How do you react when you are invited to a hybrid meeting? Or when someone asks you to facilitate one?

Are you fully on board with a heartfelt yes, let’s do this?
Are you curious and at the same time hesitating?
Are you pulling the red flag?

Hybrid? Hu? Really? That was my reaction last year.
Now I say: Sure, let’s try!

What happened?

I see the opportunity for inclusion.
I see the need and the context that demand hybrid gatherings.
I see the learning.

Because,

I have realized in conversations with partners that hybrid meetings and workshops are here to stay. It is not over with this mixed format, for various reasons like climate, travel restrictions, distributed teams, flexibility and inclusiveness. People told me that they had no choice and that holding the meeting hybrid was a requirement.

There are enough motivations to say yes and let’s try. Judy Rees blogged recently 5 reasons to stick with online and hybrid events. I loved the ‘social’ reasons of “include everyone”, “stay connected”, “build engagement”. These reasons matter!

I say yes under one condition.
Let’s do it well.
By doing it well I mean do it in an inclusive, interactive, and purposeful way.

When someone shared with me the following observation “(it gave me a) feeling of being remote and rather an observer than a participant” I thought about missed opportunity, waste of time and room for improvement.

Exploring possibilities is my motivation.

If hybrid meetings and workshops become the ‘normal’ and ‘natural ‘combination to collaborate, then it is about time to inquire how to do it best.

Over the past year I have been through some hybrid experiences myself. I was the online facilitator, and I was the online participant. I was involved in an experimental inquiry with a group of peer hybrid explorers. I was part of the reflection group, the Hybrid Quartet (with Corinne Sprecher, Monika Schlatter, Carsten Schulz and myself), developing in 2021 the Hybrid Decision Wheel LINK.

What becomes clear and dear to me about organizing and facilitating engaging hybrid meetings and workshops are the following points:

Choose consciously and adapt accordingly

Hybrid – online – onsite are three different ‘pairs of shoes’. To me each setting gives a different feel to facilitate. The design looks different. Convened in a physical room or on a screen is not the same. Having one channel or two combined has implications. Hybrid – online – onsite are different types of meetings. Each option has its own characteristics, its pros and cons, its opportunities and requirements, challenges, and design options.

Choose wisely and consciously which ‘pairs of shoes’ are best to wear in what you want to achieve.

The Decision Wheel helps to come to an informed choice. Also have a look at the excellent guidance “Hybrid Events” by IngeniousPeopleKnowledge.

Practice and reflect

Organizing and facilitating a hybrid meeting needs practice. Through practice comes ease. With ease comes confidence and even more experimentation.

Two years ago, hybrid meetings were new to me. I moved from refusal to acceptance to practice. Each time I did it, I learnt something. Each time I helped organize and facilitate, I reflected on the experience with the team.

Hybrid meetings need a team. Definitely.
Practice together!

Experiment and get better

I see each hybrid meeting as another experiment. The ‘discipline’ is still young and fresh, at least for many, including me. We can learn from cracks and through our own prototypes.

The first step is purpose. Be crystal clear, why hybrid is important, and then make it as smooth and as engaging as possible. You don’t go for ‘easy’ (for example the format: presentation with a few talking heads and a silent audience), you go for engagement. The ambition must be to create engagement and collaborative moments that are worthwhile. Hybrid meetings and workshops are doable, but they are more work.

Think double and plan double

When I plan a hybrid meeting, I have both groups in mind, I adopt a double perspective.

Always. I think double because it is double. 

There are two different groups and realities in two different rooms coming together.

  • In the physical room, you add a big screen to have the “zoomies” present.
  • In the physical room, you add cameras to bring the “roomies” into the online space of the “zoomies”.

Adopt a curious attitude

Hybrid meetings are possible thanks to smart technological equipment.

Yet, the challenge is often not of technological nature (sure you must have the equipment and know how to handle it).

The challenge is human.

Without tuning into the right attitude, without willingness to make it inclusive and interactive for everyone, without curiosity to explore and experiment, no smart equipment can make a hybrid gathering a success.
The human factor counts.
A lot.

How do you deal with the hybrid challenge? 
I am curious. Please leave a comment.

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