How to run a successful hybrid meeting
In today’s ever-changing world of work, executing a successful hybrid meeting comes with new challenges.
Before COVID-19, the rules of engagement for in-person meetings were simple: file into a conference room, pull up the agenda, and take notes as necessary. After adjusting to leveraging technology to connect with our colleagues during the pandemic, meeting in a virtual conference room has become the norm and second nature for many.
But as offices begin to re-open on a full- or part-time basis, we are left with a meeting landscape that’s somewhere in between being fully in-person or fully online. This results in potentially messy and inconvenient hybrid meeting experiences for hosts and participants alike. In this blog, we will revisit the basics of in-person meeting prep and provide suggestions for setting up successful hybrid meetings.
Schedule meetings thoughtfully
Having experience working on opposite ends of the in-person to virtual conference room spectrum, it’s easy to underestimate the preparation and forethought that’s required to run a hybrid meeting.
To avoid awkward disruptions, account for the time needed for setup and teardown when reserving a conference room. Consider adding a five- to 10-minute buffer period before your meeting to prepare the room, login to your virtual meeting software, and set up audio-visual (A/V) technology before your participants arrive. Similarly, allocate the last five or so minutes of your meeting for disassembly to log out of your virtual meeting, reset A/V technology settings, and clean the room to prepare it for the next group.
It’s not only kind to leave your colleagues with a tidy room that looks the way it did before your gathering. It’s also an important consideration to ensure meetings, including yours, aren’t derailed or delayed, especially when conference rooms are booked back-to-back.
Prepare with time on your side
Once you’ve scheduled your meeting, evaluate your conference room and technical setup. Get an idea of what’s needed by asking yourself questions like: Will this meeting have one presenter the whole time, or will it be a larger group discussion? What equipment or materials are needed to guarantee this meeting will run without any disruptions or hiccups?
From there, make note of what’s available in the room, including A/V technology. For example, maybe you’ll need a long HDMI cable to connect to a TV or a multiport adapter to connect your computer to the room’s equipment. Similarly, your meeting room may only have two outlets available, but there are eight in-person participants who will need to charge their laptops. In this case, you may want to grab enough power strips to comfortably accommodate everyone’s laptops and phones.
Test your tech in advance
Once you understand what tech is available and needed, test it out! As someone who has worked with technology my whole career, I can confidently say my worst experiences have always come when I assume something will work without testing it out beforehand.
If you have information technology (IT) support available, work with them to do a test run of the meeting’s technical components. If no IT support is available, ask a colleague (or join the meeting virtually yourself using a different device) to do a dry run. Either way, be sure to conduct thorough audio tests to make sure everyone can be heard on the call.
If you find the audio from the room to virtual attendees is too low, move the position of the microphone and/or slowly increase the input level until you find a suitable volume. You can also adjust the noise suppression within Zoom or Microsoft Teams settings to allow more noise to be transmitted. However, keep in mind that other sources of noise (e.g., table taps, fans, etc.) may become more prominent.
The more time you spend preparing, the less time you’ll spend putting out potential fires as the meeting occurs.
Prioritize participants’ engagement
During the hybrid meeting itself, prioritize participants’ engagement by deciding and communicating in advance how in-person attendees will join your hybrid meeting.
Technology is great, but it can create distractions during meetings. We’ve all been led astray by a Slack message or email from time to time. To mitigate this, consider ditching the laptops for in-person participants to foster a focused and productive conversation. If you decide to have laptops in the room, choose one main computer to display the presentation and ask in-person participants to disable their laptop audio (mute the microphone and turn off the speaker).
Be sure to designate times within the discussion for remote participants to chime in and contribute. Alternatively, you can ask a participant to volunteer as a liaison between the in-person and virtual parties who will periodically check in with remote participants to make sure all contributions are heard.
This new landscape of refreshing our in-person meeting skills and developing better hybrid meetings doesn’t have to be complicated if you put in the proper amount of care to prepare and execute your meeting. And finally, keep notes of what worked and what didn’t, so future hybrid meetings can run even smoother.