How to run a hybrid all-hands meeting
Bridging the gap between in-person and remote collegues in distributed teams
All-hands meetings have always been a challenge – finding the time and space for an entire company to come together is difficult. Well, except for fully remote teams, for whom the logistical challenges start and end at creating and clicking a Zoom meeting link.
Today, a lot of us find ourselves working in a hybrid capacity, with some people connecting remotely while others attend in person. Whether it's due to safety considerations or more liberal attendance policies, it can make it more challenging to run all-hands meetings, which now have to reach two separate audiences – the physical and the virtual.
It falls on technology to bridge the gap.
In this piece, we'll take a look at what hybrid all-hands meetings are, what equipment you need to run a successful hybrid meeting, and share some practical tips to help you make your event a success.
What is a hybrid all-hands meeting?
A hybrid all-hands meeting is a meeting that brings together an entire organization, with some of the participants joining in person and others remotely.
Just like for standard all-hands meetings, its purpose is to inform employees about company news, share team successes, and foster a sense of community. Typically, you'll have the management say some words, team leads present their victories, and a company-wide Q&A session, among other activities.
Hybrid all-hands meetings differ from other types of all-hands meetings purely in terms of technical setup. In a remote all-hands meeting, everyone simply uses their laptop. In an in-person one, the most you'll need is a microphone and a speaker system.
In a hybrid one, however, you'll need laptops for the remote participants, microphones and sound systems for the in-person presenters, as well as cameras, projectors, and audience microphones to connect the virtual and physical attendees and ensure they can fully participate in the meeting.
Now, let's dive into details.
Technology for hybrid all-hands meetings
When it comes to technology, there are two categories you need to consider – audio and video. In other words, you need to make sure everyone can hear the speakers and see the stage.
The specifics of your setup will depend on many factors such as the number of in-person attendees, what tech you already have available, how much space you have, whether social distancing needs to be observed, and more. But the basic underlying elements will be the same across all hybrid all-hands meeting setups.
Audio for hybrid all-hands meetings
For your audio setup, you need three things: a presenter microphone, an audience microphone, and a speaker system.
It's worth investing in a presenter mic so that your remote audience can clearly hear everything that's said and not miss a thing. While you could try to make do with a laptop microphone and request all speakers to present sitting at the computer, it's a restrictive setup that is inconvenient for the speakers and not very engaging for the in-person audience.
With a good-quality presenter mic, the speakers will be able to move freely, address the in-person audience directly, and be heard by the remote team.
You'll also need some type of audience microphone to ensure that the in-person audience can be heard by those joining virtually. This is essential if you're planning any audience engagement in the form of Q&As or other types of participation.
If you're on a tight budget, the speaker can simply pass around their mic. But having a secondary mic for the audience will make things much smoother and faster.
That's where Catchbox Plus comes into play.
Catchbox Plus is a wireless microphone system with two microphones – one is a wireless hands-free presenter mic and the other is a wireless audience mic encased in a soft material that allows people to throw, catch, and drop it without damaging the microphone or themselves. We purposefully designed it for audience engagement at these types of events – it's the fastest way to pass a microphone to someone else and it's also tons of fun. If you're looking for a simple plug-and-play solution to your audio troubles, look no further.
As to the third and final element of your audio setup—the speaker system—most systems will do. The primary function of this system is to ensure that the in-person participants can hear what the remote ones are saying, with their voices broadcast across the event hall. The speaker system can also be used to amplify the presenter's voice, but that's not as important unless you're expecting a huge in-person audience.
Video equipment for all-hands meetings
With the audio sorted, let's move on to the video side of it. For video, you'll need two things: a camera and either a projector + screen or a large display. The camera is used to capture the stage in good enough quality for remote viewing. Whereas the projector will ensure that in-person attendees can see the presentations.
These are the two basic elements that will be enough for a good hybrid all-hands meeting setup. But when it comes to video, there are several further upgrades you can make, depending on your budget and needs. For example, you can add another screen or display in the event hall for the sole purpose of showing the remote attendees.
You can also add an audience camera so that the virtual attendees can see their on-site colleagues.
These extra elements can help the entire team feel more united, which is one of the goals of all-hands meetings. However, they increase the complexity of the setup, they're costly, and they make technical issues more likely.
If all-hands meetings are a regular and important occurrence in your company, then it certainly makes sense to invest in such extras. But for most of us, a simple camera + projector setup will do the job.
3 things to keep in mind for a successful hybrid all-hands meeting
Some people enjoy coming together with colleagues and hearing about where the company is heading. Others wholeheartedly detest all-hands meetings and would rather spend their time working instead of listening to a lengthy monologue by the CEO.
You can't please everyone. But everyone will appreciate a well-organized meeting, where you know what's going on, you don't have to idly wait on technical issues, and where an effort is made to engage employees rather than just lecture them.
1. Have a host
A moderator is key for guiding all-hands meetings and will help avoid awkward transitions punctuated by even more awkward silences. A good host can help introduce structure into the event and make it run smoothly and on time, instead of just having everyone fumble around trying to determine who's next to go on stage. Having a moderator will make the entire event feel more cohesive.
2. Designate a technical support specialist
With the entire company in attendance, technical issues are not only annoying, but they're also costly. If you have a 60 person team, every minute of delay adds up to an hour unbilled.
But this is not to say that the frustration caused by delays is any less important. There's nothing more irritating than watching someone struggle to set up a presentation or try to restart a microphone that suddenly cut out, knowing that each minute delayed eats into your lunch break.
For these reasons, having a dedicated someone ready to tackle any technical issues that pop up will benefit everyone and help keep frustration to a minimum.
3. Break it up with breaks and activities
All-hands meetings tend to get quite long. The meeting's in-person attendees haven't got much of a choice but to sit and listen, whereas the remote listeners might drift off and start working on some tasks in the background if you lose their attention.
To keep your audience engaged, keep presentations short and sprinkle some activities or breaks throughout. Get the team involved by doing a Q&A session in between presentations and get people moving by throwing a Catchbox around, or do ongoing opinion polls using interactive tools like Slido to keep people on their toes. And everybody will appreciate a half-time break to stretch their legs and recharge their batteries.
Hybrid all-hands meetings are challenging to set up, but, with the right tools and techniques, it's possible to create a fantastic event that will bring your entire hybrid team together in one place – a rarity for distributed teams.
Once you have the equipment sorted and set up, the rest is easy – it's just another all-hands meeting. Just remember to have some technical support nearby in case anything goes wrong.
Catchbox for hybrid collaboration
“If your company does something like all-hands or town hall meetings, I would recommend going for the Catchbox Plus with the Presenter Mic. We keep the presenter mic at the front of the room and pass the Catchbox between the audience.”
Quick, effective voice transition is a simple thing but it makes such a difference. We always try to keep online participants in mind and with Catchbox, there’s no delays or wait times and the audio quality is always excellent. As a result, our remote guys always feel fully involved in the meetings.
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Create better collaboration spaces and improve your hybrid meetings with Catchbox. If you would like to learn more about how Catchbox could help your organization adapt to the new normal, speak to our sales team today.