What are hybrid meetings?
Hybrid meetings are also called mixed mode meetings. They are simply meetings that some people attend remotely, and others in person. If you’re facilitating a hybrid meeting or workshop, there are some specific considerations that you’ll need to take into account. You’ll need to still create a great online and in-person experience for your participants, and also address the challenges of getting the group to communicate and collaborate effectively across virtual and physical space.
11 Tips for Brilliant Hybrid Meetings and Workshops
One of the biggest mixed mode or hybrid meetings I’ve ever facilitated was for a credit card data processing company. I had attendees from all over the world tuning in virtually, as well as about 100 people attending in person. My aim was to make the people who are attending virtually feel just as engaged and just as much as part of the meeting as the people who were in person. And all these tips that I’m sharing with you helped me to successfully facilitate that meeting. And I actually had to do it twice to reach people in different time zones!
Here are 11 practical tips that I use to help you to facilitate successful mixed mode or hybrid meetings. Think of them as a checklist to create a great hybrid meeting experience every time.
When you’ve checked these out, have a look at my article here: Hybrid Working: A Guide for Teams.
Tip #1 Test your hybrid meeting set-up
I was a virtual attendee at a mixed mode meeting quite recently, and to be quite honest with you, I just felt quite excluded from everything. The facilitator focused on the people in the room and seemed to be forgetting about the people online. The worst thing was that the audio and visuals weren’t very good.
Have a dry run to test your meeting set-up. Make sure the space is laid out so that the people in the room can see the people on the screen, and that the people who are attending virtually can see and hear the people in the room. Also check that the sound is good for in-person and remote participants with a technology, sound and vision check.
Tip #2 Slow down
It is important to allow for what people are saying in the physical room to reach the people who are listening in and watching and remotely. This upload – download delay is usually about five to seven seconds. Slow down a little, be more patient and be extra vigilant for people accidentally speaking over each other.
Which brings me onto my next tip #3…
Tip # 3 Ask your participants to take delays into account
Let your meeting or workshop participants know at the beginning of the session that there are likely to be some technology-related sound delays and allow for them. Let them know that they might accidentally bump into each other when speaking from time-to-time, and that’s ok, you’ll just need to pause and repeat if so.
You’ll find my article on Virtual Facilitation Challenges and How to Overcome Them helpful, here.
Tip #4 Include everyone
It’s discouraging for virtual attendees to feel like all the attention is being directed at the people who are attending in-person. Make sure that you turn and look at the screen and talk to camera just as much as you might turn and talk to the people in front of you, if you’re facilitating in the physical space.
How to be a Great Facilitator includes more tips, too.
Tip #5 Speak clearly
One of the reasons for slowing down is audio delays. But speaking more slowly also helps you to speak more clearly and to pronounce each word fully. It is important that your words get through to the people watching remotely, too.
Tip #6 Use a physical or virtual raised hand
Asking people to raise their hand virtually or physically when they’d like to speak in a group discussion helps with delays and also makes sure that everyone has the opportunity to participate fully.
A virtual attendee can use a hand up button on a platform such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
Acknowledge that you’ve seen both those people attending virtually as well the in-person attendees who have a hand up so that your delegates know that their turn to speak is coming.
Tip #7 Avoid side conversations
If you’ve got several people speaking at one time, it can be very difficult for virtual attendees, in particular, to hear what is being said and by whom. So, avoid side conversations, and ask that all attendees take turns speaking.
Tip #8 Minimise visual quality issues
Using gradients, videos, and animation can lead to viewing quality issues, particularly for remote attendees due to file size, upload and download speeds. Make sure that, if you do use them, you test videos and animation in advance. Reduce your file size as much as possible as it will help speed up transmission and broadcast more smoothly.
Tip #9 Repeat a question before answering it
Repeating a question before answering it helps to ensure that everybody, whether we’re facilitating online or in-person, understands and has heard what’s just been asked. Doing this small, yet profoundly important step, helps everybody understand and be able to participate in what’s going on in your hybrid meeting.
Tip #10 Ensure everyone can join in breakouts and activities
If you have activities planned, it is important to think through the design so that everybody can join in.
Before lockdown, I had a meeting with different breakout rooms in different locations comprised of both in-person and virtual attendees. I worked with the virtual attendees in advance to made sure that they had everything they needed ahead of time so that they could join in the activities and participate fully.
It just took just take some planning and liaising with people. And, we had a great session, and everybody could participate fully.
Checkout my article here for How to Get Ideas Flowing in your meetings and workshops.
Tip #11 Keep things interactive and use online tools that everyone can access
Some of the online tools that I like to use are:
- Miro Whiteboards
- Sticky Notes
- Menti & Mentimeter (Menti is the attendee version. Mentimeter is the facilitator version).
If you’re looking for great icebreaker and energizer ideas, you’ll find plenty in my blog Icebreakers for Online Meetings.
I hope this checklist of tips is a helpful start if you’re just starting to think about doing hybrid meetings, or maybe just getting back into them. Have a look at my article here, too. Hybrid Working: A Guide for Teams.
If you’d like regular facilitation tips, techniques and training, join my free, private Facebook group, Idea Time for Workshop Facilitators here.