Warning: hybrid events don’t work without virtual skills

There are more and more hybrid events being run by companies for meeting, working and learning. It’s great to bring people together no matter where they live or work, but the challenge is to make sure that everyone has a positive experience and no one feels left out.

As with anything new, you don’t know what you don’t know. I’ve supported and coached people through planning and running their hybrid events and it’s very obvious that people need excellent virtual skills and experience in order to run a quality hybrid event.

Why do you need virtual skills for a hybrid event?

I was speaking to a client one day who was planning on running a hybrid training event – they were thinking about the contents, the learning points and so on. Then we got to how people will discuss things. They made some assumptions about how remote and physically present people will chat, and I asked questions like:

  • How will those physically present be able to speak to someone who is remote, when they don’t have their own laptops at the location?
  • How will you make sure that everyone can hear everyone else when there is a room full of people all speaking to someone who is remote?
  • Do you know if the venue will have enough bandwidth to support all these connections with video feeds?
  • How will the facilitator call people together and receive feedback – how will that involve the remote participants?

Then we got into some of the technical conversation around who can see, hear and do things. My client had thought about making sure there was a computer so that the facilitator could see the online participants via webcams, but hadn’t considered how all the participants could see each other.

The trouble with not seeing another part of the audience, whether you are a participant, facilitator or part of the wider team, is that it’s easier to forget that they are there. And if the facilitator has a laptop on a table in front of them, will they be able to see what’s written in the chat panel, or if a person has clicked the hand up icon to ask a question and so on?

When someone has designed and delivered events virtually, they are skilled in considering how the experience and technology come together to enable people to collaborate. They will be considering what the best experience is for learning, working or collaborating, and then which technology enables that. Without that crucial bit of experience, a lot of the planning and facilitation will be ad-hoc: the experience for live online participants will be minimal and disruptive for those physically present.

Running your own hybrid events?

If you are planning on your own hybrid events, you can download a case study about rethinking hybrid conferences, for free, and get some great ideas to ensure your own success.

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