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Hybrid Meetings

Hybrid meetings have been around for a while. One of the first notable hybrid events was held in 1992 between the University of Helsinki and Williams College and has since been referred to as the first global seminar to use teleconferencing. Since then, and especially after the global COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of hybrid meetings has skyrocketed.

There are numerous benefits to hybrid meetings, provided that they are set up properly and run smoothly. From conference tables to virtual components, there are a handful of factors that determine the success – or failure – of a hybrid meeting. Read on to find out exactly how to set up and run your hybrid meeting to get the most out of the experience for everyone involved.

What Is a Hybrid Meeting?

Hybrid events during the COVID-19 pandemic have essentially solidified the definition of a hybrid meeting as one containing a mix of in-person and virtual participants. For example, a hybrid meeting might include a room full of people on a teleconference call with others joining remotely from different locations. Another example might be two organizations, each fully in person in their respective offices, conducting a virtual meeting with each other over a platform like Zoom or Google Meet.

While these kinds of hybrid meetings between virtual and in-person participants are quite mainstream now, there is a second kind of hybrid meeting that we at SMARTdesks also take into consideration. They are meetings that have a mixture of digital and physical activities. For example, in a classroom setting, there might be instances where students need access to a laptop, and moments where they should simply be paying attention to their instructor. It’s important to have the best equipment possible for these kinds of hybrid meetings as well. While the majority of this article focuses on traditional hybrid meetings, many of SMARTdesks’ solutions are useful for both.

What Are the Benefits of Hybrid Meetings?

There are several benefits of hybrid meetings, especially when compared to traditional, in-person gatherings, including:

   ● Increased efficiency
   ● Improved flexibility and engagement
   ● Recorded meetings
   ● Cost optimization

Increased Efficiency

Hybrid meetings allow participants to make productive use of their time when compared to in-person events. While strictly in-person meetings often require travel time or other advanced preparations, hybrid meetings allow individuals to choose whichever participation option is best for them. Maybe one person lives five minutes from the office and can come in without hassle. For someone who lives an hour away, it might be a better use of their time to join virtually.

An additional time-saving benefit of hybrid meetings is that, since there is still a virtual component, it is easier to end the meeting on-time or even ahead of schedule. Completely in-person meetings have a tendency to lose track of time and run over. With a virtual element, there is a constant clock and once the remote participants hang up, the meeting actually ends when it ends. There is no commute home, and a clearer sense of respect for everyone’s time and boundaries.

Improved Flexibility and Engagement

For reasons similar to the ones we mentioned above, hybrid meetings are a driving force for increasing flexibility and participation for employees across the board. For starters, with a virtual option, employees can take meetings from anywhere. This allows employees to help balance their work-life schedules, leading to improved morale and productivity.

On a separate note, after the COVID-19 pandemic, some employees are eager to get back to in-person interactions, while others are more cautious than ever. Hosting a hybrid meeting is a great way to appeal to folks on either side of that spectrum and ensure maximum engagement.

Recorded Meetings

While you technically don’t need to have a hybrid meeting in order to record it, hybrid meetings provide an organic opportunity to record meetings in real-time. This can be valuable for teams that want to rewatch meeting clips or even share recordings with absentees. It can also be helpful to have meetings recorded to train new employees or even to assess your current practices and efforts.

Cost Optimization

Hybrid meetings can be a cost-effective option for many companies. For starters, you can eliminate travel costs for certain employees from the budget. Beyond that, hybrid meetings could lead to savings on office space and supplies, and even snacks or refreshments.

How Do You Make Hybrid Meetings Better?

Whether you are new to hybrid meetings, or have been using them for some time, there are always ways to improve. Some hybrid event best practices include:
   ● Hybrid meeting room setup – A physical space that is conducive to hybrid meetings
   ● Equipment needed for your hybrid meeting – Laptops, cameras, power, etc.
   ● Hybrid meeting etiquette – Tips for planning, running and organizing a hybrid meeting

How Do You Set Up a Room for a Hybrid Meeting?

At SMARTdesks, we believe the best hybrid meeting setup is the one that’s right for you. There are few things that influence the collaboration and effectiveness of a hybrid meeting more than the conference table and meeting room. That’s why we offer completely custom conference table and meeting room solutions.

For example, if you intend to have virtual participants call in on a TV or screen, it’s important that they can see and hear everyone and vice versa. To that end, triangular conference tables like our Piano line offer a clear head of the table (or point) for the screen and camera so that everyone can easily remain focused and involved throughout the meeting.

If you are looking for a more traditional conference room setup, or have a larger crowd to accommodate, our Piatto line might be the right fit for you. Our products are built as a custom piece on a case-by-case basis, meaning we can create the perfect conference table for your hybrid meeting needs.

On the flip side, if you find yourself as the smaller party in your hybrid meetings, then a smaller more collaborative table might be the right option. Our Vista80 and Boost tables provide the perfect combination of space and features to help ensure your hybrid meetings are a success.

Of course, there is more to room setup than just picking the right conference table. You need to consider seating, spacing, room flexibility, and other components. At SMARTdesks, we don’t just provide products. We offer a consultative approach that can help you transform your meeting room from just another place to the perfect space. In fact, part of our approach is also helping you decide what equipment best suits your room. So to that end, let’s take a look at the best equipment for hybrid meetings.

What Equipment Is Needed for A Hybrid Meeting?

Naturally, hybrid meetings can require a bit more technology and equipment than traditional in-person gatherings. Let’s take a quick look at an example hybrid meeting checklist for equipment needs.
   1. Internet Connection: Without an internet connection, it’s basically impossible to conduct a hybrid meeting. Whether it’s wifi or a wired connection, having a strong and reliable internet is critical to meeting continuity and efficiency.
   2. Laptop Computers: It’s important to have access to your device and your files during a hybrid meeting. While tablets and smartphones have some capabilities, your safest option is to rely on a higher-powered laptop with a bigger screen and battery. Additionally, laptops tend to be more reliable when it comes to running multiple applications and a camera than a tablet or smartphone.
   3. Presentation Remote or Controls: If you intend to feature a presentation during your hybrid meeting, understanding how you plan to control that presentation is paramount. While hitting the arrows on a keyboard is one option, a simple wireless clicker allows the presenter to focus better while still maintaining control.
   4. Speakers and Microphones: One of the most important considerations of hybrid meetings is ensuring everyone can hear and that everyone is heard. This requires ample microphones and speakers through the meeting locations to make sure if some is speaking, it’s getting through to all the other participants.
   5. Cameras: Cameras are an essential piece of hybrid meeting equipment. These days, they are almost taken for granted since most laptops, tablets, and smartphones have them built in. Still, it might make sense for your business to consider investing in higher-quality cameras, depending on your needs.
   6. Cables and Cords: Connectivity is key to any successful meeting, but especially a hybrid gathering. With multiple people and multiple devices, it’s important to have enough outlets, power, and bandwidth to support everyone in a seamless fashion.

While that checklist is fairly thorough, it’s certainly not comprehensive. Still, it might seem overwhelming having to set up all of that equipment. Fortunately, SMARTdesks has an elegant and ingenious solution to these technology challenges – our flipIT® and cable management technology!

Our patented flipIT technology hardware system converts a conventional work surface into a multi-use table. The flipIT mechanism rotates flat screen monitors from the underside of the table into a semi-recessed, optimal viewing position. Screens can quickly be accessed or stowed away depending on the needs of those using the monitors. FlipIT technology can be built into our custom conference tables or retrofitted easily into existing surfaces.

As far as connectivity and cable management, SMARTdesks provide all the access you need without all the clutter. In addition to our flipIT technology providing charging stations for all your devices, our custom conference tables are designed with optimal wire management in mind. We manufacture your conference table featuring full integrated power for all your devices. In addition to your IT professionals, SMARTdesk personnel are trained to help you choose the right connectivity features for your needs. We can also provide our SMARTflor raised-access computer floor tiles which bring access into your space through the floor, while maintaining a clean, clutter-free look.

How Do You Run a Good Hybrid Meeting?

There are lots of ways to run a good hybrid meeting, but a meaningful purpose and agenda serve as the foundation. Of course technology and room set up are key considerations. Plus, you will want to make sure you are using a reliable telecommunications platform. But all of those components refer more to the setup of a meeting, not the actual etiquette or governance of it. So, how do you effectively run a hybrid meeting? A few of the most important factors to consider are inclusion and organization.

How Do You Make Hybrid Meetings Inclusive?

It’s important to make everyone on a team feel heard and seen. One simple way to do that is to literally make sure everyone is seen on camera and heard on a microphone. If someone is experiencing technical issues, it’s best to sort those things out right away so that every participant feels included. This can also involve providing attendees with basic troubleshooting steps ahead of time.

To help increase inclusivity, it might be beneficial to start meetings with some kind of icebreaker activity or even small talk to help participants feel comfortable. Examples include activities like this-or-that questions or sharing recent wins.

It’s also important to create an equitable experience for all participants. Oftentimes hybrid meetings can cater to the needs of one set of participants, but fall short on the needs of the other. It’s critical to give appropriate attention and priority to the needs of both in-person and remote participants.

How Do You Organize a Hybrid Meeting?

Organizing a hybrid meeting really comes down to a few things. First, it’s important to plan the meeting with intention. Understand the purpose of the meeting as well as its goals and then run it to intentionally address these points. Similarly, clear meeting guidelines go a long way in keeping hybrid meetings organized and running smoothly. If etiquette and expectations are spelled out, it can help create a sense of equality, focus, and collaboration. A third helpful organizational tip for hybrid meetings is to designate one person as the facilitator. This will help ensure the meeting moves along smoothly and will also ensure folks come to the meeting prepared to fulfill their responsibilities and contributions.

SMARTdesks: Providing Smart Hybrid Meeting Solutions

When you’ve been in business for as long as we at SMARTdesks have (several decades), your products speak for themselves. Our innovative smart conference room solutions are the industry standard – and for good reason. They combine custom quality craftsmanship with cutting-edge practical technology integrations, all of which leads to a seamless and futureproof user experience. To learn more about our products, solutions, and services, contact us today.