6 Tips for Mastering Hybrid Meetings

Kyla Bills

As more companies settle into new ways of working, often with some employees in-office and others remote simultaneously, figuring out an effective hybrid-call strategy is a must. We’ve rounded up six expert tips to address some of the most common roadblocks to clear communication—no matter the answer to, “Where are you calling from?”

Ask an Opening Question

Those first few minutes of a meeting can be a bit awkward, regardless of where people are dialing in from. Try setting aside five minutes in the beginning of every meeting to chat informally with colleagues, as you might if you were all in person, to build rapport and engagement.

If participants need a nudge, the meeting leader can work in a (non-work related) conversation starter at the top of the agenda. For example: asking each person what series they can’t stop watching, or prompting the group for lunch recs. We promise, getting to know your coworkers can be fun when you aren’t trying to figure out if the tech guy being related to Brad Pitt is a “truth” or a “lie.”

Stick to One Video-Call Platform (and Learn How to Use It)

Google Meet, Teams, Slack calls… There are a million different ways to have virtual meetings, but just because companies can use multiple services, doesn’t mean they should. Choose one video-comms platform and be consistent in implementing it. The more your team uses a designated software, the more comfortable they’ll feel with it, meaning less operational friction.

To that point, we could all use a little less, “Can you see my slides?” Add the horror stories of screen-sharing gone wrong, and you can see why it’s crucial to get all employees fully functional on the company’s main meeting service. Schedule a training and pour one out for all the time we’ve lost trying to locate sharing permissions during live meetings, or been distracted by the presenter’s iMessage notifications.

Remote meetings don't have to be the most stressful part of your day. Photo: Alex Tan

Prioritize Audio Quality

Have you ever called into a meeting where all your colleagues are talking together in a conference room but you can’t hear them? Most office spaces aren’t really designed for this kind of mixed-use audio. If you’re in the position to, it’s worth moving your company to invest in a better setup. Solutions include physical products like the Meeting Owl, a multi-camera device that looks something like an Alexa tower. Its omnidirectional microphones take in audio from participants around the on-site room, while its 360-degree speaker distributes remote voices clearly. Plus: No more wildly flustering echo.

Alternatively, other high-quality microphones—even ceiling ones—can be installed in conference rooms. Other good starting points include looking into the office’s bandwidth (better data transfer = better sound) and meeting-room acoustics. In leadership? Work with IT on a unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) strategy and managing it.

Connect Remote Workers With an On-Site Point Person

Every meeting should have someone running it, but this role becomes even more critical in hybrid meetings. For those logging in from elsewhere, it should be clear who they can ping about issues or asks to make the meeting more accessible: “Can you bring the camera a little closer to the whiteboard?” or “Can you ask John to talk a little louder?”

Making requests like this in the general chat can be distracting, so it’s helpful to be able to message one person directly. That person can make any changes or announcements, so everyone can keep focusing on the meeting itself. Imagine: never again awkwardly interrupting the meeting, only to be met with blank stares and silence.

Pour one out for all the time we’ve lost trying to locate sharing permissions during live meetings, or been distracted by the presenter’s iMessage notifications.

Distribute In-Person Screens

The big question in a hybrid meeting: How many laptops should you be using? While many groups default to either one laptop for everyone or everyone on their own laptop, the best answer is probably somewhere in the middle. The single laptop can be alienating for remote workers who often can’t see, hear, or participate clearly this way. But when everyone in the office dials in from their own desk, being in-person can feel pointless, and they’re more likely to multitask.

Try getting the in-person crew in one room, and pair them with laptops at a 3:1 (max) ratio, so remote workers can actually see and hear everyone, and there are enough video angles captured around the room. An easy rule: Keep the video on for all of the laptops but only touch any of them if you’re presenting. Sure, it's hard to give up an undercover shopping session during a meeting, but it’s for the greater good.

Establish Best Practices

There’s meeting etiquette, and then there’s hybrid meeting etiquette. In addition to all of the systems above, get together with your team and write down a list of the personal measures that make mixed-location meetings run smoothly. Share it out so individual employees know how to contribute to less-annoying calls for everyone, including themselves.

By creating a consistent culture around streamlined, effective meetings, team members are more likely to take steps like muting when not speaking. Another reminder to include: Schedule hybrid meetings in spaces that aren’t too big or echo-y. And, for in-person participants, encourage them to decide whose laptop to listen from and speak into (muting others to avoid audio crossover) before the meeting begins.

If your next meeting can’t just be an email, at least everyone should be able to see, hear, and participate easily—whether they’re brushing shoulders IRL or petting the fur baby in their lap.

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