As many of us head back to the office, our companies are dealing with a workforce split between the home and HQ. Implementing a hybrid work model requires adapting our meetings to support team members who work in the office as well as from home. This article will walk you through what a hybrid Zoom meeting is, how to set one up for success, tips for making them as productive as possible, and more. Let’s start by defining our terms.
What is a hybrid meeting?
A hybrid meeting includes both virtual and in-person attendees (and/or presenters). Bucom likens it to a late night talk show — you’ve got the live studio audience and the people watching from home.
As awesome as that analogy is, it’s not perfect. Meetings, in general, aren’t monologues. Information must flow to and from all sides. And as a result, your technology needs to promote an interactive environment to ensure that everyone can participate.
How to facilitate a hybrid meeting with Zoom
Zoom is the video conferencing industry’s top dog. But does Zoom support hybrid meetings? Yes! However, if you look at Zoom’s website, you might be confused by their array of solutions/products.
Zoom Rooms is a fantastic solution for meetings that must include virtual and in-person attendees.
Zoom’s core product, Zoom Meetings, is what we typically think about when we think of Zoom. It’s the software that you likely have on your computer now — the one that lets you create your own meetings and invite participants.
Zoom Rooms is a more comprehensive solution for hybrid teams. It combines Zoom Meetings (the software) with the physical equipment that will exist in the on-premise conference room (the hardware). These components merge to create a collaborative meeting environment, which feels like being in the same room together.
Pros and cons of Zoom hybrid meetings
Let’s talk about the benefits of hybrid meetings as well as some potential downsides to watch out for. Then in the next section we’ll discuss how to help ensure your hybrid meetings are smooth and productive.
- Support a flexible work environment
The flexibility of remote work isn’t just great for productivity, but also employee satisfaction — and thus employee retention.
- Widen your reach with guest speakers.
If you’d like to start incorporating guest speakers into your meetings, hybrid meetings really do widen your net. A busy guest speaker may find it easier to attend remotely.
- Take advantage of features that make virtual collaboration easy.
Zoom Rooms equips teams with HD audio and video, the ability to screen share either wirelessly or via HDMI (makes sharing your PowerPoint easy!), unlimited signage, enhanced voice commands for on-premise conference rooms, breakout rooms, and the option for whiteboard solutions.
- Choose your tech carefully
Without the proper technology in place, you risk glitchy audio, poor connection, and an overall poor meeting experience. Luckily Zoom Rooms offers all the equipment you need. Regardless of what hybrid meeting solution you go with, it’s always a good idea to have a dry run before you get started.
- Ensure all meeting attendees feel equally included
It can be difficult to establish a level playing field between in-person and remote attendees. Leaders may find themselves speaking more directly toward those physically in the room which can make virtual attendees feel alienated and forgotten. This not only decreases morale, but is also distracting. Don’t fret. In the next section we’ll offer best practices to help make your hybrid meetings benefit everyone involved.
Zoom hybrid meeting best practices
Consider everyone’s perspectives
Do both sides have everything they need to fully participate? Can they easily view everyone who’s present (physically and virtually)? For this component, Zoom Rooms has a feature called Smart Gallery, where the camera in the conference room auto-detects the faces of in-person attendees and places each of them into a gallery view — so that meeting participants at home can get a consistent view of all of their colleagues.
Gather honest feedback
Nothing beats direct, firsthand commentary. Don’t guess what your team’s needs are; ask them to be active participants.
Here are some questions you might want to ask:
- How do you feel about our meetings?
- Does our current format work for you?
- Do you feel that our technology fully supports our meetings?
- Do you consider our meetings to be interactive and engaging?
- On a scale from 1-10, how would you rate our meetings from “waste of time” to “worth it”?
Hybrid Zoom meeting equipment
Zoom Rooms requires a few more pieces of equipment to get started than your regular Zoom Meetings. Here’s what you need:
- One for the conference room
- One for each of the remote participants
- At least one for the conference room
- One for each of the remote participants
You can check out Zoom’s recommended hardware for Zoom Rooms here. And don’t forget that in addition to the physical hardware, you’ll also need the software (Zoom Meetings) and Zoom Rooms licenses. In the next section, we’ll cover how to get set up.
Zoom hybrid meeting room setup
Zoom’s website lays out three ways to get started with Zoom Rooms:
- Set it up yourself
- Find a certified Zoom partner to set it up for you
- Add a Zoom Professional Services plan, and have one of their Technical Project Managers oversee the deployment process for you
Hybrid meeting etiquette
Here are five tips to creating a hybrid meeting where everyone feels comfortable and included:
1. Share the agenda well in advance
One of the key elements of staying connected within the parameters of remote work is collaborating on documents and files — and that includes meeting agendas. Distribute them early so that everyone knows what to expect, for an efficient and engaging meeting.
2. Be patient around technical difficulties
Things happen. While there are actions you can take to make your hybrid meetings as technologically smooth as possible (like doing dry-runs, which is especially useful for large-scale hybrid events like a webinar), the occasional hiccup is to be expected. Handle technical difficulties with finesse and a touch of humor. Nothing dampens team spirit like impatience and frustration.
3. Make the mute and unmute buttons your BFFs
If you’ve ever been in a Zoom meeting, you probably already know about these handy little buttons that keep background noise — like kids’ iPads and noisy washing machines — at bay. After almost a year and a half of Zoom-ing, most meeting attendees mute their microphones without prompting. Did you know that hosts and co-hosts also have the power to mute participants? They’re also able to unmute attendees, as long as the attendees have enabled that feature from their end (it’s a privacy law thing).
4. Silence and stow your phones
Though this applies to any meeting, hybrid or not, it’s worth mentioning here! Slip-ups do happen, so it may help to kindly remind your attendees at the beginning of the meeting. Social media, texts, even just the sight of your phone can dramatically decrease focus.
5. Arrive on time. (Hosts, be there early.)
We all know the importance of punctuality, so we’ll keep this one short. Any virtual event like a hybrid meeting may require some extra steps like checking your internet connection and enabling your microphone and camera. So, settle into your chair (with a cup of joe, if you prefer) a few minutes early.
Zoom hybrid meeting checklist
- Set your team up with Zoom Rooms
- Find an ideal time to hold your meeting, one that works for everyone (let Clockwise help with this step)
- Send meeting invitation and confirm attendance
- Create a meeting agenda and distribute it before the meeting — so that attendees can review it in preparation
- Do a dry run to make sure equipment is working properly
- Have your meeting!
- Follow up with attendees
A final note
Zoom is just one of the many amazing solutions out there for keeping your distributed teams connected in real-time. Another comparable solution is Microsoft Teams Rooms. If your team already uses Microsoft 365, you might want to check out Microsoft Teams Rooms, which is included with every 365 license; and there’s also Amazon Chime. Otherwise, we think Zoom is an equally great way to conduct your hybrid meetings.
You don’t have to choose between an in-person meeting and a virtual meeting. And your meetings certainly don’t need to involve hearing disembodied voices on the speaker. You can be face-to-face with all employees, even when you’re not in the same room. Hybrid meetings are the next best thing to being in the workspace as each other. Just let us know when there’s a solution for bringing the glorious pink box of donuts to the people at home!