Offering a work-from-home option is no longer negotiable if you want to keep your teams staffed with talented employees. When asked what they would do if they had to return to the office full-time, a recent study from PromoLeaf found that more than half (52%) of remote workers would quit. That\u2019s a jump from a post-pandemic Gartner study, which found that 39% of US adults would leave their job if remote work were no longer permitted.\n\nPeople do miss seeing their coworkers, though. They even miss in-person meetings. And going into the office at least a few days a week makes people (86% of them) feel more secure about their jobs than those that work fully remote.\n\nThe key to keeping your team \u2014 and keeping them engaged \u2014 is hybrid work. It\u2019s the best of both worlds, allowing people to work remotely or go into the office, either on a schedule or as the work demands. And that means you are likely looking at hybrid meetings \u2014 with some people gathering in a conference room while others call in from home \u2014 for the foreseeable future.\n\nThis meeting model is different from all-video calls or all in-person meetings. It raises technical challenges, requires new skills, and demands that someone on the call \u2014 perhaps many people \u2014 develop mad facilitator chops.\n\nTo help you get it right, I spoke to leaders who have mastered the art. They told me what works, what doesn\u2019t, what you need to buy, and how to transform meetings into a productive part of your day.\n\nWhat is a hybrid meeting?\n\n\u201cA hybrid meeting is a modern approach to conducting meetings that blends in-person and virtual elements,\u201d explains Jon Morgan, CEO of Venture Smarter. \u201cIt allows participants to join a meeting from different locations, some in a physical meeting room and others remotely through videoconferencing or other online collaboration tools.\u201d\n\nIn olden times, when the technology handling this was shaky or a mere speaker phone, hybrid meetings were awkward. The remote team often shouted into a room of chatter and were often ignored or forgotten. \u201cHybrid was common before the pandemic,\u201d says Jim Kalbach, chief evangelist at MURAL. \u201cWe just sucked at it.\u201d\n\nBut in the past few years, this model has evolved. It is now easy to bring remote people into a conference room and get excellent meeting engagement. The widespread adoption of hybrid meetings has also brought people from all times zones into gatherings they might once have never been invited to.\n\nWhen done right, it can be more productive \u2014 and less trouble for participants \u2014 than any other kind of meeting. But most hybrid meetings need work.\n\nAccording to a 2023 Gartner report, hybrid meetings are usually significantly less productive than in-person meetings or virtual ones. Yet it predicts that by the year 2025, 65% of workers worldwide will choose to attend meetings this way.\n\n\u201cThe renewed conversation around hybrid is not that it\u2019s new; it\u2019s that we have to get it right this time,\u201d Kalbach says.\n\nWhat do you need for a hybrid meeting?\n\n\u201cIf you\u2019re trying to make sure that engagement is equal across virtual and in-person participants, that starts with technology,\u201d says Ray Kimble, founder and CEO of Kuma, a global privacy and security consulting company.\n\nEveryone \u2014 remote and in the office \u2014 needs a stable, high-speed internet connection for this to be viable. A video conference platform such as Webex, Zoom, or Teams is also essential.\n\nBut don\u2019t skimp on the hardware if you want this to go well. According to Gartner, one reason hybrid meetings are less productive is that workplaces don\u2019t have the right gear, with less than half of employees reporting that their company has a well-equipped conference room for the purpose.\n\n\u201cOne of the key pieces is making sure you have the right setup and that whoever is coordinating the meeting knows who is where,\u201d says Molly Brown, vice president of engineering at Qumulo, a data storage company.\n\nQumulo has built out its conference rooms to create a better hybrid meeting experience. \u201cWe have some rooms that have Zoom Room screens,\u201d says Brown. Other rooms have Owl conference cameras or other video systems.\n\n\u201cClear and immersive audio is paramount,\u201d says Erik Pham, CEO of HealthCanal. \u201cWe invest in quality microphones, speakers, and headphones to eliminate audio disruptions and ensure that all participants can be heard and understood.\u201d\n\nHybrid meeting technology\n\nCollaborative software tools \u2014 running inside your Zoom, Webex, or Teams or by sharing a screen \u2014 can evolve your hybrid meetings from a conversation about work to actual work. These move the focus of the meeting away from the talking heads and toward the task at hand, which, if you hope for collaboration, is the direction you want attention to go. They enable you to share information in the moment, brainstorm, and capture ideas, and eliminate post-meeting housekeeping.\n\n\u201cEmbrace collaboration platforms,\u201d says Maryia Krauchanka, chief research officer at Cloverleaf.me, a coaching automation company. \u201cThese platforms should be intuitive, making it straightforward for team members to contribute, discover, and access shared insights.\u201d\n\nWhen you have the right tools, you can quickly go from agreeing on an idea to collaborating on its execution. Pull up a digital whiteboard to brainstorm ideas. Instead of discussing a design, build it together in a collaborative chart such as Lucidchart. Or work out the details of a project plan by pulling up your work management tool.\n\nBrown says that Qumulo uses digital whiteboard Miro during its hybrid meetings. \u201cIt\u2019s useful for retrospectives, ideation, and brainstorming exercises,\u201d she says. Sometimes, though, holding a piece of paper up to the camera works, too, she says. \u201cWhen we are talking about core designs, some people like to have a piece of paper and a pen handy so they can draw a design.\u201d\n\n\u201cWe\u2019ve explored specialized hybrid meeting software solutions that facilitate equitable participation for both on-site and remote employees,\u201d says HealthCanal\u2019s Pham. \u201cThese platforms offer features like virtual whiteboards, breakout rooms, and attendee engagement analytics.\u201d\n\nInstead of sacrificing an entire human to the task of taking notes, you can have an AI, such as Otter.ai, transcribe the meeting. \u201cThese services automatically transcribe and translate spoken words into text, enhancing accessibility and comprehension for all meeting participants,\u201d says Pham. They will also hunt for action items from the meeting and share the notes with everyone who attended.\n\nHybrid meeting best practices\n\nIn addition to having the right technology in place, the following tips can help make for a more effective meeting experience for all, regardless of whether they are in the office or dialing in remotely.\n\n1. Put everyone on the screen\n\nGood hybrid meetings require people to be good at moderating, facilitating, and participating. For that, you need skills, habits, and meeting hygiene.\n\nFor Mark Schlesinger, senior technology fellow at fintech company Broadridge, the all-video calls that became the default meeting method during the pandemic brought a heightened level of collaboration that his team didn\u2019t want to lose in hybrid meetings.\n\n\u201cSuddenly everyone had a voice,\u201d he says of the Zoom calls. \u201cIt wasn\u2019t always the conference room taking over the conversation.\u201d As the company moved to a hybrid model, \u201cwe needed a solid solution to retain this collaborative nature.\u201d\n\nSchlesinger discovered the solution \u2014 a mashup of video calls and in-person meetings \u2014 when discussing the problem with his in-college daughter. She told him that the rule for classes at her school was, \u201ceven if you\u2019re on-site, everyone has to flip their device up and enable video so everyone can see everyone, including the instructor and remote students, on their screen.\u201d\n\nThis is, essentially, what they are doing at Broadridge, though they use in-room audio for better fidelity. This setup retains everyone\u2019s voice, gives a visual \u2014 and a name and title \u2014 to everyone in the meeting, and \u201cit\u2019s less likely that the conference room talk will overshadow the remote participants,\u201d says Schlesinger.\n\n2. Get help with moderation\n\nA good facilitator is essential to a hybrid meeting. And everyone I spoke with agreed that improving your own facilitation skills and developing those skills on your team is essential to the future of a hybrid meeting universe. Since the entire world suddenly needed to start building this muscle when remote work became ubiquitous, online courses in meeting facilitation have become common. But sometimes, even the best facilitator needs help.\n\n\u201cI try to have somebody moderate the chat,\u201d says Brown. Because watching the chat channel while speaking to a group requires more sensory inputs and gray matter than most humans come equipped with. Tasking another team member with watching that channel helps remote people ask questions, and get them answered, so that the in-room participants don\u2019t overshadow.\n\n3. Set shared expectations\n\nMany people I spoke to suggested issuing a meeting-etiquette policy so that expectations around participation and matters once dictated by the workplace will be spelled out for meetings that happen, in part, in living rooms, basements, and spare bedrooms.\n\n\u201cYou can set these meeting expectations at any time,\u201d says Trish Bishop, an IT project manager turned leadership coach. \u201cYou can say, I\u2019m feeling like the team is not getting full engagement in this hybrid environment. Let\u2019s set shared expectations.\u201d\n\nShe suggests getting the team to come up with the rules themselves, rather than issuing them from on high because it\u2019s easier to get buy-in and the expectations will more likely reflect the reality of people\u2019s home lives. The rules can cover everything from whether the video camera should be on, what an acceptable background is (at least for externally facing meetings), or if a presentable wardrobe is required.\n\n4. Respect everyone\u2019s time\n\nBut no policy directive, however egalitarian, will overcome a poorly planned or managed meeting.\n\n\u201cKeeping people engaged is a habit that starts with the agenda,\u201d says Kuma\u2019s Kimble. \u201cIf you\u2019re not sticking to a set agenda and not respectful of people\u2019s time, they will check out.\u201d\n\nLosing people in meetings is a problem that extends beyond the conference room.\n\n\u201cNothing kills a culture and destroys motivation like having too many meetings or meetings where nothing gets done,\u201d says Dean Guida, founder of Slingshot and CEO and founder of Infragistics. \u201cIt affects performance and whether people quit or stay.\u201d\n\n5. Create equality through purpose\n\nKalbach says good hybrid meetings need more than an agenda. \u201cYou need a purpose and a way to get there,\u201d he says.\n\nEven with an agenda, he says, the usual dynamics unfold. Dominant voices talk while quieter ones fade back and maybe \u2014 if their camera is off \u2014 cook pasta or do laundry. You will be looking for ways to bring everyone\u2019s attention back.\n\n\u201cIf you bring an activity, though, then say, \u2018Let\u2019s do a two-by-two matrix and we\u2019re going to decide together by voting\u2019 \u2014 that way, you ensure participation,\u201d Kalbach says.\n\nAnother trick for keeping a meeting focused, he says, is to create a system for turn-taking.\n\n\u201cA popular one is popcorning, where the last person to speak picks the next person,\u201d he says.\n\nNot only do these tricks overcome verbal traffic problems, \u201cyou can start thinking about meetings as places where you get stuff done,\u201d he adds.\n\nOnce you start looking for a purpose instead of an agenda, you\u2019ll find it. If someone says, \u201cWe need to get this document together,\u201d and your meeting needs a purpose, you might bring the document and get the work done in the meeting.\n\n\u201cThat way, you come out of the meeting with no action items because you already did the work,\u201d Kalbach says.