Not every discussion or action necessitates a meeting. A lot has been written to guide this decision, even pre-pandemic. Since hybrid meetings are more challenging, it is very important to consider this first step carefully. Here are some questions you should ask prior to the meeting and an infographic to serve as a decision tree.
Sufficient amount of time should be allocated for the proper idea generation, discussion, brainstorming, decision making, depending on what is needed at the meeting. However, this does not mean that the default meeting length should be one hour. Consider allocating 5-10 minute transition time in between meetings to allow for in-person participants to get to their next meeting and the remote participants to take a digital break to support their well-being.
In general, the complexity of the meeting is reduced when everyone is online. However, there are several considerations before making this a best practice recommendation.
- If the meeting is a regularly scheduled, periodic meeting, having everyone attend online produces the best outcomes with fewer complications.
- Some meetings are of a “cornerstone experience” nature, where there is a great benefit to at least some people being in-person, such as:
- A new employee is joining the team, or an employee is leaving or retiring
- Visitors are hosted
- An achievement or milestone is being recognized
- An important decision is being communicated
- A hands-on activity is performed
- A division or unit-wide activity is taking place (holiday celebration, all-hands meeting, launch of a new product, program, etc.)
- If there is value in some people being in a conference room and some people online (the examples above), consider everyone to bring a laptop and connect via video (audio off to avoid echo). One person or the room audio system can have microphone and speakers on.
Everyone takes part in the success of a meeting. The organization will need to develop fluency and comfort with not only the technologies for hybrid/online meetings, but also considerations for meeting preparation ahead of time as well as engagement and inclusion during the meeting. There are many factors and etiquette rules that determine the success of a meeting other than the effectiveness of technologies used.
While the responsibility is shared and the technology used are important aspect of success of these hybrid meetings, meeting moderators need to make sure to be prepared to ensure a positive outcome for all involved. Meeting moderator should also make sure to be inclusive of all voices in the meeting.
Some important things to keep in mind as a remote participant are as follows:
- Check your microphone, speaker, and video settings prior to joining a meeting.
- Whenever possible, make use of wired network connections and wired earbuds. These will increase your connection quality and minimize potential feedback from speakers and microphone.
- Make sure to look and sound professional with proper attire and technology.
- Avoid distractions in your clothing items and favor simple colors, patterns, and clothes.
- Uncarpeted floors can cause audio to echo or cause a “speaking inside a tunnel” feeling. A simple area rug can absorb the reflecting audio. Earbuds or headphones are also helpful to prevent echo and overall sound quality.
- Use mute and unmute as well as raise hand features effectively.
- Utilize the chat function to participate effectively and announce periods of unavailability (e.g. stepping away for a minute). If the technology allows it, use reactions, emojis, animated GIFs for further engagement.
- Pay special attention to what you are sharing on your screen. If possible, only share one application at a time rather than an entire screen. Disable notifications such as text messages, email, calendar notifications prior to sharing your screen as any of these may cause distractions at best or unintentionally reveal private or confidential information at worst.
- Have a professional background in your home office/work area. Use virtual backgrounds that are available through the videoconferencing tool to ensure there are no distractions visible through your camera.
To ensure everyone feels included and equal, it is important to establish ground rules. These can be established at the unit level, team level or per meeting. Here are some ideas:
- Post an agenda for the meeting beforehand.
- Identify an in-person advocate for the remote participants to assist you to ensure that there is someone looking out for them in the physical room.
- To avoid problems of screen sharing, share the documents ahead of time. A great way to do this is to attach the documents to the meeting invite or the Teams chat. Previous meeting minutes and agendas can also be shared this way which helps attendees find and access the relevant materials easily.
- Uphold a “remote first” attitude, where remote participants are prioritized in introductions, taking turns, etc.
- Agree on whether everyone will turn on their cameras.
- A method for asking for a turn to speak should be established that will be fair to remote participants, such as raising hands. There should not be multiple people talking at the same time or only participant who are attending in person getting to speak most of the time.
- Agree on how the chat function will be used. If the in-person participants do not see or participate in the chat conversations, make sure that someone is responsible to monitor the chat and share the information with the rest of the participants.
- Meeting planner should do due diligence on making sure the technologies and approaches are appropriate for the activities of the meeting. For example, if a white board is used, remote participants should be able to see and contribute to the whiteboard activity. If a poll or vote is being taken, remote participants should be able to equitably participate. In cases like these, online technologies should be explored that will democratize the activity for all participants.
- Consider soliciting feedback (anonymous, if possible) about the meeting experience and introduce improvements for the next meeting.
It is critical for a hybrid meeting to have the conference room with the affordances to support your meeting needs and technology. The room has to be able to support a high quality audio-video experience with microphones, speakers, and cameras. A list of Georgia Tech spaces and reservation system is available as a resource. Some spaces may have restrictions on their availability. Contact your unit’s IT or AV support staff or Georgia Tech AudioVisual Services for more information, training, or request for assistance. If it is not possible for you to reserve or access to a meeting room with the technology to support your needs, it is best to have everyone connect to the meeting online for best results.
Georgia Tech offers a variety of video collaboration tools with different functionalities. A comparison of authorized virtual meeting tools at Georgia Tech is available. It is important to choose the technology that will work best in the conference room that you will use. Consult with your IT or AV support professionals to understand the capabilities of the conference rooms that are available to you. It is critical for a hybrid meeting to have the conference room with the affordances to support your meeting technology.