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Make Hybrid Meetings Work Better Using Microsoft Teams

Make Hybrid Meetings Work Better Using Microsoft Teams

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With hybrid working commonplace, hybrid meetings – with some attendees remote and others together, usually in an office location – are becoming a daily occurrence.

Send out your next hybrid meeting invitation you might just hear the rumble of dismayed employees bracing themselves for another awkward session of missed points, loudly repeated questions, and numerous pauses while you wait for the attendee’s WIFI to reboot.

But hybrid never has to be awkward, here are just a few tips to make your meetings efficient and friction-free with Teams.

Meetings with remote attendees are no longer just a symptom of the pandemic. With the welcome widespread adoption of hybrid working, we now frequently find ourselves in meetings, workshops, and presentations where some colleagues are together in an office setting. and others are ‘dialling in’ from remote locations.

Traditional rules don’t apply for these new style collaborations and the right tools need to be in place for hybrid meetings to be an effective and productive use of people’s time..

1. Be prepared

Before we even start to look to Teams for solutions to improving our hybrid meetings, we need to start with how we show up.

Whether attending remotely or in person each attendee needs to:

  • Give the meeting the same level of attention,
  • afford fellow attendees respect, and
  • focus the subject at hand

If this is already a challenge in your business then you need to address that, first and foremost, before you even start to think about technology and tools.

There’s no reason for anyone to come to a meeting without the agenda or relevant documents. Microsoft Viva promotes to attendees what it believes is the most relevant content for your meeting, so – whether you’re attending virtually or in person – you can ‘walk in’ feeling completely prepared.

2. Creating a consistent experience

Every meeting needs to have a chairperson, which is usually the host or the individual who has called the meeting.

This role of the chair is to:

  • guide the all-important agenda,
  • moderated the discussion,
  • ensured the debate is balanced, and
  • keep the meeting to time.

In a hybrid meeting, this role becomes even more vital. Unfortunately, hybrid meetings can create an inequity or disconnect between those who are able to participate face-to-face and those who are logging in.

Although those accessing remotely can hear and participate in the meeting discussion, they can be at a disadvantage because they cannot connect with the in-person attendees in the same way. This is where we need to change the meeting experience as much as possible to redress the balance.

Using Teams functions, the chair (or host) can help.

In large meetings, rather than overtalking to ‘jump in’ with a point, remote attendees can use Teams functions such as chat or hand raising to raise questions or add to a discussion.

The host should:

  • champion the basic rules and etiquette standards as set by your organisation,
  • ensure the agenda is shared in plenty of time with all attendees,
  • set up the relevant breakout rooms,
  • moderate the chat box, or assign someone to do this,
  • watch out for the mood of all attendees, in person and remote,
  • take responsibility for guarding against ‘presence disparity’, by making sure that remote attendees have a chance to speak,
  • make sure everyone has a consistent experience

If those in person follow a similar etiquette, the host can ensure that attendees are called on in turn and everyone has a chance to be heard.

3. Establish basic rules

Every business is different, so it is worth having a general set of rules or guidelines for hybrid meetings to promote an equality of experience between in-person and remote attendees.

You may decide, for example, that all virtual attendees must have their cameras switched on or you may decide that all virtual attendees should be on mute unless they are speaking, to stop disturbances from environmental sounds.

However you agree to run your meetings, Teams and the Microsoft 365 platform has features to make it easier to set the standard. Employees can:

  • use Microsoft Outlook RSVP feature to reply specifying whether they’ll be attending in-person remotely.
  • use Working Hours to put work-schedule details in their calendars to let organisers know when and where they’ll be working.
  • share organisational meeting guidelines using Chat within the Teams meeting,
  • establish all default settings in advance through Teams, including auto mute, camera on, and set backgrounds in Teams, including corporate branded images.

4. Start Collaborating

Often meetings are called to fuel creativity and generate ideas.

In Teams meetings you can deploy Whiteboard which is integrated for creative collaboration and, in a hybrid meeting, will be displayed to the in-person attendees on the attendee screen. As this can ‘push’ virtual attendees out of view, consider getting a second screen for your TeamsWwhiteboard sessions to maintain that all-important equality.

Collaboration doesn’t have to stop there.

If you want to bring people outside of your organisation into a Teams meeting, simply schedule the session in Teams or Outlook and include the full email address of your external guests.

5. Share the experience

Virtual attendees can have an advantage when it comes to sharing content within a meeting as, with just a click, they can share their screen or start working in collaboration with other virtual attendees. And, if an attendee can’t make a Teams run meeting – either in person or remotely, you can share a recording or transcript of the meeting itself when it’s wrapped up. They can catch up by watching the recording or search the transcript and jump to the relevant part of the session.

6. Multichannel meetings

If you are using Chat in your Teams meeting to run parallel or complementary discussion, consider how the in-person attendees will be accessing it.

To participate individually they will each need to be logged on, so – if you are using an in-room camera and video conference facilities – you might ask all in-person attendees to attend on  their laptops with cameras off so they can run chat, and view and participate with whiteboard and document sharing.

You can access and continue Chat conversations after the meeting. Simply find the chat with the same title as the meeting in the chat list.

Equally, consider what attendees using mobile will be able to see and do as their experience will, again, be different and you are looking to create equality where you can. It might be worth considering that whiteboard-centric hybrid meetings with several in-person and remote attendees are not ideal to join on mobile. Maybe these hybrid meetings can use Teams breakout rooms to create smaller closed groups for brainstorming and creative thinking.

7. Teams Rooms Technology

Microsoft hardware and software solutions combine in Teams Rooms to make sure everyone can be seen and heard by using a simple set of equipment.

This includes:

  • a content camera to share the Teams whiteboard experience between virtual and in-room attendees,
  • a wide angled person camera to ensure everyone in the room can be seen at once, and
  • an intelligent speaker so everyone knows who said what.

For larger meetings, Teams Rooms uses:

  • a remote tracking camera to zoom in on in-room participants who are talking,
  • more sophisticated microphones to pick up chat from every corner to relay to remote participants, and
  • speakers set under the large participants screen to project their voices from their ‘location’ in the room.

8. Finally, ask yourself, does it really need to be hybrid?

Sometimes you know that the subject matter for review or the mix of attendees is going to be too challenging for a hybrid meeting to work. Before setting a meeting remember that there is always the option to run it as all-virtual. This can work when the audience is large, from a broad range of locations, or not in the same place.

Dare we say it, sometimes everyone meeting in person is best. Nothing yet can equal the human experience, the genuine connection you get when sitting down face-to-face. When you want to get the creative juices flowing, where you need to bring energy into a room and get people inspired and working together, sometimes you just can beat an old-fashioned real-life meeting.

Find out how else Microsoft Teams can help make hybrid working better

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