Hybrid Meetings – Food for Misunderstandings

I know a lot of people, who love their job. This is not at all self-evident. And imagine the opposite: How much time people would spend unhappy, if they should not like their job!

These happy people meet other happy people, their collaborators, clients and partners. In my experience this is often the reason, why people love their job: Because they meet other people and can create fruitful exchanges.

Since we spend a lot of time working – alone and together with others – it is worthwhile investing in the infrastructure around our workplace: Open spaces, meeting rooms, desks, chairs etc.. And then all the technical equipment, all the nice and cool gadgets, state of the art tools for working.

Now some of our technical equipment enables us to meet virtually. Sure it’s not the same as the personal encounters. But if correctly applied – and I guess most people by now know how to do things right – virtual contacts have definitely their advantages and can be fun.

Now it would be easy to imagine, that the combination of the two must be heaven. But I am afraid this is a misunderstanding: If you love “Mousse au Chocolat” and “Greek Salad” separately, it does not mean you would like the two mixed up in one plate.

Personal meetings are great, if you need a close personal exchange, maybe feedback and maybe some informal parts in between, where we share a drink or a meal. Virtual meetings are very efficient, since you don’t have to travel and if nobody uses the opportunity for multitasking (taking part in the meeting, replying to e-mails, checking the homework of the kids and eating lunch) they are usually shorter and more to the point.

But mixing the two? I have taken part in hybrid meetings, where part of the participants were live in a room and part of the team was taking part virtually. If you want to have meetings, where everybody should participate actively, don’t do it hybrid. Even with the most sophisticated technical means, where some participants sit at the table on a screen, faking the illusion of physical presence – it is never the same.

An exception to the rule you might have, if there is no interaction needed: A townhall meeting for example, where one person talks and everybody else listens. Sure, the ones listening in the same room are more involved than the ones watching online, but it does not make a big difference, since there is no exchange needed.

I would not blame the technical tools as they are. It’s the way we use them, that matters. Or talking of food: You cannot blame the “Mousse au Chocolat“ and the “Greek Salad”, if some people do not know how to cook them properly – or even worse: don’t know, that it’s better to eat them separately and in the appropriate moment.

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