Hosting a staff meeting across mediums can sound daunting. Framing your meetings as a part of your culture can help everyone stay on the same page.
We’re about to live in a world where there may be two audiences for every team meeting—one face-to-face and another in their living rooms. And people running these are going to have to figure out a way to work with both audiences at the same time.
Is it possible? Organizational culture expert Janelle King, who leads the consulting firm Excel Leadership, says it can be an adjustment to balance multiple groups of people in different settings, but it can be done—as long as you’re willing to do some work at a higher level, not just within the meeting itself.
Here are a few ideas on how to make it happen:
Set an agenda ahead of time. When a meeting has a mixture of people in different settings, things can get out of hand without an agenda. She recommends sharing an agenda in advance so team members can consider discussion points ahead of time. This can help keep meetings concise and help all stakeholders keep the meeting’s purpose in mind.
Communicate the mission of the meeting. The agenda shares what’s going to happen. But the meeting’s mission should also be made clear and tied to the organization’s broader goals. “I think it’s important to make sure that the purpose and the mission is still being communicated within that remote environment so people can still feel connected to something that’s bigger than them, which can be lost when there’s a lot of things going on,” King says.
Make sure your tools work in multiple contexts. In a fully in-person meeting, collaboration might involve a whiteboard and a bunch of markers. With a split environment, it becomes important to find tools that can allow people to work in multiple contexts, King says. One she suggests is Miro, a digital whiteboarding tool to help organize notes, comments, and ideas. These tools also help make room for people who may be uncomfortable appearing on screen. “I think that’s a great way to make sure that everybody feels that they can be heard. Sometimes people don’t necessarily feel like coming on camera,” she says.
Be flexible with your meetings—including their purpose. As anyone who has finished a project in a coffee shop knows, we were already heading toward a flexible environment before the pandemic. But flexibility in meetings isn’t just about a flexible environment; it’s about being flexible on what a meeting represents, and about finding other ways to accomplish the same goal. If one overarching goal of your association’s meetings has traditionally been to provide an avenue for communication, you can keep that goal—but you may want to consider developing alternative routes to it, such as creating multiple touchpoints so that the meeting isn’t the only interaction of the week. “It’s just really important to create a culture where everybody feels valued and engaged, even if they are in a remote setting,” King adds.
Focus on inclusion. Organizations need to think hard about how to include all players, King says, to ensure that everyone feels like they have ways to share their input. “I think it’s super important that, whether it’s in the meeting, whether it’s in other interactions, that leaders do their part to make sure that they’re communicating and reinforcing that everyone matters,” she says. To start, King recommends making sure people are first being heard on their own terms—so that eventually everyone feels comfortable communicating at scale. “I think by establishing that human connection and just looking for places where everybody can relate, that’s going to be important for creating that atmosphere where people feel like they can be able to fully show up and bring themselves and feel included at work,” she says.