Remote communication

What's a Huddle Room and Why Are They Great for Virtual Meetings?

Published on November 9, 2021 • Updated on December 7, 20221 min. read

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As more companies have transitioned to a hybrid working style, it's been tough for teams to bridge the gap between colleagues. Brainstorming that used to come so naturally around the lunch table can be lost in a remote environment. Huddle rooms, also known as breakout rooms, are the solution to this problem. In this article, we'll explore what is a huddle room, and why they are great tools to use in virtual meetings. 

Huddle rooms are great for video conferencing

A huddle room is a place where a handful of coworkers can come together to solve problems.  This is a dedicated space for a small group of employees to solve problems, have short discussions, or network. A huddle space can be physical, like a small office or break room. They can also be virtual.

Remember the last time you had a virtual meeting? You likely logged in at the programmed time, spoke to several of your colleges at once, and then when the meeting was over you logged out. Huddle rooms take this interaction one step further by giving you a place to talk to your colleagues in detail about topics covered in the meeting. Let's say your coworker has questions about a project you mentioned during the meeting, or you want to host a brainstorming session with some key stakeholders. You could go into a virtual huddle room to continue the discussion. 

Asynchronous communication often lacks nuance, and it is easy for details to slip through the cracks. Huddle rooms are a way to stay engaged in a remote work environment

A collaboration room away from office distractions

The average professional spends 28% of their workday reading and responding to emails, according to data reported in Harvard Business Review. I'm sure we're all aware of the flood of emails, Slack messages, task management notifications, and other distractions we receive on the average workday. As more asynchronous communication piles up, problem-solving can become more complicated. All of these distractions may make it challenging to engage with your coworkers.

Using a virtual huddle room makes it easier to avoid distractions in the office or working remotely. To make the most of a virtual huddle room for distraction-free work, use the following four tips to make your online meetings more effective.

a team celebrating in an office

1. Focus on one problem while using a huddle space

A virtual huddle room session with coworkers is not the same as a virtual team meeting. If you are planning a weekly meeting with your employees, create a team meeting agenda. With a huddle session, a tighter focus is more helpful. A junior employee might use a huddle room to seek quick feedback on their work from a trusted colleague. A small software development team could use a huddle room to brainstorm ways to solve a recurring bug. Pulling a few people together for a ten or 20-minute huddle meeting can replace dozens of chat messages and emails.

Here's a tip for managers: have you had multiple virtual meetings to solve problems with your new employees? If you see the same kinds of questions and issues coming up repeatedly, the root cause of the problem may be your new employee onboarding process. Using video software for employee onboarding may help to solve some of these problems.

2. Develop huddle room etiquette rules 

Regaining control of your attention and focus in today's distraction-filled world isn't easy. Therefore, setting a few ground rules to encourage focus is helpful. For example, you may ask your coworkers to sign out of email and chat applications. They should mute any notifications and their microphones when they are not speaking. Removing these distractions will make it easier to focus during your virtual meetings.

3. Use a timer

Few people look forward to participating in marathon meetings lasting hours. To keep your colleagues engaged, give yourself a firm time limit for the meeting. Most online meeting software has one built right in! There is a common practice in project management agile methodology to have a daily standup meeting of 15 minutes. Running virtual meetings with a short duration means attendees will be focused on the topic.

4. Use tools to guide the discussion

No answer to "what is a huddle room?" is complete without considering tools and visual aids. A collaboration room will typically include digital displays, whiteboards, pens, and other resources to make problem-solving easier in an office. Virtual meetings, at their best, include support for this kind of functionality.

With Livestorm, you can share your screen to make the most of your virtual huddle space. For example, you can share a Miro whiteboard to collaborate with your entire team. Plus, you can record your meeting to reference at a later date. These can be referenced later on for brainstorming sessions or for any teammates who may have questions later on. 

The above rules-based method to use a huddle room is not the only option. You can also use a virtual huddle space to bond with your team and organize less structured virtual meetings.

people gathered around a desk looking at computers

A huddle space for quick, informal meetings

Hallway conversations at the office are one of the simple ways colleagues get to know each other over time. In a remote or hybrid office environment, recreating this type of informal interaction is more complicated. Having a virtual huddle space available to all employees is one solution.

To encourage greater trust by using informal virtual meetings, think outside the box. Formal, highly organized team meeting agendas have their place. However, a highly detailed agenda isn't the right tool in every situation. Sending a summary email after a huddle meeting can be a good way of reminding everyone about the critical decisions made in the meeting.

1. Schedule office hours

Many managers want to be accessible to their direct reports. However, your employees might be worried about sending too many meeting requests, emails, and Slack messages to their managers. One solution is to arrange weekly office hours. The concept is simple. Once per week, the manager sets up a  virtual huddle space, and anybody on their team is welcome to drop by. There's no set agenda for these meetings: chat about family, vacation plans, or work issues.

A virtual office hours session doesn't have to be limited to managers and executives either. You can also encourage subject matter experts (SMEs) in your company to organize office hours. Your in-house expert on virtual events might offer a weekly tips session on ways to look better in your next video call.

2. Have "debriefing" chats after major meetings

Not all virtual meetings are created equal. A quick casual catching-up meeting between two coworkers probably does not need a follow-up discussion.

However, the quarterly or annual town hall meeting with your executives is a different story. Imagine your executives recently announced a new strategic direction for the company. In that case, organizing a quick follow-up meeting for a specific department can be valuable. By using a virtual huddle space, you can chat about the changes and discuss what it means for you. A debriefing meeting can be as simple as asking employees, "what do you think about that meeting we just had?"

In other cases, the debriefing meeting might focus on a specific question. For instance, a sales manager might ask her sales professionals what support they need to sell a new product during a huddle. By seeking quick feedback from her team, there is no time wasted implementing the new strategy.

3. Reconnecting after time away from the office

Returning to the office after parental leave or an extended vacation doesn't have to start with reviewing hundreds of unread emails. Sorting through the noise of that many unread messages may feel overwhelming! Instead, invite your returning employee to a huddle space for a quick chat. You can hear about their time away and brief them quickly on the most significant changes at the office.

Enhance huddle rooms with videoconferencing

Huddle rooms will allow you to split your attendees into smaller groups during an event, meeting, or webinar. This is especially useful if you’re hosting workshops, networking sessions, online courses, or live events. That's why Livestorm has launched our own version of huddle rooms: breakout rooms! 

50 Ice Breakers For Virtual Meetings
50 icebreakers, questions and games for virtual meetings
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50 Ice Breakers For Virtual Meetings