Four strategies to level-up your hybrid meeting equity

By Mark Bradley and Davin Huston 

Chances are, you’ve been in a hybrid meeting gone wrong. You’re attending virtually, only to discover you are having a tough time seeing and hearing the participants on the far side of the call. You raise your screen-hand to comment, and no one notices. You’re distracted by background noise or the chatter of side discussions in the room.  

Or perhaps you’re attending in person and can’t tell who all is in the virtual room and can’t distinguish which virtual attendee is speaking because they are lost behind a presentation screen.  

The result is meeting attendees who feel ignored, isolated, cut out, or sidelined, which has been shown to lead to dissatisfaction, disengagement, and reduced productivity. 

To solve that problem, there’s a growing trend toward “meeting equity,” enabling all attendees, wherever they are, to equally take part in a meeting or classroom activity. 

New strategies are increasingly being used in colleges and office training environments that allow the participant to choose their best way to learn whether by attending a class in real-time (in person or online) or watching at their convenience—or a mix of those strategies. These strategies mix same-time in-person, same-time online, and on-demand online experiences.  

Achieving meeting equity in these scenarios requires technological and acoustics solutions. Here are four strategies:  

  • A series of cameras, using artificial intelligence as a director. This can offer a cinematic view of the meeting space, allowing remote participants to see the nonverbal cues in the room. The conference cameras capture the full room view and close-ups simultaneously, while also highlighting the current speaker, so everyone can feel like they are, to quote the musical “Hamilton,” “in the room where it happens.” 
  • Beam-tracking microphones. These optimize everyone’s voice, so it’s clear who is speaking and what they are saying, even if they are moving around a room.  
  • Next-generation digital whiteboard collaboration system. This allows participants—remote and in person—to communicate ideas in templates automatically shared to the group after the meeting. Some can even convert photos of handwritten sticky notes into editable images and digitize handwritten sticky notes for use in videoconferences.  
  • Speech intelligibility. Room acoustics and noise play a key role in speech intelligibility for both participants in the room and those who are virtual. Not only is noise an unwelcome visitor to the meeting, sound reflecting off the room’s surfaces can come into play as well and should be carefully examined by acoustics professionals.  

No matter the technology, the meeting host will still need to be committed to making the meeting equitable and inclusive. But the growing number of AV tools can go a long way toward supporting that goal.  

Mark Bradley is an IMEG Project Executive and the company’s A/V technology expert. Davin Huston is an IMEG Technology Designer of Distinction 

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