Three people sit in wheeled office chairs facing each other. The middle chair holds a woman who is holding a piece of paper and has a pug dog sitting at her feet. On either side of the woman is a desk holding a computer monitor; the monitors show the faces of two more people participating in the meeting from different locations.
The key to a good hybrid meeting is to ensure that all attendees are given the ability to participate, regardless of how they're attending. — Getty Images/alvarez

Hybrid work is the preferred style of the majority of workers, according to extensive polling from Gallup. Hybrid work offers the best of both worlds: the flexibility of remote work with the camaraderie and office culture of a traditional workspace.

However, there remain some challenges to hybrid work — namely, holding meetings that are productive for both remote and in-office team members. Leading a great remote meeting means overcoming some of the technical and communication challenges that can arise to ensure everyone’s voice is heard. Here are some ways to make sure your next hybrid meeting is a good one.

Invest in great tech and equipment

Perhaps the biggest struggle in hybrid meetings is poor audio and connectivity issues for those outside the room. Many companies focus on the video stream, but the ability to hear what’s going on in the room is actually more important. Make sure your meeting room is equipped with high-quality microphones so remote participants can hear. Ask those who are remote to mute their audio when they aren’t speaking to reduce distracting background noise.

There are also new software options to explore that can pair with your hardware to make hybrid meetings more effective. Zoom’s Smart Gallery is one tool that uses artificial intelligence to create individual video feeds of in-room participants. This option gives remote meeting participants a clearer view of their in-room counterparts. Ultimately, the goal is to level the playing field and close the communication gap between in-office and remote workers.

[Read more: 5 Smart Ways to Manage a Hybrid Work Team]

Designate a moderator

All good meetings should have a point person who can keep participants focused and moving through the agenda in a timely manner. You might empower this person or a separate meeting participant to also act as the moderator — someone who makes sure participants who wish to contribute are heard.

“Despite the effort you may put into meeting design and logistics, it remains far too easy for in-person attendees to dominate the discussion,” wrote Harvard Business Review. “A facilitator should draw the remote participants in, keep them engaged and ensure their voices are heard, not interrupted or talked over.”

Some teams use a chat tool in addition to the live video stream. If this is in practice at your office, make sure your moderator is also keeping an eye on the group chat to call out written input that participants are submitting along the way.

All good meetings should have a point person who can keep participants focused and moving through the agenda in a timely manner.

Use tools that everyone can access

Coming to a consensus can be tricky when some participants are out of the room. It’s not effective to ask for a show-of-hands when you can’t actually see everyone’s hands. Likewise, if you’re storyboarding on a wall in the room, remote participants may not be able to read your sticky notes. Make sure there are tools in place to put remote participants on an equal footing with those in the room.

Fortunately, there are plenty of tools that can keep everyone on the same page. A phone-based survey tool like Poll Everywhere collects feedback in real-time. Meeting notes can be captured with an online whiteboard like Miro. Many conference tools like Zoom and Google Hangouts also have built-in productivity tools to keep everyone focused on the same information.

Don’t have a “meeting after the meeting”

A “meeting after the meeting” is essentially a debrief, whether planned or informal, in which attendees talk about what just happened. These discussions happen often in office settings and can unintentionally exclude remote participants from key conversations. This can not only cause communication issues down the line, but lead remote employees to feel excluded.

Try to avoid these post-meeting debriefs by sending the meeting minutes as soon as the session is over, or even in the last five minutes of the call. Encourage participants to add comments and questions to the shared document or in the messaging channel used to organize the entire group (e.g., over Slack or email). This practice keeps everyone aligned and in the loop.

[Read more: Return to Office: How to Structure a Hybrid Work Week]

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Published October 30, 2022