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Everyone is anticipating a (partial) return to the office. This may herald the end of the online meeting as well. Or does it? We got used to teleworking, and now we are facing a new reality. Being all together in the same room for a meeting is set to become the exception to the rule. 

We’ve become experts in switching from one Zoom call to another Teams meeting. But now there’s a new kid on the block: the hybrid meeting. This is a meeting where a number of participants are sat in a meeting room (remember those ones?) while others dial in on a screen. 

But how do you deal with that? How do you turn this into a successful formula? We list a number of tips. 

Think hard on your objectives: what do you want to accomplish with this meeting?

Do you want to inform the participants about something? Or do you want to work out a new strategy. Not every type of meeting can be organised in a hybrid way. For some meetings it is better to bring everyone physically to the table. A brainstorm is a good example. There, live interaction is key to boost creativity. 

Appoint a moderator.

While useful in every meeting, a hybrid meeting cannot be held without somebody moderating the conversation. The biggest challenge is to make sure that all participants, on site or remote, feel equally involved. A moderator must ensure there is a good balance between the online and on site participants. A quick checklist to guide you through this process:  

  • First things first. Make sure you book a meeting room and attach a link to the invitation for those who will dial in from home. This way, nobody feels left behind even before the meeting starts. 
  • Make a number of clear rules at the start of the meeting, to avoid either chaos or passive participants. You can, for example, ask people to raise their hands if they want to say something. Another good idea is to ask the online participants to turn on their camera. 
  • Take the time to establish a connection between the two groups of participants, by means of a warm-up round. Have everyone introduce themselves, check in on how everyone is feeling today, organise a little pop quiz to get everyone on board on the topic. After that, you’re good to go. 
  • Make sure everyone feels involved and actively participates. This can be achieved by restraining some of the louder participants, or challenging the more silent ones. Try to pick up on any non-verbal signals that indicate if someone wants to say something, or feels left out. 
  • Keep things dynamic and introduce some interactive elements where both the online and live participants can take part in. This means using digital tools like Wooclap, Menti or Forms rather than good old paper Post-its and a flipchart. 
  • Don’t forget the online participants when wrapping things up. Thank everyone involved and be very clear about what is expected from everyone. 

There is a potential pitfall in this. The moderator has a very big impact on how things evolve. If that moderator is one of the virtual participants, separate discussions may arise in the meeting room. Conversely, you risk losing sight of the online participants. Be mindful of this. Appoint a sidekick to help you keep an eye on things.   

Invest in good equipment.

It can be very annoying if there is an echo coming from the meeting room or from one of the online participants. Provide solid sound equipment to allow everyone to hear eachother perfectly. This is particularly important in the meeting room: a centrally placed microphone offers the best results. It can also help if the participants in the meeting room dial in with their own computer, but with their speakers and microphone muted to avoid feedback. 

In short: whether hybrid meetings are the best of two worlds or a source of new frustrations, we will have to adapt yet again. But keep in mind the most important thing: you are holding a meeting to get something done. Technology is merely one of the tools to achieve this. The most important thing to do, as it is with every type of meeting, is to focus on your objectives and make sure everyone in the room, virtual or not, contributes to this goal.