Everyone is talking about hybrid meetings these days. Maybe it’s an all-hands hybrid meeting at your office, or maybe you’re planning a big hybrid conference. Some of the planning around hybrid seems to skip two important questions as it charges headlong into a meeting where there will be people present in person as well as attendees joining remotely.
Before getting too deep or too excited about doing your own hybrid meeting, here are two questions to ask yourself or your team that may help slow your roll and appropriately focus your meeting planning.
What exactly do we mean by a hybrid meeting?
What are hybrid meetings? Everyone seems to agree that a hybrid meeting has some element of people participating in person and some element of people participating remotely. Beyond that, there are many different flavours of what the rather generic term, hybrid meetings, means.
In one case, we may see a hybrid meeting where five people are in the same room and 25 people join remotely. On the other hand, we can understand that it’s a very different blended meeting if it’s 25 people sitting around the same table and there are only five people who join remotely. (For the sake of simplicity, this excludes possibilities such as where there are two rooms in different cities, each with 10 people around a table, and five people who are participating from their homes.) And while the proportions might be the same, it’s a totally different kind of hybrid meeting if those numbers are more like 50 people in person and 250 people online versus 250 people in person and 50 remote participants.
For many organizations, meetings—including their hybrid form—basically revolve around an audience watching someone present a lecture or narrate through presentation slides; this could be with everyone watching from around a single table, on a small computer screen at home, or perhaps a giant video monitor in a room. However, it requires very different thinking and a different set-up if the meeting is going to involve debate, discussion, small groups or subcommittees, or any kind of networking or socializing. With its many different heads, the idea of a hybrid meeting quickly morphs into a hydra of possibilities. Unfortunately, planning for one size and format isn’t a one-size-fits-all for hybrid meetings.
Do we want to plan two simultaneous meetings?
The second question to ask is quite simply whether you’re comfortable planning two different meetings at the same time. Inherent within that question are two additional hybrid questions: Do we have the budget to run two meetings simultaneously? And do we have the staff to run two separate meetings simultaneously?
If it’s just a small handful of people, you can certainly get by with a patchwork of basic technology. Two people in one room might both be able to sit in front of the same laptop so that its microphone and webcam cover both of them. And then it’s easy to bring in two or three other people remotely and have a small hybrid meeting. But when you start talking about a room with more than a handful of people—and certainly if it’s dozens of attendees—things get more difficult.
This complexity is further multiplied if you’re doing a hybrid conference with hundreds or thousands of attendees. If the so-called hybrid meeting is only going to be one person who presents as everyone else sits silently, then the session ends, it’s not a very difficult set-up.
But as hybrid meetings get bigger and have more participatory elements, you may very well need someone coordinating what’s happening in the room as well as what’s happening online. You may need someone (or a team) to set up and troubleshoot the technology in the physical space and then you may need a second person (or a team) to manage the online component, which comes with a very different set of technology questions and troubleshooting.
It’s not that you yourself must have the answers when making these two important decisions. However, before your organization starts planning a hybrid meeting, full steam ahead, someone should at least be raising these questions at the start.