How shall we meet? Navigating options from in-person to hybrid

For many of us, the pandemic changed everything about how we work — or so we thought. 

Now that we're hyper-aware of how important it is to gather in-person, and understand what working remotely makes possible, how can we build on that and avoid going back to our old habits? Remember those in-person meetings where we spent half our time checking our phones? Or traveled long distances just to stare at PowerPoint slides? Are we taking full advantage of what we've learned from being grounded, or are we missing the opportunity of a lifetime to truly reimagine how we gather?

In our November 1st Leap of leadership meetup, we talked with Spring Co-CEO Ellen Sprenger about the opportunities and challenges when planning our gatherings. As you decide whether to hold your meetings in-person, virtually or in a hybrid format in the upcoming year, these 30-minute audio summary, slides and tool below can support you in thinking through what to consider for each meeting option — including working with different time zones, making in-person meetings count, and making asynchronous work integral to the process.


Takeaway: Make in-person meetings count

After the pandemic it’s clear that there’s a renewed eagerness and appreciation for gathering in-person, but are we going overboard with the number of in-person meetings and overpacked agendas? The pressure to make in-person meetings count can impact people differently depending on their needs and responsibilities — whether they’re someone who gets easily over-stimulated or a caregiver who cannot be fully present. 

Ellen suggested that we need to pause and reflect on what “making it count” looks like: “Making it count doesn’t mean work harder, work faster, work 12 hours together. I think it means slowing down and doing things in-person that we cannot do or won’t do online where it’s about productivity and efficiency. Slowing down allows us to go deeper, get curious and discover new things. The quality of presence — that’s the thing to hold onto and connect it to purpose… Slowing down because the level of complexity we’re dealing with out there in the world demands it. We need to slow down to be resourceful, to be whole, to be connected to ourselves when we do this work, and to be able to do our best work together.”

Meetup participants shared that they’ve attempted to be more thoughtful in how they structure their agendas for in-person meetings. Some facilitators or teams have scheduled time for connection: optional informal moments to have a walk with a colleague, check on their loved ones back home, do teambuilding and take long lunch and coffee breaks. This intentional design of the agenda supports people, and it also helps with those still in transition, struggling with the intensity and overwhelm of being with a lot of people for longer periods of time.. 


Putting it into practice: Consider four perspectives

When it comes to deciding how we meet, many of us are facing a menu of options: virtual, in-person or hybrid? What’s the right mix and match? When considering meeting in-person, consider this tool with four perspectives and the questions under each. If the answer is yes to all or the majority of these questions, then you have clear reasons to bring everyone together.

The above questions may also just apply to one team rather than a whole organization. Why not expand your menu of options and support a smaller group of colleagues traveling to meet each other to optimize creativity, serendipity and exploration?

If the above questions aren’t relevant to you, plan for virtual gatherings. These are best for:

  • Initial explorations
  • Preparations and planning
  • Follow-up and implementation
  • Routine processes and activities
  • When money is limited
  • When speed is of the essence


Putting it into practice: Making hybrid work

When you design hybrid meetings, where some people are present in-person and some are joining remotely, view the meeting from the perspective of the remote participants; what do they need to see in order to fully engage? For larger scale events, it can be difficult for remote participants to participate meaningfully and they can feel disconnected. To engage them actively, try appointing an in-room buddy for each remote participant and have one person who’s fully dedicated to managing virtual participants and fielding questions back and forth. Make sure everyone is clear on the expectations of hybrid participation and inform remote colleagues when their participation will be most valuable.

For smaller scale events, make it a level playing field at the outset by changing the in-person space and having everyone join individually on their laptops.


Leap of Leadership is Spring’s monthly online meetup for social justice changemakers around the world. Each month, we tackle cutting-edge topics through new tools, concrete practices and exchanges with peers. Learn more or sign up to join our monthly drop-in sessions and receive our monthly emails.

Post by Spring
November 17, 2023