The way to improve hybrid meetings is to not have them at all.
I know it sounds like stupid advice, but bear with me. Hybrid meetings don't work, and you always have a better alternative.
Good, good, bad
There are 3 meeting types: in-person, virtual, and hybrid.
In-person meetings are great. Conversations flow, and you can discuss many topics at once. It's a great place to get to know people.
Virtual meetings are also great. They are focused, and it's easy to keep discussions on track. People are more thoughtful before they speak.
Mix the two, and you get a hybrid meeting—some join from a meeting room, and some join from their computer—but unfortunately, it's a bad cocktail.
There are numerous problems with hybrid meetings:
- Communication is faster in the meeting rooms. Those online can't keep up so they get fewer chances to speak.
- The audience is split. The presenter can't simultaneously look at those in the room and those online. The focus usually ends up going to the room.
- It's difficult to utilize the advantages of in-person and virtual meetings; nobody online can read scribbles on a whiteboard; nobody in the meeting room participates in the chat. You get the lesser of the two meeting types.
Hybrid meetings are a bad compromise, because participants aren't on equal terms. It's like having an in-person meeting where one half gets a megaphone while the other half gets a bucket over their head—not very inclusive.
The $219,795 solution that doesn't work
Can money solve the problem? Let's improve the connection by installing a Cisco TelePresence IX5000—a $219,795 monstrosity with two 60 fps 4K UHD cameras, three 70-inch 1080p displays, and 18 microphones.
It blows the online participant up to life-size avatars so crisp that you can count their wrinkles and almost smell their breath.
But it's disappointing. I've tried top-shelf equipment like this, and once the amazement over the tech has settled, what's left is a meeting experience that isn't great.
The equipment doesn't solve the fundamental problems with hybrid meetings: communication happens in different lanes, you can't look at everyone at once, and people are still connected to the meeting in different ways.
Most conference equipment is cheaper, but—even if your company has this kind of money—there is a better alternative to hybrid meetings, and it's free.
The $0 solution that works
The solution is to drop hybrid meetings. What should you do instead?
Unless you can get all participants into the same room for an in-person meeting, you should do a fully virtual meeting.
In a virtual meeting, you communicate on the same terms, make eye contact with everyone at once, and can utilize the chat, pools, share links etc.
When you are in an office, however, it feels strange not to settle into the familiarity of the meeting room. But, resist the temptation. Stay at your desk or use a phone booth to join individually.
It gives an equal meeting experience which is ultimately better, nomatter if you are 3, 30, or 300 people.
Meetings should be all online or all in-person, never hybrid.