In addition to the right technology, the right mindset is critical to the success of any business in maximizing productivity in hybrid meetings
Jan. 26, 2023 - One of the key findings of a recent report published by Crestron and Reworked, "Tackling the Modern Workplace by the Numbers," is that a new status quo has taken hold:
We are seeing workplace stability for the first time in two years. Companies have largely reached a hybrid equilibrium where, on any given day, half the employees are remote, and half are in the office.
It’s a state that’s been referred to as "hybrid permanence." One of the challenges of this new normal is the adaptation of collaboration for both in-person and remote workers. Simply put, the entire world of business is "rethinking the meeting."
Karin M. Reed and Joseph R. Allen, Ph.D., have emerged as thought leaders regarding this reset. At the onset of the pandemic, they published their first book as co-authors, "Suddenly Virtual." (Reed is the CEO of Speaker Dynamics and an Emmy-winning communications expert, and Allen is an organizational psychologist and professor at the University of Utah.) Their second book deals with the current state of workplace collaboration: "Suddenly Hybrid: Managing the Modern Meeting" goes beyond the technological aspects of creating efficient, effective hybrid meetings and digs into the myriad other aspects of this challenge.
From conversations with the authors and Crestron’s own research, we’ve put together nine tips for successful hybrid meetings:
Understand the responsibilities of both leaders and attendees in hybrid meetings
"The success of a meeting is shared by both the meeting leader and meeting attendees," says Reed. "While the meeting leader can better ensure success by designing the meeting well to accomplish its stated goal, no amount of planning can compensate for a disengaged group of attendees who are not acting within the boundaries of the meeting itself." Tardiness, multi-tasking, and "hijacking the agenda" — that is, getting hung up on minor or even irrelevant details as the meeting progresses — are all common issues whose negative impacts can be amplified in a hybrid scenario.
Reed notes that prior agreements on how to run the meeting are helpful: "Codifying rules like video use, turn-taking procedures, and sharing out meeting minutes and action items in an accessible way can make everyone accountable." If every attendee holds up their end of the bargain, the odds that everyone remains engaged throughout a meeting increase dramatically.
Reed has some very specific tips for meeting leaders. "Sometimes, lead a meeting from within the conference room," she explains. "Sometimes, lead a meeting as a virtual attendee. It sends a strong signal to your team that it doesn’t matter how you join a meeting. Everyone’s contributions are equally valued regardless of their location."
And leaders should leave last, according to Reed. "Don’t click 'end meeting’ until everyone has left, especially those in the conference room. When you’re attending a meeting virtually, there is always a fear that you are missing the 'meeting after the meeting.’ If the meeting link is left open, the virtual attendees can see everyone walk out and know they aren’t being excluded from the conversation after the official meeting adjourns."
Treat every meeting as a "high-value" meeting
Crestron’s research has led us to understand the following from a Forbes® magazine article bylined by our CEO, Dan Feldstein: "Just because meetings can be taken from everywhere doesn’t mean they should be." Small spaces such as huddle rooms can now host big presentations that were usually reserved for large conference rooms — that’s the promise (and potential set of pitfalls) of the hybrid workplace. Every space needs to have the proper connectivity and presentation tech for a given situation — and from a behavioral aspect, every meeting must be imbued with the same level of engagement and respect.
There are some fairly simple steps to drive that engagement — and establish a meeting’s value. "First, acknowledge remote attendees," says Reed. That moment of welcoming virtual collaborators makes the remote participants feel that they really are part of the team. "And then — if it’s fitting for the situation — get people talking." This responsibility falls to the meeting leader. "Sometimes conversation can be stunted or stilted because it can be difficult to know when it’s your turn to talk," she says, so there’s a technique to draw out ideas: "cold calling." "Cold calling with good intentions means you call on people by name to share their thoughts." There’s a caveat here: Attendees should be given the chance to simply pass on the opportunity to speak up. "Your cold calling is not aimed at putting people on the spot but rather to avoid overlooking anyone’s contributions which might be muzzled unintentionally," says Reed.
Turn-taking policies, establishing signals such as hand-raising (whether physically or via emoji), or utilizing a platform’s chat function can all be practical tools for driving engagement. "Meeting satisfaction levels are heavily dependent upon how much people are participating, so proactive facilitation is critical," says Reed. Beyond those strategies, technologies that allow everyone — both those in-person and remote — the ability to clearly perceive nonverbal cues through intelligent video solutions are extraordinarily helpful. (More on that shortly.)
Ensure you’ve done the necessary pre-work (and post-work) for each meeting
This might seem intuitive, but what Reed calls "pre-work" is vital to maximizing productivity in hybrid meetings — and it dovetails with the notion of creating high-value meetings every time workers collaborate. "With the number of meetings that most of us have on our calendars, you want to make sure that the time spent in them is as valuable as possible," she explains. "That’s why we advocate using more pre-work to prepare for the meeting mentally. If attendees take the time to become acquainted with what is being discussed, whether that’s going over a report or simply reviewing the agenda, they will come in with a higher level of understanding of the topic at hand." Furthermore, there’s no need to take the time to give everyone all the background info that informs their participation.