It’s hard to believe it has been nearly 12 months since we had to master running workshops and events remotely, but as teams return to work in their offices and restrictions lift for venues, there are new challenges to master.

As combining in person attendance and remote attendance at workshops becomes more popular to minimise cost, travel and maintain restrictions, the need to deliver a ‘hybrid’ workshop has emerged. The hybrid brings together participants in person in a venue and remote participants, in an interactive two-way workshop.

Making the hybrid work is a tech and engagement balancing act. If you’re not careful, it can feel isolating, and a little like watching TV, for the remote participant because all the action is in the room, and for those in the room trying to interact with remote participants can make engagement clunky.

This is where understanding and effectively using the right tech, tools and techniques is critical.

Through our recent experiences, we have learnt lots of essential ingredients to make these workshops work, not just technically but so you still achieve the desired outcomes, and you keep both remote and in person participants engaged.

Here’s a snapshot of some of our key learnings from running ‘hybrid’ workshops:
  • Plan, plan and plan again. The hours of planning that go into a workshop have at least doubled. It’s no longer just the content and the exercises, its now the tech and the techniques that need to be planned, tested, tweaked and tested again
  • Traditional workshop activities don’t necessarily translate to remote and remote don’t necessarily translate to in person, so a combination and access to both is essential
  • Test the tech (I think this has been my 2020 mantra) – we run a full dress rehearsal of all the tech, all the techniques and all the presenters at least once
  • If you’re introducing a new application or tool that’s going to require users to manage its function on their own, e.g., a digital whiteboard, then provide this to participants as pre-work – send them a quick intro and test exercise prior to the workshop so they feel comfortable and ready on the day
  • Control the timing – hybrid workshops lack the flexibility of an in person workshop, where if you run late the impact is minimal. As we all know participating remotely can be tiring and sticking to timings for breaks is important
  • Get people participating early on the day. Your icebreaker is more important than ever and it needs to translate to both formats
  • Make it easy for remote people to participate and make it clear how they can join in from the beginning – hands raised, chat on, polling, mute on/off
  • Nominate an in person participant(s) to be a ‘virtual concierge’. This means when you work in break outs or teams, they are responsible for the remote participants engagement. Hand them a pre-set laptop with a breakout room and they look after their remote team members throughout breakout activities
  • Have a great facilitator. It is a specialist skill and now more than ever, it’s absolutely necessary for the success of your event.

I facilitate many events for clients, but I also work with and recommend some exceptional professionals in this area. I recently had the pleasure of running a ‘hybrid’ workshop with the very brilliant, Linton Chalmers. Linton is one of the best facilitators I have worked with in years. He is bright and quick to understand the complexities of issues and relationships, and his energy and humour is contagious. If you want to work with Linton or learn more about the work he does, you can chase him down here.

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