes after every 45-60 minutes of meeting time for many reasons, including that staring intently at a computer screen for too long can cause significant eye strain and fatigue.  
  7. Allow time for optional “Got a minute?” conversations. Let’s face it, some of the most valuable time at in-person meetings is the 10-15 minutes after the session has formally concluded when a few attendees linger to really hash out the details of a project or formulate next steps. Incorporate this time into your hybrid meeting agenda, making it clear that nobody is expected to hang around but everyone is welcome to.   

Especially With Hybrid Meetings, Kindness Is Key

A final recommendation: Remember to be kind to your fellow attendees. Hybrid meetings are harder to conduct and harder to participate in than conventional meetings. From audio problems to glitchy video feeds to frustrating background distractions, it can be very difficult to get and stay fully engaged, and to make the kinds of contributions you would at an in-person meeting.

But with participants practicing a little patience and understanding, you can ensure that you get through the agenda and that the meeting is a good use of everyone’s time.

Dean Evans

Dean Evans is the Founder and CEO of Mazévo. Check out his articles about event scheduling software.