You cannot talk about the future of meetings without thinking of technology. In this blog post, I will dive into the so-called hybrid meetings.
A hybrid meeting is a meeting where you combine a face-to-face meeting with a virtual component. You gather participants in a physical meeting room and have speakers and/or other participants join you online from remote locations supported by technology that allows everyone to see and hear each other.
It might seem a bit daunting at first, but I have had several of these hybrid meetings and I truly love that possibility. There are pros and cons as to having a hybrid meeting – as there is with all things in life! – but I will share some of these with you here for you to avoid the same mistakes I made.
What does a hybrid meeting take?
There are a few prerequisites that you need to consider as to have a great experience with a hybrid meeting.
- First of all, you need a stable internet connection…but that shouldn’t be a problem today.
- Then you need a system to handle input from all the participants. I believe that the most well-knows system is Skype but there are several other systems out there so go ahead and try them out.
- Now you need a meeting room with the facilities to support a virtual meeting. This means that the room has to be equipped with a sound system and a camera in order for everybody to see and hear each other.
- Lastly, you need to invite participants and maybe speakers and make sure that they all have access to the same virtual meeting room. Then you are good to go!
Create a local hub
At a hybrid meeting, you can gather groups of people at several locations and have them join the same meeting. These smaller meetings within the meeting are called local hubs.
It is important that the local hubs that they have the same facilities as mentioned above, but even more important: That they have a local host and moderator!
I have experienced hybrid meetings where the remote participants felt disconnected from the ‘main hub’ where most of the activity took place. These participants didn’t feel included and didn’t have the same positive experience of the meeting. If you make sure to include a local host and moderator, he/she can make sure that questions from the hub are incorporated in the discussions at the ‘main hub’, that the participants do group work just like those at the ‘main hub’ etc. etc. This includes all participants – no matter from where they attend the meeting.
Is a hybrid meeting ever a bad thing?
Though I mention group work above, hybrid meetings are not the best solution when adding group work to your meeting. But as mentioned, you can design your meeting to address this challenge if you make sure that attendees at remote locations engage in the same assignments as those at the ‘main hub’. Just remember to give them the same possibilities to present their work as every other participant.
Furthermore, I don’t believe in having hybrid meetings merely to save money. Of course, a somewhat short meeting might work out well (or even better) as a hybrid meeting if it saves a lot of time and money as opposed to having colleagues flying in from near and far.
Face-to-face meetings are still important, and hybrid meetings are simply a supplement to all the other meetings most of us have every day. I would never turn a company strategy day into a hybrid meeting – in that case, it is important to include all employees on the same terms, and transportation costs are an unavoidable part of such a meeting. That is just the way it is!
And in my opinion, hybrid meetings should not be seen as the final answer to the company’s CSR strategy (in connection with sustainability and CO2 reductions) but rather as an added CSR advantage when it is possible to reduce travel by having such a meeting.
A few concluding words of advice
My experience with hybrid meetings have taught me a few things, and besides the above mentioned I have two pieces of advice for you:
- Physically moving a group of people from their computers and into a meeting room changes their mindset and prepares them for the meeting itself. This gives you a bigger chance of having their full attention – instead of having the attendees following the meeting online while checking E-mail or taking care of other tasks. This is just to say that a hybrid meeting is no always the answer.
- Remember to give all your attendees comparable facilities and food & beverage in both the main and the local hubs. All attendees can see each other and it degenerates the experience if one hub is indulging on delicious finger foods, colorful cocktails and beautiful cakes, while another hub is served cheap sodas and cookies out of the plastic packaging.
Nonetheless, hybrid meetings are here to stay so try it out! It is not nearly as daunting as you might think.