For maximum effectiveness, should business meetings be conducted face to face or online? As is often the case, the optimum solution probably lies somewhere in the middle; hence, the hybrid meeting. However, there are issues that hybrid-meeting leaders need to be aware of.
The workplace is transforming before our eyes. The traditional model of coming into an office each day is fading as remote and hybrid work policies take hold. While some companies are mandating full-time office attendance, many are embracing flexible policies that allow staff to split time between the office and home.
This shift brings both opportunities and challenges. Leaders must adapt their management style and organisations need to overhaul systems designed for colocated teams. Perhaps most importantly, running productive hybrid meetings requires an upgrade from old tactics.
I spoke with Johnny Warström, CEO of audience engagement platform Mentimeter, to uncover best practices for hybrid meetings. With 70 per cent of his staff working remotely, Johnny has hard-won experience bringing distributed teams together.
Understand the “Hybrid Divide”
A major pitfall of hybrid meetings is what Johnny calls the “hybrid divide”. This occurs when in-room participants wield more influence than remote attendees. Their physical presence grants an advantage, as they can interact casually before and after the meeting, read facial cues, and draw more focus from the leader.
Left unaddressed, this divide enables in-room voices to dominate discussion and decision-making. This can marginalise remote workers, especially women, who are both more likely to work remotely and have traditionally had their perspectives undervalued in male-dominated corporate culture.
Leaders of hybrid meetings need to recognise this divide and take proactive steps to prevent it. This starts with an awareness of subconscious biases that might lead you to favour in-room team members. Building psychological safety for remote participants will produce more equitable meetings.
Prep Work Sets the Stage
Thoughtful preparation is key to running an inclusive hybrid meeting. Johnny recommends distributing pre-reads to level the playing field. This ensures that all participants come to the meeting informed, regardless of their location.
Prep work should provide necessary context and highlight open questions. It will prime the team for a substantive discussion when you come together live.
You might also send out an anonymous survey before the meeting to surface perspectives in an unbiased manner. Opening with this input can engage both local and remote attendees from the very beginning.
Equal Participation Techniques
To prevent the hybrid divide, leaders need to draw out remote participants and tamp down dominance from the room.
Johnny likes to poll meeting members anonymously early on. This allows everyone to share their point of view without influence from vocal colleagues. Displaying anonymous responses gives remote workers an equal chance to shape the conversation.
He also emphasises interactive discussion formats where individuals contribute ideas without raising hands or talking over each other. Digital whiteboarding and chat let remote team members engage equally.
Having in-room participants join on their laptops is another best practice. The act of logging in makes them more conscious of chat and digital feedback channels. And remote attendees feel more included when seeing colleagues on camera. When I facilitate hybrid meetings for client organisations that I am helping to figure out their flexible work policies, such equalisation makes the biggest impact on the success of the meeting.
Appointing someone as a “remote moderator” is another tactic. This person monitors remote participants for raised hands and makes sure the leader brings remote voices into the conversation.
AI Will Elevate Hybrid Meetings
Looking ahead, Johnny sees AI becoming ubiquitous across business software. While this will radically improve productivity for tasks like document creation, the need for human creativity and collaboration will only grow.
“The creative part of my work, not the grind, will take a much bigger part,” says Johnny. As automation eats repetitive work, purposeful human interaction around innovation and strategy will be increasingly important.
Johnny believes that AI will help leaders have more meaningful interactions during the newly precious time spent together in live meetings. Mundane tasks of scheduling, note taking, and document creation will be automated, freeing energy to have thoughtful discussions.
AI-generated pre-reads can ensure that everyone is fully prepared when joining hybrid meetings. And personalised insights supplied by AI assistants will enable leaders to bring out the best thinking from every individual.
While technology will continue to evolve how we work, human relationships remain central to organisational success. Leaders able to foster togetherness among distributed teams will build thriving companies.
Building inclusive hybrid meetings takes forethought and proactive effort from leaders. But organisations that tap into the full potential of distributed teams will gain an edge. They will outperform competitors still chained to outdated ways of working.
About the Author
Dr. Gleb Tsipursky helps leaders use hybrid work to improve retention and productivity while cutting costs. He serves as the CEO of the boutique future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts. He is the best-selling author of 7 books, including the global best-sellers Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters and The Blindspots Between Us: How to Overcome Unconscious Cognitive Bias and Build Better Relationships. His newest book is Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage. His cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 650 articles and 550 interviews in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, USA Today, CBS News, Fox News, Time, Business Insider, Fortune, and elsewhere. His writing was translated into Chinese, Korean, German, Russian, Polish, Spanish, French, and other languages. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training for Fortune 500 companies from Aflac to Xerox, and over 15 years in academia as a behavioural scientist at UNC-Chapel Hill and Ohio State. A proud Ukrainian American, Dr Gleb lives in Columbus, Ohio.