Making the best of hybrid meetings
Article by Bryan Lee, Head of B2B, Southeast Asia, Logitech
The virtual meeting experience has been getting a bad rep these days. ‘Time-consuming,’ ‘poor sound and audio,” “poor visuals,” “unproductive,”, and ‘this could have been an email’ – these are some of the feedback we’ve heard about virtual meetings.
There’s no way around it – at work, we simply can’t escape meetings. In today’s age where the majority of meetings happen virtually, it is critical for organizations to fix this problem.
To gain a better understanding of the challenges in a changing workplace, we conducted a meeting equity survey where we polled over 1,000 white-collar workers in Singapore. The goal was to examine the state of current working arrangements, understand the impact of hybrid work on meetings, and get a sense of the challenges business leaders and employees face in this new way of working.
Not surprisingly, respondents – which involve a mixture of remote and in-person participants -highlighted technical issues as the most significant challenge with hybrid meetings. Among the top concerns, connectivity issues ranked at 56%, with poor audio quality coming in at a close 53%. Some 34% of respondents also shared that poor video quality was a problem encountered during hybrid meetings.
Navigating an uneven playing field
Even more telling, hybrid meetings have created new stressors between physical and virtual participants seemingly creating an unequal playing field among employees and colleagues. Not being present and the inability to see or hear everyone clearly caused the virtual respondents to feel excluded and feel as if their inputs were valued less. Additional insights from the survey also found:
- 54% of virtual respondents felt they had fewer opportunities to build rapport among meeting participants in a virtual meeting;
- 39% of the total respondents agreed that their input would be valued more if they were attending the meeting physically rather than virtually;
- Over a third (38%) of those surveyed felt less included compared with in-person meeting participants;
- 29% of the polled respondents felt unhappy about getting talked over by other meeting participants during meetings and 26% of them also found difficulty in contributing to discussions.
- More than half (60%) of respondents agreed that hybrid meetings would be more productive if all participants had an equal chance to speak and contribute.
Clearly, there are gaps in the meeting equity equation that needs to be filled. Technology will be key to reducing friction and bridging the distance. This bears out in the survey findings which surfaced the critical role of video conferencing technology in solving the meeting equity problem. Over six in 10 respondents (61%) agreed that hybrid meetings are more engaging when video conferencing systems with high-quality audio and video output are used.
On the social front, business leaders and managers will need new skills and establish proper meeting protocols and etiquette to facilitate smoother and more productive hybrid meetings.
3 steps to more inclusive hybrid meetings
According to the survey, respondents cited the top areas of improvement for hybrid meetings to be: Resolving technical issues; Improving the clarity of speakers in the physical meeting room; and Enabling the ability to see what’s happening in the physical meeting room.
To address these pain points, we’ve identified and shortlisted three key strategies that businesses can focus on to ensure positive meeting experiences:
Step 1: Equip
Technology can be your friend. Provide your teams with enterprise-level equipment such as in-room video conferencing systems, webcams, microphones, and earbuds. This enables your business to build a consistent, reliable experience that is natively integrated with your ecosystem of choice.
Make the most of video. Video conferencing systems can provide remote participants with a full view of everyone in the office meeting room through multiple cameras with different perspectives. This places them in the best seat in the room and helps them feel more included, leading to more engaging, collaborative meetings.
Step 2: Simplify
Ensure your technology is agnostic. Having the right equipment is only half the solution. With employees constantly switching between in-office and home work environments, there is a need to create an easy employee experience. Ensuring that the home office closely resembles their in-office set-up will also emerge as a top priority for organizations. The best kind of technology makes video conferencing meetings simple and intuitive to use.
Step 3: Empower
Keep teams connected and engaged. Fostering meeting equity requires facilitators and organizers to take an active approach to empower and encourage engagement from virtual participants. They have to practice active facilitation, minimize visual and audio clutter and cut down the side chatter.
Leveling up: What this means
With the right tools and strategies, hybrid meetings can be just as good, or better than the ‘all in office’ meeting.
What businesses have to realize is that hybrid work—and hybrid meetings—are here to stay. The increased frequency of hybrid meetings will come with a host of new challenges and considerations for organizations. Now more than ever, there is a strong impetus for business leaders to get hybrid meetings right.
Then, and only then, can everyone—whether dialing in remotely or in-person—enter into the spirit of co-creating towards more equitable and productive meetings, ultimately contributing to the business bottom line.