How to host a great hybrid meeting

Hybrid meetings are set to become a permanent part of how we work. Here’s how to create a meeting that has your team feeling engaged and connected – whether they’re in the room or dialling in remotely

As it turns out, the past year or so has done the job of the most effective Chief Digital Officer of all time; encouraging us to embrace new tools for remote working at a blistering pace. Whether that be Zoom, Google Meet or Teams, virtual meeting environments are now part of our everyday working lives.

This new workplace trend seems like it’s here to stay. A recent survey by McKinsey suggests that 90 per cent of businesses expect to incorporate remote working into the way they operate going forward, while retaining the office as a central hub for collaboration, camaraderie and for those serendipitous sparks of creativity you don’t necessarily get while sitting on your own at the kitchen table.

As such, hybrid working – where employees split their time between home and the workplace – is quickly becoming the new norm, as are hybrid meetings. But with participants both sitting in a meeting and calling in remotely, the risks of miscommunication and exclusion run high. With that in mind, here’s how you can host a meeting that has people feeling engaged and connected, rather than left out or bored.

Upgrade your technology

After a year and a half of video calls, creating a hybrid meeting that feels organic and immersive is no mean feat. Developers are acutely aware of this and new technology is on the way to help.

Zoom’s currently-in-development Smart Gallery will use AI to capture the faces of all physical attendees present and host them in an on-screen gallery for remote team members, while Microsoft’s Teams Rooms is developing a new interface with life-sized remote attendees visible on screen at eye level to help all participants feel like they’re in the room together.

“At TOG, every Work Space has at least two Zoom rooms with integrated technology to streamline the process of bringing your team together,” says Jocelyn Welsh, TOG’s Head of Meetings and Events Sales. “We’re also testing out some other video conferencing tech to provide Teams and other options.”

Meeting in a space with super-fast WiFi is important too, she says. “How many times have you been on a Zoom call and it’s so choppy you can’t understand what someone’s saying? A strong internet connection is a must – especially if it’s an important meeting.”

Test your technology

If you’ve ever been in a meeting and had to wait 10 minutes while someone tries to fix a technical glitch, you’ll know how frustrating this can be. To minimise problems and maximise time of your hybrid meeting, test your audio/visual set up before the meeting – for both in-room and remote participants.

Make sure the latter get a feel for what they’ll see and hear in the meeting, as well as any software features they may need to use, either to present or participate in group tasks, so that everything runs as seamlessly as possible.

Choose a space that inspires

It’s no secret that a well-designed space can motivate the people in it. For example, natural light and a connection to nature both have a significant measurable impact on productivity, according to recent findings from New York-based research firm, Future Workplace.

At TOG, meeting rooms benefit from the same attention to design as any other element of a Work Space, and venues like Liberty House and Brock House offer floor-to-ceiling windows, dynamic lighting and statement art – all designed to create a working environment in which creativity can thrive.

This is important when it comes to clients, too. “If you’re pitching or feeding back to a client remotely, sitting in a professional environment with a well-designed backdrop can really elevate your experience – and the impression you make, too,” says Jocelyn.

Consider the remote participants’ point of view

Logging in and seeing a murky image of your colleague’s chin isn’t the most effective way to connect with one another when you’re working from home. “The person on the screen is so important,” explains Jocelyn. “You almost need to make them more important than the rest of the people in the room so that they feel engaged.”

To achieve this, remote participants in a hybrid meeting should be able to clearly see everyone’s faces, as well as any presentations, documents and content created on whiteboards or flip charts in the room.

The easiest way to do this is to screen share on a central presentation screen that remote participants can also access from home, or use online whiteboards to take meeting notes. You could also focus a secondary webcam on a flip chart or analogue whiteboard, so that remote attendees can clearly see what’s going on in the room.

Appoint a facilitator

Whether not being in the same physical space as your coworkers is making contributing to discussions more difficult or the technology is less than ideal, it can be easy for in-room participants to dominate the hybrid meeting and for others to feel less valued.

Make one of your team members a facilitator and that person can guide the meeting, troubleshoot any technical hiccups and ensure that remote participants, as well as those in the room, are being heard and are fully engaged in the conversation.

Book a meeting room at TOG here