Hybrid meetings are here to stay. Even with shifting office policies, where some companies require a return to office (RTO), leaders can’t deny what the data shows about the connection between flexibility and productivity. Our latest State of Work report found that, among 18,000 knowledge workers, employees choosing where they work is the number one way to improve productivity.
Meetings need to evolve to accommodate the needs of workers both in-person and remote. In this article, we’ll walk you through ways to make your next hybrid meeting an engaging and productive one.
What is a hybrid meeting?
A hybrid meeting involves in-person and remote participants. Everyone in it, regardless of location, should be able to join and interact simultaneously.
Benefits of a hybrid meeting
Nothing can fully replace the energy and serendipity of a purely in-person meeting. However, hybrid meetings do come with their own distinct advantages:
- Inclusivity. The biggest benefit of a hybrid meeting is inclusivity. A purely in-person meeting naturally excludes anyone who isn’t physically in the room. A hybrid meeting brings off-site folks visually into the room so they can engage with and feed off the energy of in-person attendees.
- Workplace flexibility. Our latest State of Work report found that, among 18,000 knowledge workers around the world, flexibility in where people work is the number one way to improve productivity. Hybrid meetings are a cornerstone of providing this flexibility.
- Employee retention. Similarly, the report found that millennials, Gen-Z workers and parents considering a new job specifically want flexibility. Hybrid meetings can help boost hiring and retention by delivering on that flexibility.
- Transparency. By empowering off-site employees to attend meetings, discussions become more transparent. This allows more people to have deeper context into any decisions or ideation sessions, which increases productivity.
- Productivity. As anyone who’s ever scheduled a group meeting can attest, the bigger the meeting, the harder it is to lock down a date. Hybrid meetings are easier to plan because they inherently account for location variables, like, say, if your team lead needs to work from home for the day.
Challenges of running a hybrid meeting
Despite their many advantages, hybrid meetings come with unique challenges too. These include:
- Engagement. It can be difficult to get everyone on the same page in a hybrid meeting. If the in-person participants are discussing something that the remote participants aren’t aware of, it can be hard to tell whether everyone is getting the same information.
- Facilitation. It’s harder ensure virtual participants are part of the conversation and that the in-room participants aren’t dominating the conversation. Facilitators need to make more of an effort to engage both sides.
- Assessing emotions. It’s harder to “read the room” in a hybrid meeting and gauge everyone’s reactions. It requires the designated host to be attuned to in-person and remote participants so everyone is recognized.
- Logistics. As with any technology, IT issues can arise in a hybrid meeting. You need to anticipate potential technical glitches and have a plan in place to deal with them.
Your hybrid meeting checklist
Block off time before your meeting to run through your must-haves: a collaboration platform, microphones, monitors, etc. Make sure everything works—most delays happen due to simple things like inadvertently being on mute or unplugged cables.
Hybrid meeting equipment involves anything that physically goes in the meeting room:
- Interactive whiteboard and/or smartboard
- Tables, chairs and other necessities for in-person attendees
- Temperature control and ventilation
Hybrid meeting technology includes the apps and tools needed to bring together remote and in-person participants:
- A virtual meeting platform that everyone can access
- Control panel
- Audiovisual technology
- Remote visual enhancement tools
Preparing for your hybrid meeting
1. Choose a meeting platform
There are many virtual meeting platforms, depending on the size of your meeting. Of course, we recommend Slack huddles, which are audio- or video-based meetings conducted within Slack.
Whichever platform you choose, make sure your virtual attendees have access to it before the meeting starts. Share instructions in your invite, agenda and wherever you communicate with participants.
2. Set and distribute an agenda
Hybrid meetings work best when pre-planned. When everyone isn’t in the same physical room, it’s easy for minds to wander. Create an agenda ahead of time and send it to all participants. This helps everyone know what to expect and to stay focused, whether they’re in the office or halfway around the world.
3. Consider the employee experience
If you plan to use whiteboards, flip charts or other physical items, take some time before the meeting to log in and check your cameras. Can you easily see what you’re sharing? Or would it be better to send digital versions to remote team members? Remember, participants might be logging in on different types of devices, from laptops with large external monitors to smartphones.
4. Test your tech
How often have you shown up on schedule for a virtual meeting only to spend the first 10 minutes dealing with muted speakers and frustrating lags? Test your setup pre-meeting to reduce the chances of dropouts, lost audio or other technical problems.
5. Make remote workers “life-size”
When everyone is remote, seeing each other in tiny boxes on the screen is par for the course. But when some people are in the same room, remote workers can seem diminished when they’re in a box. Set up a large external monitor or two in the room. When someone remote is speaking, put them up on the big screen so it feels like they’re in the room with you.
6. Focus on facilitation
Remote participants can easily be overlooked during a hybrid meeting. This is where a great facilitator comes in. This person should be extremely familiar with the agenda to keep things moving but should primarily focus on ensuring that everyone has equal time. Also, consider pairing each remote attendee with someone in the room they can send Slack or text messages to if they need something. They might be able to discreetly get a camera moved or ask someone to speak up.
7. Use a customizable platform like Slack
Not all meetings need to be in real time. In Slack, you can customize channels for different needs, including asynchronous meetings. If the plan doesn’t require face-to-face communication, you could set up an office-hours time window for people to log in and share feedback or chat. You can record a clip, share opinions and even conduct polls, all without the complications of a hybrid real-time meeting.
When you do need a real-time meeting, Slack can still help. Huddles—our fastest-adopted feature ever—lets groups meet through video or audio-only calls and includes screen sharing.
Unlike other virtual platforms, huddles saves meeting chats, links and shared files, which persist in your Slack channel or direct message for later reference. And coming soon, Slack AI will quickly generate meeting summaries based on huddles calls, allowing you to focus on the human side of meetings: listening and talking.
Putting it all together
Hybrid meetings bring a unique set of challenges. From technical issues to making remote participants feel included, you’ll need to be on your toes to proactively keep the discussion moving. But following our tips and using a collaborative platform like Slack can go a long way toward making any hybrid meeting a success.