Are you struggling to lead effective hybrid meetings? The issue comes up at every presentation I give. “How can we make our meeting work when a group of people are in the room together, and one or two are remote?”
The fact is that hybrid meetings are especially challenging. Communication inequality is baked in to the hybrid format, in a way that can’t really happen with in-person meetings. Experienced facilitators avoid hybrid meetings like the plague – just as they swerve noisy, smelly and overcrowded venues. As a result, there’s not a great pool of expert knowledge out there. Instead, we’re all learning by experience.
Here are my 5 top tips: please add your additions in the “comments” area below.
- Learn from the experts, and avoid hybrid meetings if you possibly can! The most successful distributed organisations tend to use the principle “one remote, all remote”, where all participants call into a video conference from a separate laptop, in a separate quiet place, so that there’s a level playing field. Failing that…
- Set up your meeting to maximise engagement. As Elise Keith says, “You can’t have a meeting of minds when most of the minds aren’t actually in the meeting.” That means making sure that the meeting has a clearly-stated purpose, and that everyone who’s invited has something specific to contribute (and knows what that is). This makes it less likely that your remote participants will disengage because the meeting doesn’t seem relevant to them.
- Structure the meeting for maximum participation, including participation by the remote individuals. Online tools can help, but participatory processes like Liberating Structures and structured Agile ceremonies have even more value. “Participation propels Perceived Meeting Quality” (Elise Keith again).
- Use the best technology you can, maximising human-to-human interaction. Video is a must for remote attendees. Next step up: telepresence. Let’s stop pretending that dialling in to a spider phone is acceptable. I was leading meetings like that 20 years ago. This is 2019, for heaven’s sake!
- Allocate an in-the-room buddy to every remote participant. Carefully involving remote participants – for example, by asking them to speak first in any go-around – is part of your job as the meeting leader, but you’ve got lots of other things to think about. The buddy forms a one-on-one connection with the remote participant and makes certain that they are involved and heard. (It’s also a great way of developing one-on-one relationships between team members. Try using junior team members as buddies.)
What other tips can you share? Please comment below.