5 Tips to Improve Your SMB Hybrid Meetings

Hybrid meetings have become the new norm for many knowledge workers because they benefit employees and employers alike. However, the hybrid work model also creates new challenges for small organizations to overcome – such as a participant disappearing due to a technical error. Every ounce of preparation you put in can be the difference between time well spent and time wasted. 

In this article, we’ll cover:  

  • What hybrid meetings are. 
  • The common challenges small businesses face. 
  • Tips to improve your hybrid meetings and make them productive. 

What Are Hybrid Meetings?

Hybrid meetings are meetings that include two types of participants: attendees who are physically present and those who join remotely through an audio or video call. This type of meeting existed before the pandemic prevented employees from gathering in the same room and exchanging ideas face-to-face. 

The Many Challenges of Hybrid Meetings

Before the remote working boom of 2020, the hybrid meeting experience was downright abysmal. Most organizations had a single phone in the middle of their conference table to enable remote attendees to join in. More often than not, people just hoped that the audio quality would be good enough to understand the conversation – let alone distinguish individual speakers.  

However, things have evolved significantly since then. Modern hybrid meetings can be inclusive, interactive, and engaging. That’s why Global Workforce Survey predicts that 98 percent of meetings will include at least one remote participant in the future. 

The problem is that hybrid meetings can also easily be the opposite if not carried out effectively. They can make remote workers feel left out and cause on-site participants to feel frustrated. Additionally, small businesses face other hybrid meeting challenges like: 

  • Lack of IT support 
  • Outdated equipment 
  • Inconsistent internet connection 
  • High set-up costs 
  • Communication barriers 
  • Meeting etiquette 
  • Over-scheduling 
  • Data security 

Here are 5 tips on how to hold more productive hybrid meetings -for both on-site and remote participants. 

5 Tips to Make Hybrid Meetings More Productive

1. Determine When an Email Won't Suffice

Every employee has a story about surviving a meeting that could have been an email. When working remotely, meetings can be called with a single click, from any place and at any time. And because of how easy it is, many people forget that there are other (much less intrusive) ways to share information with employees. 

Use these questions to determine if sending an email isn’t enough: 

  • Does a decision involving multiple people have to be made? 
  • Is it a complex issue with several possible solutions? 
  • Does each person you want to involve have something valuable to contribute? 
  • Is it more than a regular status update? 

A meeting is warranted if you’ve answered “yes” to these questions. If your answers were mostly negative, you should consider sending an email or using a chat option instead. 

2. Use the Best Tools Available

There are a lot of excellent tools for running remote meetings that your organization can use to connect employees working from their homes. These tools can be divided into several categories: 

Instant Messaging Software

Make it easy for employees to exchange text messages in real-time, either one-on-one or in groups using:  

Instant messaging software doesn’t require an employee’s full attention. Because of that, it can run in the background and be used to communicate less important status updates or maintain friendly banter. 

Video Conferencing Software

Popular examples of video conferencing software that lets teams meet in one virtual place include: 

Most video conferencing solutions let participants share files, jot down their ideas on a virtual whiteboard, and send GIFs and stickers in a chat.  

Microsoft has even developed a purpose-built calling and meeting room solution that brings HD video, audio, and content sharing to meetings of all sizes, calling it Microsoft Teams Rooms. With Microsoft Teams Rooms, employees can connect across the hybrid workplace and be seen and heard.  

More importantly, include features like: 

  • Live captions. 
  • Intelligent capture of analog whiteboard images. 
  • One-touch join. 

Everything you need to produce productive hybrid meetings.  

Team Collaboration Software

Trusted project management and team collaboration software applications that provide remote employees with everything they need in one shared virtual space include:  

 
Of course, there’s some overlap between these tools. So, it’s important to choose them methodically and avoid suffocating employees with applications they have no real use for. 

3. Plan the Meeting Carefully in Advance

From the employee’s point of view, there’s nothing worse than being called into a meeting only to discover that there’s no set agenda. To hold a successful hybrid meeting, you can’t go in unprepared. If nothing else, do the following:

Choose a Suitable Meeting Place

Your go-to meeting room may not be the most suitable place for hosting a hybrid meeting. It might need some modifications and improvements.  

To make it suitable, cover it with a strong Wi-Fi signal. Then, install the audio and video equipment necessary for everyone to be heard and seen without any issues.

Create a Detailed Meeting Agenda

Of course, a meeting agenda helps the person conducting the meeting maintain control over the flow of discussions. However, it also motivates participants to participate. It gives them time to think about what you’ll be covering.  

Put the agenda in the meeting invite you’re sending out (or link to a OneNote page or Word Document so participants can easily collaborate). If possible, gather feedback from those who have been invited to the meeting to see if there’s something important that you have omitted. 

Send Relevant Materials in Advance

The last thing you want is to start your hybrid meeting by troubleshooting issues – such as PDF files not opening, or Word documents being formatted incorrectly.  

Solve this problem by sending all relevant materials in advance. Add the materials directly to the invite or post them to a shared SharePoint Online folder. 

Initially, hybrid meeting preparation may take you more time than the actual meeting. However, it will become second nature over time. So, don’t feel discouraged. 

4. Discuss Remote Meeting Etiquette

For remote meetings to run smoothly, it’s important to discuss meeting etiquette ahead of time. That way, participants have enough time to get used to the Do’s and Don’ts of online discussions. Start by deciding when participants should mute/unmute their microphones.  

Muting Microphones

Generally, there’s no reason for anyone to click the mute button if the meeting involves just a small handful of people. During larger meetings, however, participants should automatically mute their mics unless they’re speaking to prevent background noise from ruining the meeting. 

Turning Off Webcams

Most video conferencing software applications make it possible for participants to turn off their webcam if they don’t want to be seen. However, communicating with voice-only can lead to decreased engagement and, consequently, less effective meetings.  

So, it’s important to discuss when participants can turn off their webcams before they decide to do so without asking in the middle of an important meeting. 

Side Conversations

Because of how audio is recorded and reproduced during hybrid meetings, it’s very difficult to understand what’s being said when multiple people are talking at the same time. So, only one person should talk at a time to maintain clarity and prevent meetings from becoming long. That means side conversations should be prohibited.  

Following the Agenda

Once the meeting has started, make sure you stick to the agenda. The plan you created before the meeting is supposed to keep the meeting on track. Therefore, make sure everyone follows the time allotment for each topic.  

At the same time, it’s a good idea to allow some time for flexibility. Because some participants will likely want to speak about something that’s not on the agenda. 

In situations where more time is needed for thoughtful responses or additional research, it’s best to follow up using non-real-time communication methods, like email or messaging apps. 

5. Record Your Hybrid Meetings

One of the biggest advantages of remote meetings is that they can be recorded with a simple click. We recommend that you take advantage of this feature as much as possible. Why?  

Because some employees will inevitably miss meetings. Recording all sessions allows absentees to watch the meeting – which gives back time to those who would otherwise have to fill them in on the missed information. Plus, the absentee can adjust the playback speed or skip irrelevant parts. 

Just make sure to let everyone know beforehand that the meeting is being recorded to avoid privacy issues later. 

Hybrid Meetings Are the New Norm

Hybrid meetings are here to stay, enabling your organization to thrive in a world where physical interactions are guided by constantly changing rules. Every organization has its unique culture, needs, and priorities, making it crucial to establish ground rules that reflect them. 

These tips will help you hold productive hybrid meetings that leave participants feeling their time was well spent. 

Need IT Support for Remote Employees?

Teal offers responsive and secure managed IT services to small- to medium-sized businesses with remote employees nationally, with local headquarters based in: 

If you’re interested in learning about how we can securely support your remote workers, contact a Teal business technology advisor today. 

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