All hands, town halls, check-ins, status sessions. Whatever jargon you use, meetings are where your organisation gets things done.
While many companies adapted well to decision-making, brainstorming, and strategy refining in an online-only setting, a new challenge is emerging: hybrid meetings.
When people are both present in body and bandwidth, it’s not going to be simple to keep it fair – especially when you’re trying to prevent phenomena like proximity bias, and presence disparity. So improving hybrid experience of meetings will involve following some strict guidelines.
A guide to optimizing the hybrid experience of meetings
Before the meeting:
- Set an agenda, and identify the purpose: For one, this helps you identify if you really need this meeting (because we all have too many) – but it also means you’ll get the most out of the session, as people can prepare to contribute. Send a message to all invited, detailing the agenda and intended outcomes.
- Invite people to submit discussion points: If you’re dialing in, it can be hard to find a space to speak. If people can claim a few minutes of airtime in advance, they won’t be forgotten if the office dwellers get carried away with their conversation.
- Make sure your meeting technology works: Make everyone’s life easier by setting up your meeting room with video conferencing systems that work and make sure everyone knows how to use them. Otherwise, virtual attendees will be disadvantaged for tech failures they have no control over.
During the meeting:
- Announce your presence, in and out-of-office: Designate a ‘speaker’ or go round the room (physically and virtually) – but however you do it, make sure everyone knows who’s participating. This is a good time to reaffirm the meeting’s purpose and check in on who’s submitted discussion points too.
- Regularly give the floor to dialing-in employees: It can be hard to get a word in edgeways at the best of times, but when you’re a disembodied voice floating around a noisy office then it’s even harder. Get someone to regularly ask your remote participants by name if they have anything to contribute.
- Be sympathetic to internet issues… to a point: If someone’s train was delayed, you might wait to start – but you’d get on with it after 30 minutes max. Take the same approach with WFH callers: give them a chance to get sorted, but accept that you can’t wait forever. As long as you follow post-meeting etiquette, it’s not the end of the world.
After the meeting:
- Circulate notes and assign people actions: Designate someone to take notes, and circulate them soon after the meeting – these should include key points raised, decisions made, and the next actions that people need to take. Email, Slack, or publish these on the same day.
- Invite additional comments for consideration: Maybe someone struggled to speak up at the time, but it doesn’t have to be too late. Invite any additional comments for submission by the end of the day, so the senior employees involved can factor them into the next steps.
- Set up follow-up calls between sub-groups: It can be easier to collaborate in smaller groups sometimes, especially if some people are remote. Create hybrid sub-groups to develop any ideas further, and work out how best to tackle any challenges.
As with every challenge, you need to speak to your teams to find out whether hybrid working IS working. If you’re tackling new ways of working, and want to get serious about improving your organisation, get in touch.