University of Wisconsin–Madison
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How to host inclusive hybrid meetings

8 minutes to read | Last updated July 20, 2021

A checklist and guidance to consider when planning a meeting that may include in-person and virtual participants. As we adapt to facilitating a combination of in-person and virtual working environments, it’s important to make considerations for each style of work to ensure we are also creating an inclusive, collaborative, and productive work environment.


This document is a collaboration between UW-Madison Learning & Talent Development,
The Office of Compliance, The Office of Strategic Consulting, and the Center for User Experience.

Why make meetings inclusive?

It’s more than making accommodations

There are a number of benefits to incorporating inclusive practices in everyday work, including higher productivity, higher job satisfaction, lower turnover rates (especially among people of color) and the ability to attract and retain employees from a broader talent pool. All of these factors assist in diversity and inclusion efforts, labor force demand needs, and employee work/life balance.

The following checklist and guidance can help develop supportive habits in preparing for and hosting inclusive meetings, preventing ableism, and building respect for coworkers in the workplace.

 

Inclusive meetings checklist


Download the checklist (pdf)

Using Existing Technology

Familiarize yourself with the available technology before the actual meeting. Even if you hold in-person meetings in the same space without issue, hybrid meetings require different technology considerations to ensure that all participants feel engaged and included. Always practice with in-person and virtual participants before holding an actual hybrid meeting.     

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Collaboration

  • Be sure to share all documents electronically before the meeting.
  • Consider using digital collaboration tools, such as Box, Google Drive, screen annotations, virtual whiteboards, or the chat function within the virtual platform.
  • Avoid having remote participants look at information written on the whiteboard in the physical meeting space via video.

Video

  • Ideally, those joining the meeting remotely will be able to see all the in-person participants.
  • Likewise, it is helpful if they can see the entire room so they can observe body language or activities happening in the room.
  • In-person participants should be able to see remote participants. If available, consider having a screen display the remote participants so that they are large and more easily seen by everyone in the room.
  • Consider purchasing a standalone webcam and tripod that can be moved around the room to show remote participants necessary material in the room that cannot be shared virtually.

Audio

  • If there are multiple people in-person together, be aware of audio feedback and echoes. It is essential that, unless a room is specifically set up for audio conferencing, that only one person unmutes at a time.
  • If available, use meeting spaces with integrated speaker and microphone systems. If such a space is not available, consider getting an external/Bluetooth speaker that will allow in-person participants to better hear remote participants.
  • If possible use headphones to ensure a better audio experience for all participants.

Captions


Captions used on university-approved video conferencing software tend to “auto” caption, and do not necessarily provide equal access. They do not replace a request for real time translation.

Auto captions often:

  • Include grammar and punctuation errors.
  • Can’t identify multiple speakers or changes in speakers.
  • Include hard to understand technical vocabulary, jargon, or proper noun errors.
  • Don’t allow a participant to ask for clarification or request that a presenter speak louder.

Available technology capabilities


Where to build inclusivity into your meetings

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Pre-meeting best practices

  • Determine if the meeting is necessary. Can it be handled in an email instead?
  • What is the purpose of the meeting? There must be a clear outcome of having a meeting.
  • If you plan on using visuals, whiteboards, or other meeting aides, how will you adapt for any participants who have barriers with the software, audio, or other visuals?
  • Are interpreter(s), captioning, or other accommodations needed? If so, have they been arranged in advance?
  • Is there backup technology present, such as a VOIP phone conference line, phone conference system with room microphones, or a cell phone as a remaining backup?
  • Who will fill the necessary roles in the meeting? Provide the opportunity to change who fills these roles.
    • Facilitator (Leads the meeting and follows the agenda.)
    • Notetaker (Captures the key takeaways, decisions, or action items, and who is responsible for completing them.)
    • Virtual participant facilitator (an advocate for virtual participants who monitors the virtual space for raised hands or questions, including chat comments.)
    • Technical help support – A contact person to help with technical issues.
  • Are there fully ADA compliant accessible facilities including building, room entry, and restrooms?

Flowchart - How to decide if you should hold a meeting

Flow chart: should I hold a meeting

How to decide whether to hold a meeting.  Be sure you can answer yes to each of these questions.

  1. Have I thought through this situation? If not, schedule time for strategic thinking.
  2. Do I need outside input to make progress? If not, schedule time for doing the work.
  3. Does moving forward require a real-time conversation? If not, send an email.
  4. Does this necessitate a face-to-face meeting? If not, use chat, call or schedule a video conference.
  5. If you meet all the criteria, then schedule and prep for your meeting.

Meeting invitations

  • Is the meeting invitation sent out at least a week prior to the meeting?
  • Did you include an agenda and all meeting materials in the calendar invitation? Share or email any documents or references to be used ahead of the meeting, so participants can follow along. 
  • Is there information about, and a contact person for disability-related accommodation requests?
  • Is there a statement on who to contact if participants have technical questions or issues when connecting to the online meeting?
  • Are there clear instructions and multiple options to join the meeting?
  • If you cancel, be sure to give ample notification — at least 48 hours.

Meeting agenda

Is your meeting structured in a way that encourages inclusive participation? The meeting should have a clear agenda, structured around who is speaking, on what topic, and for how long. This agenda should be sent to all participants in advance. 

  • Design your agenda in a way that engages participants in multiple ways. You may want to use a combination of thought-provoking questions, virtual whiteboard exercises, mapping, polling, or visualization to keep people’s interest and attention.
  • Are the agenda and meeting materials in accessible formats? Use at least a 14pt font, and review the material for plain language?

Setting expectations

  • Have you set ground rules, meeting etiquette, or other community agreements?
  • Establish a rule that everyone who wants to speak will raise their hand first. This will help both in-person and virtual participants avoid speaking over one another.
  • Are online chat conversations appropriate during the meeting or should chat only be used for questions?
  • Agree upon how to stop a conversation to allow for questions or comments. 
  • Make sure that the person speaking says their name before they start speaking. This helps everyone follow along, regardless of their location.
  • Record the meeting, if possible, with available technology. Notify participants ahead of time if the meeting will be recorded. Be sensitive to concerns regarding confidentiality. 
  • Have a conversation about when to use audio, video and chat. Examples:
    • Turn video on when you are talking or responding to questions.
    • Use chat to otherwise engage in the meeting.
  • Do not interrupt or talk over others. 
  • Give your full attention to the speaker and avoid distractions like email, web surfing, or texting. 
  • Silence your cell phone.
  • Don’t forget to pause so notetakers, interpreters, and captioning can keep up. It also allows people the opportunity to ask clarifying questions.
  • Use plain language. Be sure to explain any acronyms or jargon that is used.

Physical room setup

How accessible are the physical and online meeting rooms? If a hybrid meeting is needed, ensure that the room where in-person participants will be seated has appropriate audio and video equipment, as well as a strong internet connection.

  • Is there technology that provides equity in status to virtual participants, such as a TV monitor to display the virtual participants, an external speaker to allow their voice to be heard, or a room microphone to pick up conversation happening too far from a laptop microphone?
  • If there are multiple people in-person together, be aware of audio feedback and echoes. It is essential that, unless a room is specifically set up for audio conferencing, that only one person unmutes at a time.
  • If possible, use headphones to ensure a better audio experience for all participants.

Virtual room setup

  • Has everyone logged in early to take care of any technical issues?
  • Avoid having remote participants look at information written on the whiteboard in the physical meeting space via video.
  • Are virtual participants able to mute/unmute themselves?

Do virtual participants have the necessary technology to follow the University Remote Work Policy on designated remote work spaces? If an additional accommodation is needed, has the Divisional Disability Representative been informed?

Ground rules examples

  • Confidentiality & Permission – We agree to not share each other’s stories or narratives without permission
  • Fully Present and Patient – We agree to listen to each other without distraction and without interrupting others.
  • Default to Inquiry over Judgement – We agree to be curious and ask questions before making judgements.
  • Share the Air – We agree to share our perspective, ideas, and narratives while allowing space for others to share their perspective, ideas, and narratives.
  • Believe People’s Narratives – We agree to believe each other’s perspective, ideas, and narratives.
  • Reflection Intent/ Impact – We agree to reflect on how our intent and impact may differ or align.
  • Repair Work – When our intent and impact do not align, we agree to acknowledge harm, make a commitment to improve, and ask what is needed to move forward.
  • Self-Compassion – When our intent and impact do not align, we agree to be compassionate with ourselves, understanding we are all lifelong learners.

In-Meeting Best Practices

Stick to the agenda during the meeting and have someone take notes that can be referred to afterward.

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When starting a meeting

  • State the purpose and goals of the meeting.
  • Stick to the agenda.
  • Identify who will be the facilitator.
  • Identify who will be the virtual participant facilitator. 
  • Identify who will take notes.
  • Turn captions on for the chosen meeting software. 
  • If you are recording the meeting, start recording the meeting, and make sure participants are aware the recording is beginning. Be sensitive to concerns regarding confidentiality. 
  • Read out loud anything that is shared on screen, in the chat or when referencing written materials. Remember that not everyone may have access to all modes of communication offered.
  • Re-introduce the ground rules, and set expectations.
  • Consider acknowledging the land that the University occupies.
    • Suggested language:

      The University of Wisconsin–Madison occupies ancestral Ho-Chunk land, a place their nation has called Teejop (day-JOPE) since time immemorial. In an 1832 treaty, the Ho-Chunk were forced to cede this territory.

      Decades of ethnic cleansing followed when both the federal and state government repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, sought to forcibly remove the Ho-Chunk from Wisconsin. This history of colonization informs our shared future of collaboration and innovation.

      Today, UW–Madison respects the inherent sovereignty of the Ho-Chunk Nation, along with the eleven other First Nations of Wisconsin.

      We acknowledge the land we are on — not as an solution — but rather as a first step that calls on each of us to deeply consider our shared past and present with Indigenous peoples in this place, Teejop, and to make our own personal and institutional commitments to achieve a shared future.

  • Acknowledge the in-person and virtual participants. Remind people there are multiple ways to participate. 
  • Have participants introduce themselves. 
  • Invite participants to share their pronouns. 
  • Aim for 30-60 minute meetings.

During a meeting

  • Focus on 1-2 topics. If you need to cover more, give participants a break in between topics.
  • Don’t just screen share. Provide participants the documents that are being shared ahead of time. Screen sharing reduces the size of documents when viewed through video conferencing software, so the person sharing a screen may need to zoom in.
  • When asking for feedback or questions, start with the remote participants first.
  • Let participants know in advance that they’ll be called on by name to provide feedback and that a response of “nothing to add” is appropriate. This should be used as an opportunity for collaboration, not to put coworkers on the spot.
  • When presenting, avoid general statements such as “Does anyone online have anything to say?” This usually results in silence and makes virtual participants seem like outsiders.
  • Be vigilant of any stereotypes, microaggressions or harm in the meeting. Interrupt immediately and facilitate education and repair. 
  • Pause to allow people to process and ask questions. Some silence is OK as it gives participants an opportunity to think, and allows folks to turn off their mute button.
  • Offer an opportunity to address non-agenda items at another time.
  • Politely remind people of ground rules when they interrupt others.
  • Repeat back or paraphrase what participants say. Listen and check for accuracy.
  • Leave space to invite individuals who have not contributed to speak.
  • If the conversation seems one-sided the facilitator may want to ask: “Have we considered other perspectives?” This can leverage the diversity in the room to get you higher-quality decisions.
  • Provide the opportunity to follow up on agenda items after the meeting, to allow for participants to process the information.
  • In making decisions, ask everyone to verbally say yes, instead of assuming silence equals agreement.

Meeting room setup scenarios

For smaller meetings

Less than 8 people


For each agenda item, every participant will be given a chance to speak or pass before opening the floor up to general discussion. Note that the facilitator may wish to place a time limit on each person. Typically, at least going around the ‘table’ twice is recommended before moving to decision-making.

For larger meetings

More than 8 people


If you would like to speak, chat or instant message the facilitator to be recognized. If you don’t have access to chat/instant messaging, wait until the current speaker pauses or finished to raise your hand politely. The facilitator will keep a list of people who wish to speak.