In the world of event management, ‘hybrid’ may just be the buzzword of the year. Hybrid meetings bring people together in a necessarily unconventional setting while lending a certain innovative cachet to proceedings.
Diplo and the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) have engaged with the concept of hybrid meetings, and we have produced a number of resources in our ConfTech space.
As we transition from
in-person with remote participation — to online only — to hybrid
significant themes become apparent. It is important to stress – hybrid is hybrid! No matter what your ‘mode’ of participation is in a hybrid meeting, all participants should be guaranteed to enjoy the same meaningful experience. Hybrid should not mean that one group of people actively engage while others are simply ‘listening in’. This is the critical shift that must inform the meeting preparation from the outset.
Hybrid meetings of course have limitations, particularly given the inability of some participants to ‘feel the room’.
A few days ago, I carried out a novel exercise (in partnership with swissnex and the Consulate General of Switzerland in San Francisco) to investigate these limitations in a practical way. I acted as online moderator for a group of participants gathered in situ. Usually, I would have no concerns about moderating a structured panel discussion. In facilitating a live exchange for a group and not being physically present myself in the same space, I wondered if the meeting might prove challenging or even feel unnatural.
There were a few elements that made the process feasible, and perhaps less disconcerting – both for myself and for the participants.
1. We are all accustomed to awkward situations in online meetings. I presume and hope that nobody expects that we can copy–paste or recreate our previous way of doing things. There will be weird moments, let us accept it – this is part of our ‘shift’.
2. I could ‘see’ the participants and a camera zoomed in on each of them while they were speaking. This was vital for me to be able to pick up clues on how our discussion was developing – from facial expressions to tone of voice.
3. The participants could see me. I cannot stress highly enough the importance of cameras in online meetings. I appreciate people generally feel more comfortable off camera (I have cooked many dinners and folded laundry during online sessions), but if you want the meeting to be effective, this is the only way to be truly ‘present’, and frankly not waste others’ time.
4. Have a ‘buddy’ on site as co-moderator. I was happy that I planned in advance to have somebody ‘connecting me’ with the mood in the room.
5. Introduce interactive elements: Change your background, include a short poll, infographics, video. Ideally have a colleague to help you out with this.
6. Invest in super simple equipment. A green screen can be bought for a negligible amount and brings a lot of magic, seriously enhancing your professional appearance in the meeting.
7. Do not prolong the meeting. I am a huge believer in short and efficient meetings as well as online events. Hybrid and online meetings require some more patience. Let us not stretch the limits of our willingness to stay tuned.
These seven points are based on my initial observations. I understand the convention of providing ten takeaway points, but I would rather not extend this text artificially. Less is more.
One important note to finish. Online and hybrid meetings are not about technology. They are about skills and careful planning. You will not make the cut simply by purchasing the most expensive equipment. Products once reserved exclusively for professional use are finally fully compatible with your budget laptop. In our ConfTech laboratory in Geneva, an iPhone proved to be the best camera. We have one really expensive tracking camera that we soon realised is not that good, and you know how we use it? As a loudspeaker. No need to go fancy!