You would think, after a year and a half of meetings that have taken place almost exclusively online, organizations would have identified the issues that have plagued hybrid meetings. Unfortunately, with many organizations returning to the workplace, there are still significant issues when there is a mix of both in-person and online attendees. This article highlights some of the things that you can do to ensure meeting attendees have an experience that allows participants to feel engaged, enables collaboration and fosters participation.
Attending a meeting as a remote attendee
I spent over 4 years as a remote employee, and most on most days, I attended at least 3 meetings. These meeting required me to dial-in to a conference call. At the time, video calls weren’t as commonplace as they have become over the last couple of years, so the calls were almost all exclusively voice-only. Many of the calls I was on were with a group on employees that had gathered in a conference room at my company’s headquarters in Pennsylvania. Depending on the conference room, there were meetings that I called into and could hear every word, and others where I struggled to hear what was being said. One of the large conference rooms had several overhead microphones and there were times where I could hear a side conversation perfectly and completely missed what was being discussed in the actual meeting.
I often had a feeling like the people in the meeting had forgotten about me and that my participation wasn’t even necessary. It was hard to contribute to the meeting and there were times where it was difficult to collaborate with the rest of the team.
I made a trip to Pennsylvania every 4-6 weeks so I could meet with my team in person, simply because we did not have a tools or the culture for hybrid meetings. Despite having a distributed workforce, we did not do a great job of creating meeting experiences that were inclusive.
Leaning into hybrid work
Over the last 18 months, we have grown more aware of the challenges associated with remote work and more specifically, meetings with a mix of attendees that are on-site and dialing in remotely. Thankfully, there are better tools that will create better meeting experiences for all. With the right tools and a solid understanding of the best practices that will help in creating better meeting experiences, your organization can shift to hybrid work with very little disruption.
The checklist for better meetings
As I mentioned earlier in this blog, hybrid workplace meetings need to make users feel engaged, offer opportunities for in-person and remote participants to collaborate, and enable users to participate without being limited by technology. Here are 5 ways to optimize your hybrid meetings and achieve these goals.
Clarity on objectives
If your organization is going to meet, having clarity around the objectives of the meeting is crucial. When attendees accept the meeting invite, they understand their role and come to the meeting prepared.
In addition, an agenda will help to ensure structure and enable attendees to prepare accordingly.
Leveraging tools to enable collaboration
With tools like Microsoft Teams, users can engage like never before. Sharing screens, chatting, document sharing, and even breakout rooms offer attendees the opportunity to share ideas and collaborate. Before tools like Microsoft Teams were available, users had to patiently wait on the conference call line and wait for an appropriate time to chime in or interject.
There is a real implication of online meetings that must be addressed. I’ve heard it called “ZOOM Fatigue” and it’s what happens after staring at the screen for hours because of online meetings. But there is definitely a benefit of turning on your video. Body language and facial cues can help us in better connecting with other attendees. Some people hate video, but when leveraged properly, you will realize the benefits of being able to see one another.
Recording the meeting
At Kiefer, we record almost every meeting that we have. We never know when new team members might be added to a project and will need to be “caught up.” By recording our meetings, we always have a historical archive of what was discussed, how decisions were made and why we made the decision.
Keep tabs on the dial-in participants
Having someone on-site that is designated to keep an eye on chat, questions and virtual raised hands is a good idea. This is a good way to stay connected with the remote attendees and help keep them engaged. Dial-in participants need to feel “seen” and having a person responsible for keeping them engaged will make everyone feel more included.
Leveraging Microsoft Teams
If your organization is looking to empower your hybrid workforce, you will need a tool like Microsoft Teams. We can help you deploy Teams, establish governance, and share best-practices that will allow your organization to extract real value from Microsoft’s collaboration and communication platform. Contact us to schedule a free consultation and learn more.