How to make hybrid meetings work
Three ways that shift them from pointless to productive.
Remote working is here to stay. Offices are open again, yet work-from-home remains hugely popular.
So, where are the hybrid options?
There are a lot of benefits to working in a virtual world. My colleagues and I at Percolab Coop have used hybrid formats in our work on international projects for years. The pandemic allowed us to share our love and knowledge of hybrid working practices with our clients and community.
Why go hybrid in the first place?
Flexibility and autonomy are vital parts of work and life. People can join a hybrid meeting from anywhere worldwide as long as they have an internet connection.
Depending on our workload and individual needs, we can alternate between wanting to be present in person and connect socially with our colleagues and wanting to have quiet and focused working time at home. This is great when navigating travel and visa constraints. And in offering employees a better work-life balance.
But going hybrid isn’t always as apparent as booking a room for the in-person participants and setting up a zoom link for those joining via video call.
Mixing two formats adds a layer of complexity to the planning and facilitation of events and meetings.
Here are my top tips for improving your hybrid setup
At Percolab, we create experiences that inspire engagement and authentic participation. We put people first in our planning while also guaranteeing that we get a good amount of work done.
Regardless if you’re doing a multiday product sprint, a full-day conference, or a celebration ritual for new team members, here are three ways to improve a hybrid experience:
1. Create an immersive experience with good-quality tech
The “Owl” camera and microphone offered our virtual participants a 360 view of the room during an international retreat.
Focus on sound quality: First and foremost, good audio quality is paramount. There’s nothing more disengaging than not being able to hear what people are saying or not being adequately heard when sharing your perspective on an important topic. Using one central mic for audio input and output creates simplicity for everyone in the meeting room and supports the participation of those online.
Set up multiple perspectives: Numerous camera angles that showcase what’s happening in the physical space creates an immersive experience for the people joining online. We use a couple of tablets on tripods and an omnidirectional camera, such as the Meeting Owl (seen above), which has an integrated 360 camera. The camera moves automatically to display whoever is speaking!
Get physical: Create a physical representation of the people joining virtually in the meeting space. During my last hybrid meeting, I was online, and my colleagues represented me with a wooden block with a post-it written on my name. The block and post-it combo helped the in-room participants remember my presence and ensure that I was included in discussions. Using a tablet with the incoming video is an excellent way to showcase the virtual participants and ensure that essential cues such as body language are seen.
2. When in doubt, buddy up
Create clear communication channels: Taking notes in chat spaces online can help participants follow the conversation and ensure that any of their emerging questions are seen. Whenever a change in the setup occurs, check in with participants to ensure that the format is still fulfilling their needs.
Find an in-room advocate: If you’re on the remote side of the meeting, seeking out an “in-room buddy” who can support your experience during the meeting or event can make a huge difference. Your buddy can help you by answering any questions and signalling to the group when you want to share your ideas. If you’re on Zoom zoom, use the “raised hand” function to help ensure that you are seen, heard, and part of the conversation.
Pairing up our in-person and online participants for a brainstorming exercise.
3. Plan interactive activities accordingly
Integrate circle practices: A “check-in” practice, where only one person speaks at a time in response to a collective question, can help us connect with the purpose of the meeting and create a space for open discussion. Set up a physical circle with the participants to support the conversation flow when doing a circle practice. Don’t forget to include a physical representation of the online folk in the circle so that everyone knows when it’s their turn to share their perspective and no one gets left behind.
Mix-up groups: Creating diverse groups and matching in-person participants with online participants can amplify the experience of online individuals and allow everyone to benefit from different perspectives and expertise. A space with multiple enclosed rooms can help disperse groups and reduce audio interference. Headphones are also a great option if other rooms aren’t available.
Be creative with documentation: Plan how the information will be collected ahead of time so everyone can follow along and easily share their ideas. Using interactive tools such as Miro, an online whiteboard, promotes collaboration between participants regardless of their location.
What are we learning? — the future is hybrid
If you’re planning on hosting an event in a hybrid format, do a few test runs and put yourself in the position of the participants.
How does it feel to be online while most of your colleagues are together in person? What could you incorporate to improve your experience?
If you’re in person during one of these sessions, focus on the experience of those joining virtually. What could their needs be? How could you support them in feeling fulfilled by the experience? If you’re unsure, ask them if anything can be adjusted to help them feel more included.
As a living lab, Percolab Coop prototypes new ways of working, collaborating and governing.
What’s something that you’ve enjoyed during a hybrid meeting?