What is a hybrid meeting? It’s a term coined by Commute Zero author Carol to refer to a meeting in which some attendees are face to face in a conference room and others attend remotely, either from home or from an office or from another conference room. Hybrid meetings present some special challenges, not just technical problems (flat-sounding speaker phones) but also cultural issues .
Carol and I once attended remotely a hybrid meeting in which a vendor presented his company’s remote meeting software. He invited attendees to ask questions and discuss as he went along but he only replied to participants in the room. Carol made several insightful comments. Talk in the room paused as she spoke so it was clear that the speaker phone worked. But the presenter continued around her comments as though he hadn’t heard what she had said. He ignored her.
Out of sight, out of mind. It’s not easy for anyone to “see” a remote participant in his mind’s eye as clearly as he sees the people in front of him or to take the same interest in a tinny comment from a speaker phone as he does in someone speaking directly to him. Ironically, in the vendor’s company culture, people who did not make the effort to attend meetings physically were thought to be lazy, so the vendor was not accustomed to according equal respect to remote participants.
Where hybrid meetings are necessary, tips on hybrid meeting etiquette for meeting leaders and participants can help to some extent. Photos of remote participants posted in the meeting room or web cam images on a conference room screen can help people to “see” remote members. In-room “buddies” can assure that remote participants hear and are heard. Remote presentation tools let everyone see the slides and remote whiteboard applications share “chalktalk” drawings.
But why solve the problem the hard way? Unless conference line capacity is limited, invite everyone to attend remotely, whether from across the room or across the world. The issue of visible versus invisible or “us” versus “them” is removed. Everyone can participate on equal terms.
Besides, you don’t have enough conference rooms to go around anyway. (Amazing how I just happen to know that, isn’t it?) Virtual meeting space isn’t as crowded.