The COVID-19 pandemic has caused dramatic changes in the way business meeting events are conducted around the world. Many organizations have turned to virtual meeting tools like Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams to discuss ideas, collaborate and stay productive.
While these virtual meetings have been useful, combining the benefits of in-person and virtual interactions presents even greater opportunities for each encounter to reach its highest potential. This is where hybrid virtual meetings or hybrid virtual events come in.
5 Easy ways to Hack Your Hybrid Business Meeting Events
What are Hybrid Meetings or Hybrid Events?
Hybrid meetings or hybrid events are gatherings or events that feature at least one group of in-person or face-to-face attendees connecting virtually with other meeting attendees in a remote location, be it within the same country or across borders.
While such hybrid business meeting events are not new and have been around for a number of years, its importance and relevance has only grown following the pandemic. With technology evolving swiftly and becoming increasingly reliable, this hybrid mix of in-person attendees and remote meeting participants is fast becoming a prominent component in the new normal of business meeting events.
What are the Benefits Of Hybrid Meetings?
Hybrid virtual meetings or hybrid virtual events should form an integral part of an organization’s risk management assessment. Below are a few of its benefits:
- Allows participants who are unable to attend a live event to do so virtually.
- Multiple types of hybrid meetings present multiple options for the planning team.
- Allows for a collaborative environment by eliminating the traditional confines of a face-to-face meeting.
- Cost-effective option featuring the benefits of both in-person and remote meetings.
- Allows for personal connections and also virtual connections that extend beyond the physical confines of the event.
How To Ace a Hybrid Meeting
As the event organizer, hybrid meetings are often more challenging than an in-person or fully digital meeting. Here are a few best practices to help make your hybrid meetings more effective:
1. Preparation is half the battle won
A good preparation over a common digital platform ensures the starting point for a successful hybrid event. Preparations may include revising practical instructions, technical preparation (especially for remote participants), discussing your participants’ expectations, presenting questions or exploring the content itself.
Good preparation and familiarity with the technology also provides confidence and peace of mind to the facilitation of the hybrid event.
2. Design meetings with all attendees in mind
Perhaps the most typical risk associated with a hybrid meeting is that remote participants are left out, or relegated to so-called “second class” participants. In-person participants can easily take the facilitator’s attention as it enables more diverse ways to communicate. In order for everyone to get the most out of the hybrid event, plan it with the needs of your remote participants kept to the fore.
Review each activity or exercise focusing specifically on how remote participants will engage. Consider what tools and techniques, digital or otherwise, can be used to maximize their interaction with the in-person attendees.
This also means that participation methods in face-to-face encounters such as flip charts, whiteboards, sticky notes, and hand-up voting need to be put aside. To capture meeting notes, use an online whiteboard so everyone can see what’s being written as it happens.
If the hybrid meeting calls for putting people into breakout groups, the easiest solution is to include all the remote participants in a single group. While simpler, this sends them the wrong message by reinforcing their physical absence. It’s likely worth the extra logistical and technical effort to integrate remote participants across several breakout groups to accentuate their equal status.
3. Work in pairs and small groups
Pair chats and group work are part of the toolkit of most facilitators in hybrid business meetings and events as it allows more opportunities for active participation. Divide the face-to-face participants into groups and form virtual participants into the required number of small groups.
Get all the groups to compile their ideas on the same platform, e.g. in text format, images or videos. This way, everyone’s ideas will be documented using the same method and discussions can continue even after the hybrid meeting ends.
4. Share the lead responsibility and facilitate as a team
One of the facilitator’s task is to ensure that all participants are aware of the schedule and updated on any changes. Therefore, it is important to be clear on what time each break ends or how much time is allocated for the participants to work in small groups. A digital timer that is visible to both in-person and remote participants can make this easier.
If the group is large, consider sharing the facilitation responsibilities among several coaches where possible. If more than one satellite (or location) is involved in your implementation, make the satellites as equal as possible. Share out responsibilities for leading the day’s activities, and split this between the people in charge of the various satellites.
5. Enable informal encounters
The undeniable strength of face-to-face meetings or events is in the generation of informal conversations during breaks and natural opportunities for networking. With a little planning and effort, these opportunities can also be made available to virtual participants.
During coffee breaks, for example, small digital discussion groups can be organized around informal themes or questions. As a facilitator, it is important to ask the right questions. It is a good idea to plan in advance if the participants can be involved in brainstorming, for example, on the topics of future meetings, or if they may be keen to share tips related to the topics, or in seeking and giving peer support.
You could also bring the virtual and in-person participants closer to one another through fun activities such as joint relaxation exercises or a quick dance party during breaks.
More informal forms of participation can also serve in breaking the ice, in creating a sense of security and in lowering the threshold for participation in content-loaded discussions.
Even as vaccination rates increase and in-person gatherings resume, hybrid business meetings are poised to become a permanent part of how organizations function. By leveraging on technology and tools, being thoughtful in meeting design, and providing strong facilitation, we can create hybrid business events where all the participants, whether in the room or an ocean away, feel engaged, valued and equal.
That’s it! We hope this guide to Hack Your Hybrid Business Meeting Events helps make work even more fun and effective.