How can my organisation run effective and inclusive hybrid meetings?
Microsoft has produced an excellent guide for running hybrid meetings, which a number of local authorities have referenced. The key message is to design meetings that are as good an experience for remote participants as for those who are in the physical meeting room. Microsoft proposes a number of steps for remote meetings, including:
- Prioritise when to have hybrid meetings
Sometimes the advantages of hybrid meetings outweigh the disadvantages for remote participants – but not always. If meeting participants are spread across multiple sites, consider ‘all online’ meetings (where everyone attends remotely). This approach is practised by some teams in the Greater London Authority (GLA).
- Consider the number and role of remote participants
Fewer participants means fewer people left out but, equally, those left out are disproportionately excluded. If the person left out is a new recruit, going for an ‘all online’ meeting may be better for the power balance.
- Prepare properly for the meeting
Ensure you are in the room ready to set up by the time the meeting starts or schedule the meeting to start five minutes after the hour or half-hour to give you time to set up. Ensure you have checked that any technology works properly.
- Model good behaviour
If you are a leader, model good meeting behaviour. This is particularly important when it comes to inclusive behaviours (e.g. describing what you are sharing on a screen if someone with low vision is in the meeting).
- Use a code of conduct
Microsoft uses the CHARMS mnemonic:
- Chat – how should we be using chat?
- Hand raising – should we raise our hands or just jump in?
- Agenda – what is the defined agenda for the meeting?
- Recording – have we agreed to record the meeting?
- Moderator – will someone act as a moderator?
- Support – how are we supporting one another (technically and personally)?
- Orient remote participants to the room
Give remote participants a virtual tour of the meeting room at the start of the meeting. That way, they know how they will be seen and heard by those in the room.
- Manage how people take turns
Using the ‘hand raise’ tool is useful but also consider inviting remote participants to speak first and ask them to be explicit when they have reached the end of a thought or comment. Wait longer for responses than you would in person.
- Close the meeting
Announce when the meeting has ended and make sure that everyone knows where meeting notes and a recording will be saved.
In addition to this guidance from Microsoft, you might find the following tips useful:
- Share what materials you can in advance of the meeting so that participants can review them in their own time. Not everyone finds it easy to manage documents during hybrid meetings (e.g. dual monitors/screens, the ability to read and digest new information rapidly) so giving people the chance to see materials in advance is very useful.
- Have a moderator or facilitator who guides the meeting and who has an explicit responsibility to manage the dynamics of the split room. This includes ensuring that those in the meeting room do not end up dominating the meeting, purposefully calling on remote participants to speak, keeping track of who is speaking more/less and preventing bad behaviours (e.g. private conversations).
- Consider the security and privacy implications of employees who have data about vulnerable citizens. As recommended by Enfield Council, they should check what is in the background on their video and, if necessary, use background filters to obscure private data that may be harmful if leaked.
- Ensure hybrid meetings are inclusive. As discussed in LOTI’s guide to creating a more inclusive workplace, virtual meetings have the potential to exacerbate or redress inequalities, depending on the steps taken by organisations to run them well. Ideally, virtual meetings might empower those who might find it harder to contribute in face-to-face meetings. You can find more advice in LOTI’s guide for running inclusive virtual meetings.