Attendees are engaged
The most engaging meetings and workshops are interactive and keep attendees engaged in the conversation. This becomes incredibly complex when you have some people in the room able to physically take part and engage with other people in the room and others relying purely on technology.
It’s essential that discussions and any activities involve the virtual attendees; otherwise, they will be wholly disengaged from the meeting.
Okay, so we know what the challenges are. Only half of the meeting time is used effectively. Evidence shows virtual meetings are less effective, so if we want to ensure our arrangements are helpful and add value, we need to be strategic about organising meetings. Hence, they are an effective way to move the organisation’s strategic objectives forward.
So let’s look at how we start making your hybrid meeting more effective.
In our Effective Meetings Management online course, we talk about the difference between an efficient and effective meeting, and I want to take a minute to share the difference with you.
So an efficient meeting starts promptly, stays on track, includes as few people as possible, and achieves the stated objective. It sounds like the job is done, right?
But, we haven’t said whether the right people were in the meeting, whether the meeting generated any value, and whether the actions were communicated outside the meeting.
What makes an effective meeting? Whether it is virtual or not?
- The meeting has a clear purpose.
- The meeting provides a space for open discussion
- There is a tangible outcome from the meeting
- The result is then shared with others whose work may be affected
We know hybrid meetings have specific requirements that will make them effective. So let’s look at how to overcome the challenges we discussed earlier.
The digital setup
For many Assistants, you don’t have a say over the digital setup in your offices or the virtual meeting software that your IT department has acquired. However, you can do a few things to ensure that the meeting runs effectively and you don’t have any tech issues.
Use a conference room with a large screen
Hybrid meetings are difficult to hear and see. Remote employees are on a small screen, and in-person employees are scattered in a boardroom, making it difficult to hear and see. It’s challenging to stay engaged and follow what they’re saying. So, use a conference room with a large screen so everyone can see and hear.
Enable the chat function
It’s hard to read nonverbal cues signalling someone wants to speak when there’s a mix of in-person and remote employees. It’s vital to enable the chat function so everyone can participate and have equal visibility regardless of whether they are in the meeting room or tuning in remotely.
Test the technology in advance
Nothing is worse than malfunctioning technology. Technology needs to work well during hybrid meetings so remote attendees can hear and see everything in the office. If they can’t, this will make them feel excluded and unimportant. It’s also important that remote employees have good technology so that in-person employees can hear and see them. Remember to do audio, camera, and internet check before the meeting begins so the time allotted to the meeting isn’t wasted trying to solve technical issues.
If you have several video calling technology available to your colleagues, ensure they are all using the same platform, Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams. Make it very clear which platform they need to log into.
- If you’re brainstorming, where and how will this be done? E.g. via a virtual whiteboarding tool
- If your workshop requires additional materials, how will these be made available to both remote and in-person participants? For example, you might create a PDF that can be printed or accessed via computer.
So let’s move on to how you set up the physical meeting room.
It can be easy to forget about remote attendees in hybrid meetings because people get carried away in face-to-face conversations. However, focusing on some attendees more than others is not adequate. Therefore, giving equal focus to all virtual and in-person attendees is essential.
You want to ensure a stable internet connection, good-quality video, and clear audio. If you’ve got in-person participants sharing one video and microphone (i.e. through one laptop), ensure that everyone can still be heard and seen.
Depending on the group size and the space, it might be worth bringing in a portable conference call speaker.
And, if you’ve got the budget and resources, consider upgrading your setup as follows:
- Bring in extra screens (big ones)
- Have a WiFi booster on hand if the internet connection is likely to pose problems
- Equip your meeting space with high-quality speakers and microphones
- Invest in high-res webcams (you might even consider AI webcams which can track and zoom in on whoever is speaking)
Most importantly, you want to ensure a stable internet connection, good-quality video, and clear audio. If you’ve got in-person participants sharing one video and microphone (i.e. through one laptop), ensure that everyone can still be heard and seen.