Meetings

Hybrid Meeting How-To: A Deep Dive Into Planning and Executing a Meeting That is Powerful and Effective

As we explored in our recent post, Changing the Way We Meet with Hybrid Meetings, a hybrid meeting is a meeting where a portion of the participants are on-site in a safe, socially distanced meeting room set while other attendees are connecting online virtually from around the country or world. 

Today, we’re going to explore why hybrid meetings are so important, the types of hybrid meetings to look forward to, and tips for executing a flawless event.

Planning & Executing a Successful Hybrid Meeting

Meeting together is, without a doubt, the most effective way to ensure productivity. Meetings allow teams to plan and align on critical objectives, collaborate on opportunities, and build camaraderie. Hybrid meetings offer an effective way for businesses to capitalize on this productivity and maintain forward momentum with their team and staff by enabling attendees to join regardless of location. This allows organizations to restart and optimize all-important in-person meetings at venues designed and operated to deliver a safe, productive, and energizing conference experience

Through thoughtful meeting design and by taking advantage of modern meeting settings and technology, attendees can have a positive and productive experience, whether they are attending in person or joining virtually.

While the versatility of hybrid meetings allow for breakout sessions and team building activities, it’s important that those joining virtually are not hampered by technological shortcomings and are able to participate fully in all aspects of meeting interaction with the speakers and other attendees. 

Planning and executing a hybrid meeting can be challenging, especially if you don’t have experience putting one together.

Here is what you should know in order to realize the full potential of your next hybrid meeting, with input from our meeting planner friends, Teresa Talley and Shelly Jobst.

TYPES OF HYBRID MEETINGS 

A hybrid meeting may be needed for  a wide range of meeting objectives and requirements, including:

  • A large company’s CEO and executive team broadcasting and taking questions from their operating teams throughout the country. 
  • A national sales conference where most of the attendees are on-site, but an important contingent of speakers and attendees participate in events remotely.  
  • A global corporate development team negotiating an important deal with a team of their client counterparts overseas.
  • A critical, live training session requiring interactive attendee engagement, response, and polling. 
  • A large convention where the general sessions are broadcast to multiple rooms throughout the facility. 

No matter what type of organization you’re a part of, chances are you’ll have the opportunity to be part of a hybrid meeting in some capacity. If you’re tasked with planning a hybrid meeting, continue below for tips and tricks to make it as painless as possible.

planning a hybrid meeting | inn at virginia tech

Executing a Hybrid Meeting

STRATEGIZE

Set goals and expectations

What are your goals for the meeting, big and small? Consider your objectives and set up the agenda accordingly. Expectations should be realistic and clearly communicated with both the venue and attendees.

Create a Budget

Shelly Jobst, Director of Virginia Tech Continuing and Professional Education (CPE) advises this…

“Budget for a hybrid meeting from the very beginning. Deciding to add a virtual component to an in-person meeting will add to the cost, but planning ahead of time can help ensure expenses are covered upfront, providing a less stressful and more successful outcome.”

Consider Key Takeaways

What do you want guests to take away from the event? Maintaining a laser focus on your goals and the anticipated takeaways will tremendously increase your hybrid meeting investment return. 

Keep Attendees Engaged

When strategizing and creating your agenda, keep attendee engagement in mind. Without properly strategizing, attendees are likely to multitask or derail their train of thought, losing engagement in the meeting overall. Teresa Talley from Conference Direct suggests making the meeting interactive.

“Everyone likes to be heard – Do frequent surveys/voting to keep people on topic and engaged.” 

Another way to keep attendees engaged is by sending a “meeting box” with handouts or other materials ahead of time. Teresa Talley shares that you can do this in a fun way. “I recently helped a client where we sent out boxes marked “do not open till 10:00 a.m. on the day of the meeting” to the attendee’s homes a few days beforehand. This really piqued people’s curiosity!”

planning a hybrid meeting | inn at virginia tech

FIND A VENUE

Choosing a venue is about much more than just finding a space that will work for your team. Convertible space, sufficient tech, and trained staff will take your event from marginal to exceptional.

Ample Convertible Meeting Space

Hotels and conference centers with large meeting rooms give space for social distancing plus individual rooms for breakouts or for attendees who prefer to meet privately. Work with your venue to create a detailed diagram of the meeting room set to ensure you’re accommodating distancing guidelines and optimizing the placement of audio-visual equipment.

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Sufficient Tech

In addition to ensuring the venue has an appropriate level of Internet bandwidth, Jobst advises making sure the correct specialized equipment is available.

“It’s important to select a venue that can make virtual attendees feel like they are in the room. Having front and rear-facing cameras as well as ample high-quality microphones are two vital requirements for an interactive hybrid event.”

Trained Staff 

Does the venue staff have experience hosting hybrid meetings? Whether you’re looking for a hands-on orientation or a full-service production management, their expertise is invaluable to a successful meeting and can help with any technical issues that may arise. 

planning a hybrid meeting | inn at virginia tech

PLAN TECHNOLOGY

The bottom line is if your technology falls short, the meeting is done. Leave it to the experts to have the most practical advice of all. 

“Audio and video quality are vital to the success of any hybrid meeting. Adding lapel mics for presenters, utilizing multiple camera angles, and having a production team may be necessary for large events.Utilizing a platform that allows the moderator to mute and disengage video feeds for participants minimizes disruptions and ensures meetings remain focused. Practice with presenters ahead of time to work through any audio/video issues. This will ensure presenters are in an ideal location, and all technology is working correctly PRIOR to the day of the event. Presenters will be more relaxed, and everyone will have a better experience.” advises Shelly Jobst

DOUBLE CHECK TECHNOLOGY – AND CREATE A BACKUP PLAN

Again, this is the critical component to making a hybrid meeting go off without a hitch, so going over your technology plan with your meeting planner, venue staff, and all of your speakers and contributors is vital. 

It’s also a good idea to have a communicated backup plan for clarity and peace of mind because things can happen regardless of how much you’ve planned. Ensure you have a second form of communication planned (possibly email or text), so if attendees need to switch to a different platform, you can easily keep them updated.

planning a hybrid meeting | inn at virginia tech

EDUCATE ON ETIQUETTE

Etiquette. Simple yet, what seems obvious still needs to be said. Putting together a document or checklist to email attendees reminding them of the importance of good manners could help all attendees have a more positive experience. Here are a few tips that could be shared with attendees: 

  • Mute when you’re not speaking to avoid background noise.
  • Pay attention and don’t multitask. 
  • Check your speaker and video before signing in. If you have issues, get them resolved before the meeting starts instead of holding it up. 
  • Get dressed. Come on. Comfort is great for Saturday mornings, but dress for the occasion, even if you’re streaming from home.

Also, lighting matters; just ask Shelly Jobst,

“Meeting participants should connect from a location with good lighting. For example, sitting with your back to a window makes participants appear very dark with a glow around them. Making a simple change by turning around to face the window is an ideal location and may actually have an added bonus of giving a more youthful appearance.” 

However, it’s important to be understanding. Teresa Talley reminds us that even in a closed office, things happen, so if a doorbell sounds, a child runs into the camera’s view, or the Internet connection fails, smile through it and keep the meeting moving forward.

The truth is, even when mandates loosen up and we start meeting together more, there will likely always be a virtual element to meetings. Getting a firm grasp on how to execute a hybrid meeting that inspires, engages, and delivers will keep your company moving forward. 

At The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center, we are well aware of the need for, and challenges faced in, hosting hybrid meetings. That is why we have been preemptive and have increased our technology capabilities and trained our staff, specifically with hybrid meetings in mind. We have a backup plan for your backup plan, and we are here to assist you through the entire process. 

Contact us today to help plan and execute your next hybrid meeting!


Thank you to our contributors.

Shelly Jobst of Virginia Tech Continuing and Professional Education (CPE)

Shelly Jobst serves as the director of Virginia Tech Continuing and Professional Education (CPE), connecting Virginia Tech’s research and academic resources to curious and ambitious learners around the world. With over 15 years of program leadership experience, Jobst oversees an $11 million portfolio of conferences, short courses, workshops, certificate programs, and contract graduate courses.

Teresa Talley, Conference Direct

Having done meetings all over the world, Teresa is a planner people turn to when navigating the in’s and out’s of both live and hybrid meetings. She is a JDRF advocate and enjoys spending time rooting for her favorite SEC teams. Her goal is to someday have chocolate recognized as one of the four food groups. She can be reached at [email protected].com

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