Large-scale in-person events returned in force in November with COP26, which drew up to 25,000 visitors from around the world to Glasgow, Scotland. But many wonder if the likes of Sir David Attenborough and Barack Obama under one roof were really necessary. Here, Ginelle Bell, UK Country Manager at Cloud Phone System Provider Ringover, explains how to hack hybrid meetings for productive collaboration.
About the Author
Ginelle Bell is Ringover’s UK country manager.
The idea of being responsible for having an organized and successful call between the two virtual participants and the participants in person is enough to send everyone shivers. Ensuring productivity in face-to-face meetings can be difficult enough, fully online ones can be even trickier, but mixing the two? Sounds like the recipe for disaster.
But hybrid meetings don’t have to descend into chaos, and, if a mixture of distance and in-person is to become the norm, it’s important that they don’t.
Mix things up
The world of work has grown accustomed to communicating virtually to keep operations running smoothly throughout the pandemic. Days filled with video calls and hours spent in front of a screen have become standard practice. The UK’s largest broadband provider, Openreach, said the country’s broadband usage more than doubled in 2020, from around 22,000 petabytes (PB) to 50,000 PB.
But as face-to-face interactions return to the agendas of many businesses, it’s important to prepare for the legacy of remote working: the hybrid. According to the Office for National Statistics, 85 percent of the UK workforce want a hybrid approach to the future of work.
Hybrid work is full of benefits for employees – providing a better work-life balance, eliminating the time and costs involved in daily commuting, and improving the productivity of daily work. However, for businesses, managing hybrid meetings that emulate an in-person experience for all who join is crucial.
If hybrid working is here to stay, companies need to hack this new working practice. Clear and open remote lines of communication are essential for productive work, but they are also of great concern to employees. Data collected in 2021 revealed that collaboration and communication is the biggest challenge for remote workers, as stated by 36% of survey respondents.
Opting for a communication tool that allows employees to connect from a range of device modes, from computers and smartphones to laptops and tablets, gives employees the greatest possible degree of flexibility when joining. to video calls to select a device that suits their location for a comfortable internet calling experience. Consider using a tool that makes joining a meeting nearly as easy as possible for attendees. Downloading and installing software and creating an account can create a host of issues, especially if they’re not a regular attendee. So, selecting video conferencing software that allows people to join a call with one click eliminates some of the hybrid headaches.
Additionally, ensuring that the communications software has screen sharing capability is crucial to include all hybrid participants. Using a single software program to project the slides in the participant’s room in person and simultaneously share the same screen with remote employees can be helpful. This ensures that there is no delay in viewing the slides by remote workers, which could prevent participation in calls and the expression of their opinions.
The best of both worlds
In addition to ensuring a synchronous visual experience for all participants in hybrid meetings, hybrid hosts must also take advantage of the technology’s interactive tools. Statistics show that 67% of remote workers cite being interrupted as their biggest concern during hybrid meetings. But using technology the right way can prevent chaotic calls.
Allowing everyone in the meeting to speak without interruption is essential for seamless collaboration and ensuring that everyone can express their views. If everyone joins the call virtually, even in person, meeting hosts can take advantage of interactive tools to ensure that all participants can have their voices heard. For example, a “raise your hand” button allows meeting planners to vote and get general feedback on topics without risking multiple people trying to speak at the same time. If a meeting has dozens or even hundreds of attendees, hosts should consider using the functionality of breakout rooms to enable small group collaboration. The same principle could then be applied to the participants in person, and each team could report back on their discussions without risking any ideas getting lost in the crowd.
So, could the organizers have made COP26 a hybrid event? May be. While perceptions of distance communication have undoubtedly improved since the onset of the pandemic, some concerns remain about the lack of collective sense when compared to face-to-face meetings.
But hybrid doesn’t necessarily mean fragmented and disorganized conversations and dull, unproductive meetings. Leveraging technological advances that benefit remote workers by effectively using video software tools will help keep hybrid meetings organized, productive, and accessible to everyone.