This document describes approaches for W3C “hybrid” meetings. The term hybrid here refers to a meeting where some participants are together in a physical room, while others are located elsewhere; for instance in individual [home] workspaces or with another group of participants in another physical room.
Though the circumstances of the pandemic, which halted in-person meetings in 2020 and 2021, have been difficult for all, this global pandemic event has also forced us to adapt to new ways of gathering. It has also provided us the tools to broaden global participation in our work. Those with limited means to travel to meetings have benefitted from our increased ability to gather in virtual or remote modes.
We now seek to establish effective hybrid meeting modes, where some participants may be co-located, yet interact on an equal basis with other participants in different locations; and where those who are located remotely can have equal access to participating as well.
Lessons learned and suggestions for this document are welcome in GitHub issues.
Hybrid meetings are already widespread in some world regions, as vaccines, tests, and therapeutics become available. We expect the pace of hybrid meetings to increase, though unpredictably in response to the spread of different variants and different regional responses to these.
Hybrid meetings add another dimension of complexity beyond a virtual meeting or an in-person meeting, so these may seem difficult to undertake. It can be challenging to include in-person and remote participants on an equal basis, and to navigate the technical and social aspects of hybrid meetings. This document presents considerations for helping hybrid meetings run smoothly.
To have a successful hybrid meeting, we must first attend to making our virtual meetings as functional as possible. If participants have “put up with” inadequate support for virtual meetings, with the expectation that a return to in-person meetings would leave these problems behind, barriers to effective virtual meetings must be addressed. Infrastructure – software, hardware, and also social practices – for virtual meetings is the foundation for productive hybrid meetings. Training is important to implementing this effectively.
Planning for effective hybrid meetings requires addressing challenges, including:
Following are recommendations for addressing these challenges and holding successful hybrid meetings.
Make sure you identify the local host (if it’s not the Group Chair or Team Contact), responsible for the on-site part of the meeting.
State the policies of engagement; Process, CEPC, PPE, venue precautions, emergency contacts
remind people of requirements for COVID tests and related precautions
See “TPAC 2022 Chair Training”
In particular, the importance of managing the queue, controlling side conversations, managing the meeting software and equipment (such as microphones). The Chairs may delegate those roles to some of the participants, especially if they are involved in the topic.
When adjusting agendas ensure the required participants can adjust to new times and be mindful of the impacts on remote participants.
The facilitator should take into account anything about the room setup that causes any participant to not be able to see or hear other participants well, or to not be heard by other participants – those in the same room as well as those who are remote.
The meeting organizer should ensure meeting facilitators know how to escalate if issues arise (venue, health rules, accessibility, CEPC, etc.).
Getting your agenda right is the most effective way to have a smooth meeting. It allows participants to prepare in advance, focus on a limited set of topics, ensure progress, and accommodate timezone constraints for required remote participants. The Group Chairs are expected to provide an agenda of the meeting in advance.
Organize the timing around your agenda items and consider working in smaller groups:
Don’t expect to cover everything within one or two days: not all items may make it to a face-to-face meeting. Favor items that require a non-remote meeting (eg whiteboard), based on in-room participation. Otherwise organize dedicated remote meetings for the other agenda items.
Consider video pre-recordings for agenda items that need to present background. You’ll save meetings time and make it easier for remote participants. Short videos increase the chances of the videos being viewed.
Allow participants to easily raise potential agenda items (using GitHub labels “agenda+”, markdown file, or wiki pages). Gather participant attendance expectation for each agenda item (who must be there to discuss an item?) and organize based on in-room and remote timezones.
Plan and prepare your agenda to be flexible to potentially changing logistics, for instance, presenters or participants to plan to attend in person but get a positive Covid test on pre-check and need to switch to remote participation, or planned venues that become unavailable at the last minute.
Publish your detailed agenda with times and include both local (to the in-person participants) time and UTC.
Allow for breaks by providing a variety of social environments for remote participants, relevant to the size of the group, and interest. Consider doing a social gatherings that are inclusive of remote participants
Consider having a central list of ideas of events that are easy to put together, easy to make inclusive/accessible, and easy to do in hybrid mode
What suggestions can we offer for self-organized social rooms (e.g. repurposing breakout tools (gather.town, wonder.me, …)?
Ensure that multiple people involved in convening the event are well-informed and experienced on using relevant features of video-conferencing platform, such as self-organizing break-out rooms, and that there is technical back-up readily available
Chairs, please make sure to actively manage the queue, preferably using the tools the group has been accustomed to using for virtual meetings. Be explicit about which tools will be used and how, especially if more than one tool is necessary simultaneously (e.g. irc and video conference hand-raising).
Pay careful attention to requiring the in-person participants to use and respect the queue.
Prevent queue interruptions. The conversation moves forward based on the queue, not on the loudest participant in the room.
The chairs should use the queue themselves for comments that are not directly about the chair function.
Ask participants to mute unless they have the floor.
Split the queue into sub-topics if needed, to facilitate follow-ups on individual comments.
Plan from scratch what equipment you need to really do hybrid well, e.g., large screen(s) and good tech crew at the hub(s); and reliable set-ups for the remote folks.
Have a short set of instructions on how to operate the equipment.
Know who your on-site support folk are.
Sharing of accessible content via the web should be strongly preferred over screen sharing. This allows all participants to adjust their view of the shared content according to their own needs; the number of windows on their screen, the font size, even the location in the content that they are viewing. When it is necessary to use a presenter’s screen to convey information to the meeting it is essential that the remote meeting platform seamlessly capture the presenter’s screen content, whether that is accomplished by running a meeting client on the presenter’s device or by connecting a video feed from the presenter’s device into the meeting platform via an external means.
Consider unfortunate contingencies like the tech doesn’t work as expected or the physical meeting room(s) getting disconnected from the net or having a fire alarm – and all of these things and more have indeed happened, so think carefully about contingency planning. Will (should?) those in the room continue to meet while they’re disconnected from the net? Will the (other) remote participants continue to meet while those in the meeting room are milling about in a parking lot waiting for the fire department? Will remote participants already have fall-back channel info? How will the partitioned meeting know that it has been partitioned?
[JB: ;) – discuss emergency logistics more generally, and the fact that most of them will eventually happen.]
Essential to have a fall-back video conference option that can be activitied.
If your agenda includes parallel breakout sessions, make plans in advance for supporting those for remote participants.
When the platform supports it, pin key windows in place – speaker, content, interpreter, captions – etc….
@@how do one get the explicit consent if the individual joined late and missed the disclaimer before the start of the recording? A: ensure that the video tool is clearing indicating that it is recording, and add a reminder with agendas. A’ provide an agenda template that includes a boilerplate notice.
[provide some tooling recommendation. See also https://github.com/w3c/w3process/issues/435 for ongoing Process CG discussion, https://github.com/w3c/Guide/issues/78 in the Continuity conversation, and https://github.com/w3c/AB-memberonly/issues/30 in the AB rules/best-practices for tools discussion.
?Are there any unique requirements or desiderata for the new group calendar system to support hybrid meetings?
(for training) For subgroups, Chairs should create multiple events
W3C, Tooling for Discussions and Publications, W3C Process Document, November 2, 2021 https://www.w3.org/2021/Process-20211102/#tooling
Frish & Greene, What It Takes to Run a Great Hybrid Meeting, Harvard Business Review, June 3, 2021 https://hbr.org/2021/06/what-it-takes-to-run-a-great-hybrid-meeting
Henry et al, How to Make Your Presentations Accessible to All, W3C Web Accessibility Initiative
Hollier et al, Accessibility of Remote Meetings, W3C Working Group Editor’s Draft
Hooijberg & Watkins, When Does It Make Sense to Have Mixed-Mode Meetings?, MIT Sloan Management Review, August 25, 2021
Rintel et al, Hybrid meetings guide, The New Future of Work, Microsoft Research, September 9, 2021
W3C (various), Remote Meetings, W3C public wiki, 2013-2014
maintained on GitHub; comment there in issues.