🎡 9 Ideas for Fostering Inclusive Hybrid Team Retreats
Guidance for both the conference room and remote-friendly gatherings
In today’s working world where team members live in multiple time zones, juggle life responsibilities and express varying comfort levels with travel, team retreats are being thoughtfully planned for hybrid gatherings — customized for both the conference room and remote-friendly.
What strategies have been effective and inspiring for your team off-site or on-site? Share your suggestions in the comments.
Here are 9 of my ideas for fostering inclusive hybrid team retreats:
🧑🏻🏫 #1 Identify a Remote Liaison
This is your go-to team member — a crucial part of the planning process and the day of the experience. Before the gathering, it’s important to review the agenda through a remote lens to ensure inclusivity.
At the event, include this liaison in active ways as a timekeeper who can help keep everyone on track and the spokesperson for the remote attendees to share the pulse of their experience.
🔊#2 Conduct Sound Checks
Good audio can make or break a virtual experience. Check your room to ensure the highest sound quality. Many organizations are upgrading their equipment for enhanced experiences to offer better sound quality in conference rooms. In the meantime, remind everyone to speak loudly and clearly and refrain from side conversations. If it’s difficult to hear, try live transcription with captions — many video platforms offer this tool as an inclusive resource.
For those on the call, sound matters too. If you haven’t already, invest in a quality microphone at home. Many organizations offer a remote office budget for this purpose.
📝 #3 Plan for Notes and Action Items
Set up your meeting structure in advance for the ways you will capture what you discuss. This is an interactive opportunity for the remote and in-person attendees to collaborate in the same document while the meeting is happening. Consider pre-populating a shared doc with three sections — Action Items, Decisions, and Notes/Takeaways.
Alternate who takes these notes for each session with both in-person and remote attendees. This will ensure quick and efficient follow-up. After the meeting, send a summary and track these to-do items in a project management system.
📲 #4 Find Your Remote Buddy
Every virtual attendee should have someone in the room to check in with them and be their advocate during the retreat. The buddy can be a manager or a colleague.
They can invite remote attendees to chime in or text with them during the sessions. It’s reassuring to know that another team member is thinking about your experience.
🖍️#5 Create a Brainstorming Process
Back in the day, I loved writing on whiteboards in an office and chalkboards in a classroom, but unless you have a super camera to zoom in on these boards, consider virtual collaboration tools so that the experience is an equal view for remote attendees. This way, everyone can have the same view and contribute as if they are writing on a real post-it or a virtual post-it. Plus, it makes the follow-up so much easier with digital notes.
🎡 #6 Consider the Views
If everyone brings a laptop to the meeting, encourage them to log in to the video chat so they are easily viewable, but muted. This can change the experience for the remoters. If that’s not possible when slides are presented, followed by a discussion and the slides are still on-screen, remote attendees might want to switch their view so that they can see all participants more clearly.
Encourage in-person attendees not to turn their backs to the camera in the room. Try to ensure that everyone in the room is within view of the camera and can be seen by remote attendees.
🏙️ #7 Create A Background
Take a photo of the conference room and send it in the group chat before the gathering. Make it optional for remote attendees to add it as a virtual background so they feel like they are in the same room. Remoters can also get creative with their virtual background to have some fun, and it just might spark conversation!
🧋#8 Build in the Breaks
We forget that we can’t go from meeting to meeting without refilling our coffee mugs, going to the restroom or simply getting some fresh air — whether you’re in-person or remote. Ensure there’s time to take a pause and meetings aren’t overwhelming by being back to back.
🧲 #9 Host an End-of-Day Chat
Check-in at the end of each day with all attendees, especially the remoters. Ask for feedback and make modifications for the next day. Finally, compile all of the feedback from the experience into a best practices document to make your next hybrid retreat even better.
I hope these ideas are helpful resources for your next hybrid retreat.
What strategies have been effective and inspiring for your team planning meetings?
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