This is now my favourite hybrid format! I’m in my office online (Zoom) facilitating nine people sitting around a large semi-circle table in a room over two hours driving away. This session was easy because my client organization provided a fantastic technology producer, a great camera setup, and collaborated with me to design the activities to achieve the outcomes which were:
- Affirm the group’s common understanding of the project goals
- Approve my proposed project process
- Create excitement and eagerness about the project
What made this hybrid session a success?
- The tech producer and I carefully and collaboratively designed and planned the 2½-hour session which was the kickoff meeting for a five-month collaborative process between three government entities to develop a regional vision.
- The technological setup included a camera that could zoom out for a large group view and zoom in on one, two, or three participants. The audio worked through each person’s microphone and was very clear. The chairperson who was a different individual than the tech producer monitored when someone wanted to speak, watching for an indicator light on the microphones. The tech support person effectively used the camera, focusing on individuals when they were speaking and zooming out at appropriate times. Also, she would ask me what view I needed.
- The tech producer and chair helped me with setting up and monitoring small groups. I invited participants to form trios or groups of 4 and 5 and the tech producer and chair quickly organized them, gave them separate spaces to work in and let me know if they needed more time to talk.
- I developed a three-page workbook and sent it to each participant in advance so they could prepare for the discussions and have copies in front of them. Thye did not need to only view the four PPT slides I showed on the screen.
- Practice time! Five days before the session, the tech producer and I practiced the setup for ½ hour. Two of the participants joined us to give me the feel for the space, the video, and the audio. They also gave me feedback on how I looked and sounded. I slightly adjusted my design and approach after this practice.
- Nine individuals participated of whom three were comfortable with the technology. The small number made it easy to facilitate conversations with the entire group and with small groups.
My mindset was a contributing factor. I was originally told the session would be online and then it changed to hybrid with only me online. After my first “oh no” in my head, I accepted this change and approached the session with the belief that we could make it work. I did not feel uncomfortable being the only person being viewed on a large screen. Thank goodness for many hours spent online over the past 2½ years!
The feedback from the client was “Great session yesterday! You were awesome!”
This type of hybrid session with me as the facilitator being the only person online was successful and easy. In a few weeks, I will facilitate the same hybrid setup with another organization to approve a strategic plan which we developed during a 1½ day in-person session. I look forward to applying the lessons from this first hybrid session and seeing how this next one works.
Now, if other hybrid formats would only be that way!