We can all see how the way we work has changed in so many ways over the last year, and I believe we will never go back to the same way of working again. What the future of work looks like is still unclear, but one of the things I envisage being part of our weekly routine are hybrid meetings, where we have some participants together in a meeting room and others dialing in or linking in through video.
Because of COVID-19 we have moved from attending meetings where all the participants are in the same room, to meetings where all the participants are online. Now, we are moving into a future where a hybrid is most likely. From my experience hybrid meetings can be the most challenging to manage and are going to require us to upskill dramatically to ensure these meetings are productive for all.
Whilst there are many things we need to look at to ensure meeting productivity, I reckon one of the keys to effective hybrid meetings is equality. We need to ensure that everyone has a voice, a role and a productive outcome whether they are onsite or online. The challenge is that often it is so much easier to focus on the people physically in front of us. We have the benefit of being able to look at them and read their body language, therefore we can slip into a pattern where we talk more to them than those online, or we give them more airtime in the meeting.
If you are the meeting organiser, chair or facilitator, you may need to heighten your awareness in the meeting and try extra hard to open the space for the online participants. A good strategy could be to start the meeting by introducing everyone and clarifying their role or reason for being in the meeting. Online participants will be more likely to contribute if they are clear about their expected role.
Another strategy that can help is to adjust your mindset about the people dialing in. I ran a short training session for a team before Christmas where most of the team was in the room with me, but two were dialing in. I noticed that the senior manager in the group was excellent at ensuring that the online participants were engaged and involved. I complimented him on this, and he told me that he always imagined that the online participants were the CEO of his organisation. You see, if the big boss was on the line, everyone would ensure that the CEO was fully engaged and involved. I thought that was such a clever mindset to bring to hybrid meetings.
So, if you are attending a hybrid meeting and are in the room, have a think about what you can do to create equality for everyone in the meeting. If you are one of the people dialing or zooming in, think about what you might need to do to remind everyone that you are there, engaged and keen to contribute.