The Third Wave: Hybrid is Coming!

The writing is on the wall. First in-person was thought to be the best, then we all went online, and soon hybrid will be the new reality.

A ‘hybrid’ convening is when some participants are in-person in the room and some are elsewhere and joining virtually.

Top three reasons this is becoming the new reality:
  1. We know how to meet virtually well, so why not offer the choice.
  2. We have learned that virtual gatherings can save money (lots of it in some cases), so why not let some do this.
  3. We now have deep experience with both virtual and in-person gatherings, and most people have a preference.

This is all true. However, opting for hybrid gatherings, meetings and events is not a great idea.

Not convinced? Here are a few things I see:
  1. Individuals joining virtually are rarely on the same footing as those together in the room. Read Rethinking Our Online Meetings for more insights on this.
  2. Dialogue, work and decision-making can be easier when we are all in-person or each on a screen online.
  3. Power and privilege sometimes are harder to manage when different groups are meeting in different ways.
Consider this scenario:

Ten people are meeting in-person in a meeting room in the head-office. They are joined by individuals from 5 different countries from around the world.

  • How do you prevent small talk or in-side humor in the room from excluding or silencing those individuals joining from a distance?
  • How can each person see and hear everyone clearly and easily?
  • How can documents be shared and used, so all individuals can see and hear each other while still accessing the information being discussed?

I think we have learned a thing or two during these COVID times, right? For example, when we all meet virtually (because we can’t all come together in-person), it is easier to ensure everyone feels seen and heard, and have equal ways to engage.

However, from time-to-time hybrid gathering will be needed. Okay, fair enough.

Here are some tips to help:
  1. Ask everyone joining your gathering virtually to turn their webcam ON. This will help everyone feel they are in a room together – I see you, therefore you are here.
  2. Send participant list out in advance. This way participants meeting virtually know the names of people in the room.
  3. Invite virtual participants to share their thoughts. Pause to intentionally and consistently invite the virtual group in. You should be aware of their presence at all times, as they can easily be forgotten.
  4. Speak to the people on the screen. It is easy to connect with the people who are physically close to you – it is the people on the screen who will need more attention.
  5. Position the screen so participants in the room can easily see the virtual participants. Rearranging the furniture in the room so the everyone faces the screen and not just who is in the room, will help equalize everyone in the meeting.
  6. Invite solo time. In general, it is helpful to invite time for a group to connect with the content you are working on, with each other, and with themselves. Doing all three will help all feel equal in a hybrid space. Connecting solo is especially helpful. See An Approach that Invites Connections for more on this 3C model.

As well, check out the tips offered in Ways to Ensure Off-site Participation during In-person Meetings. Yes, there are ways to make this work.

Are you ready for the third wave?

What tips do you have for hybrid gatherings?

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Jeanette Romkema is GLP Senior Partner, Knowledge Broker, as well as Partnerships & Network Leader. 

Here are more blogs by Jeanette.

Here are other related GLP blogs you may be interested in:

Here is a collection of GLP resources for online learning: