With hybrid work becoming a standard model for most organizations in the US and worldwide, leaders have to embrace and review the way they approach hybrid meetings.
Over the last 2 years, hybrid video conferences have earned the reputation of inconvenience. Remote employees find remote conference calls unsatisfactory because they don’t get a chance to contribute. At the same time, in-person attendees feel uncomfortable having to keep focus both on their teammates around the table and those joining online.
We believe that the hybrid meeting experience can be improved and optimized once you examine your workflow and uncover the mistakes you are making in organizing, running, and reviewing the contents of a hybrid conference call.
In this post, we are examining the 10 most common mistakes leaders make and offer hybrid meeting best practices to improve the experience for everyone involved.
- 1. Not making adjustments to the office conference rooms
- 2. Using one camera to show the conference room
- 3. Not running technology tests before a meeting
- 4. Designing the hybrid meeting experience from the in-person perspective
- 5. Paying little attention to the ratio of remote to in-person participants
- 6. Missing out on ground rules
- 7. Having no facilitator
- 8. Ignoring post-meeting documentation
- 9. Having no clear meeting schedule
- 10. Running hybrid meetings when they are not the best approach
1. Not making adjustments to the office conference rooms
Big conference rooms with a single screen don’t help team leaders level the playing field between remote and in-office teammates. The traditional meeting room layout makes it easy for in-person teammates to forget about including their colleagues who are joining remotely.
Also, long square-shaped tables can make it harder for those sitting at the far end to hear remote participants presenting on the screen or see shared slides or graphs.
- Emphasize the screen. At GSK, a pharmaceutical company, meeting rooms were redesigned to look like movie theaters so that multiple screens draw attention to remote participants. Speakers and sound amplifiers will also help increase clarity and convey messages.
- Let go of the conference table. Many architects and space designers think conference room tables are no longer necessary. With companies sharing materials digitally, there’s no need to have a place for meeting paperwork. On the other hand, meeting tables can create a feeling of distance between teammates.
- Leveraging voice and face recognition. In a hybrid meeting, there’s a risk of remote participants not knowing the teammates who are in the conference rooms. To improve recognition, companies like Microsoft leveraged AI-based voice recognition when designing a hybrid-friendly conference room.
2. Using one camera to show the conference room
Unfortunately, most team leaders don’t go out of their way to immerse remote participants in the meeting.
They typically have a single camera that shows the conference room and don’t give remote participants to see handouts shared among in-person colleagues or the faces of everyone at the table. Similarly, in-person participants typically have to look at one screen with the video conferencing app.
As the result, there’s a disconnect between the two groups.
- Add extra cameras for a full and immersive experience. We recommend mounting one webcam in a way that shows the full room, another one facing the conference room attendees up close, and moving the third one around to show the flipcharts and handouts if there are any.
- Make sure your network speed and conferencing software enable high video quality to break the fourth wall between in-person and remote participants.
- Explore the features of the video conferencing platform your team uses to facilitate the meetings. Some tools have a built-in whiteboard, subtitling, and other tools that help remote participants get their point across.
3. Not running technology tests before a meeting
In a hybrid conference, there’s a risk of technical difficulties getting in the way of discussions and slowing down the process.
While there’s always room for emergencies, team leaders will reduce the odds of operational interruptions by running an audio and video check before the meeting.
- Take 5-10 minutes before the meeting to run a quick check of equipment needed for hybrid meetings. Make sure that all remote participants can see the conference room clearly, as well as are well seen and heard.
- If you use several cameras to increase the visibility of the room, make sure all of them are set up correctly.
- Check if all remote participants are comfortable using meeting software or create guidelines that outline the basics. At oVice, we support hybrid meetings by providing teams with a step-by-step how-to manual.
4. Designing the hybrid meeting experience from the in-person perspective
If a team leader usually attends meetings in person, it’s easy to disregard the needs of remote attendees.
As the result, remote teams get little consideration and support up to the point of feeling like distant observers rather than active participants.
- Let remote employees speak first. To make sure you don’t miss out on the input from the remote team in the heat of in-person discussion, let the participants who are joining online start the meeting.
- Have an agenda before the meeting and communicate it to the team. Both in-person and remote teams will be more inclined to discussions if you give them enough time to prepare materials and gather their thoughts. We recommend sharing the meeting agenda in advance and telling each member what aspect of the discussion you want to hear their input on.
- Prepare a way for remote participants to access all the materials you share with the in-person team: e.g. scan the paperwork and upload it to your company’s digital asset management system.
5. Paying little attention to the ratio of remote to in-person participants
While it is hard for team leaders to predict how many people will join their next meeting in-person or remotely, we recommend striving for a 50/50 split in hybrid conferences.
Otherwise, if there are too many in-person attendees, remote teammates can feel excluded and reluctant to participate. Similarly, if most teammates are joining remotely, it makes more sense to host the entire meeting virtually.
- Learn the working preferences of your employees (remote/in-office) to have a predictable pattern of attendance.
- When inviting people to a hybrid meeting, try to evenly represent in-person and remote employees.
- If there’s no way to achieve a numerical balance, join the minority. For example, if only a few remote employees tune into a mostly in-person meeting, a manager can join the remote cohort as a way to level the playing field.
6. Missing out on ground rules
Poor organization and lack of structure are one of the reasons why Zoom hybrid meetings are so tiring. The failure to establish meeting etiquette leads to decreased presence, chaos, and delays.
- Encourage punctuality by reminding team members of the importance of logging in on time. Leading by example is another effective way to motivate others to not be late.
- Create guidelines that explain the rules of the camera and microphone use: when to turn the video off and on, stay on mute/unmute the microphone, etc.
- Encourage presence and participation. Regularly emphasize the importance of being focused on the contents of the meeting, not checking emails or completing last-minute tasks.
7. Having no facilitator
To make hybrid meetings a success, someone on your team needs to keep track of the discussion, ensure inclusion and participation, and regularly check accessibility.
In our experience, managers themselves often have their hands full with keeping tabs on operations and dealing with pressing issues.
That’s why it’s better to appoint a facilitator: someone whose sole focus would be making sure that the meeting runs smoothly, with no technical issues, and everyone feels included.
- Appoint a facilitator who would encourage contributions and make sure no ideas are ignored.
- Have someone in the conference room to advocate for remote employees (and communicate with them 1-on-1 about connectivity or inclusivity issues).
- Don’t pressure facilitators or observers to be active meeting participants. Assign these roles to the teammates who are not key knowledge holders on the main topics on the agenda. Instead, let people in charge of these roles sit back and observe the flow of the call.
8. Ignoring post-meeting documentation
Since hybrid meetings offer more room for distraction, it’s easy for ideas or insights to slip through the cracks.
That’s why team leaders have to keep a system of meeting notes that makes reviewing the contents of the meeting easier.
- Appoint a designated note-taker who will jot the key updates in real-time. Make your real-time notes accessible so that employees can follow the flow of the discussion even when they struggle to hear each other.
- Review your notes after the meeting and follow them up with an action plan that gives teammates clear instructions on implementing the conclusions you reached during the call.
- Add a video recording of the meeting so that people can listen to the discussion and take notes whenever they need.
9. Having no clear meeting schedule
Considering the complexity of hybrid meetings and the amount of preparation that goes into creating a first-class experience for remote attendees, successful conferences cannot be sporadic.
Instead, they have to be carefully planned and implemented as a workflow on a fixed schedule.
- Run an employee survey to determine the frequency of hybrid meetings.
- Have a set time for online meetings that takes time zones into account and doesn’t make employees from different countries stay up late.
- Choose a meeting duration that doesn’t exhaust in-person or remote participants triggering “Zoom fatigue”.
10. Running hybrid meetings when they are not the best approach
If you run a bootstrapped team, investing in multiple cameras or rearranging the meeting room might put too much strain on your budget. That’s why, if you don’t have enough resources to create a seamless hybrid meeting experience, it might be better to stick to in-person-only or remote-only conference calls.
The “one remote, all remote” approach is quite popular among organizational leaders as it helps avoid disconnect and reduces the amount of effort needed from the leader.
To make remote meetings more spontaneous and immersive, try using oVice: a virtual office platform.
With tools like spatial audio and custom space layouts, it successfully simulates real-life meeting experiences, encourages spontaneous interactions, and improves meeting engagement.
Since the launch of the platform in 2020, we have successfully onboarded over 2,200 remote and hybrid organizations worldwide. Learn how team leaders use the platform to align in-office and in-person teams and offer a first-class meeting experience for both.