When should the meeting begin and end?
In a hybrid environment, the meeting start and end times take on new meaning, especially for employees coming in just for the event. Consider issues like rush hour, school and daycare drop-off and pick-up times, and commuting distance when picking the time. Meetings traditionally start on the hour, but it may make sense to schedule the meeting to begin 10 or 15 minutes later to accommodate employees’ schedules.
In addition, set the meeting end time so employees understand the time commitment — and stick to it to show you value their time. Set a timer if necessary to avoid running over. Schedule a follow-up meeting or email if more discussion is required.
What will be covered in the meeting?
With increased competition for team members’ time, having a clear agenda that explains the meeting’s purpose is paramount, Parks says. Be transparent about the meeting’s purpose, explain how people should prepare and what everyone’s roles and responsibilities are, and make sure everyone understands the desired outcome.
Craig Coffey, executive coach and founder of Way Maker Leadership, says establishing conventions for clear meeting titles can help attendees understand what to expect. “‘Brainstorming’ signals active participation — all ideas are welcomed,” he explains. “‘Debrief’ connotes information sharing. “Workshop connotes learning and development.”
How will people participate in the meeting?
Design in-person meetings around activities that require participation, so they feel fundamentally different from an open discussion that could happen online. Use physical elements, such as whiteboards, sticky notes, or printouts on walls and tables. Offer snacks or bring in lunch, and begin with icebreaker activities to encourage social connections and camaraderie. Whenever possible, give people a chance to move around and interact with their colleagues by breaking into smaller groups for collaboration and coming back together to share their work.
Peter Robert, CEO of Expert Computer Solutions, says it’s important to keep in mind why people prefer remote meetings as you’re designing in-person experiences.
“Aside from the fact that they can be attended from your own dining room table, they’re casual,” he says. “Keep your in-person meetings casual and dispense with as much pomp and circumstance as possible to keep the meeting on track. When a meeting gets into the weeds, it’s a lot easier to forgive when you’re remote and can switch to another tab and work on something more pressing. When you’re stuck in a room, it can feel like an eternity.”
What happens when everyone goes back to their desks?
After any meeting, but particularly after a hybrid meeting where some people may have been in-person and others remote — be sure to email everyone who attended with clear outcomes and next steps, so everyone agrees on how to proceed. Ask attendees for feedback and then apply that feedback to improve the next meeting.
That kind of clear communication can not only prevent confusion, it can help remind people of what they were able to accomplish in-person and leave them looking forward to their next in-person opportunity.