The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly changed the world. As we move into new ways of working, it appears hybrid working is here to stay, and for good reason. Many are keen to get back to the connection and interaction you can have in a room. The advantages of enabling online attendance are also clear in terms of accessibility (cost, travel and time) and the need for ongoing health protection. Hybrid meetings, conferences and seminars are likely to become increasingly popular event formats.
I recently attended my first hybrid seminar. I was watching online and the presenters were in a room with an audience. Here’s a summary of the points I observed about this new type of event.
The right tech sets the right tone
Good tech is going to be essential for hybrid events. The seminar I attended got it right:
- The view I saw online included a heading (name of presenter and title of segment), a view of the presenter and their slides.
- Multiple camera angles were presented with good transitions: the lecture view of the presenter, the full room and focus on the host and speaker during a question and answer session.
- The opening and closing slides with a countdown before and contact details for follow-up afterwards demonstrated the professionalism of the event.
Things to consider in a hybrid world
Some old and new issues which need to be considered in a hybrid format:
- As with any tech, there were some glitches. The ability of presenters to handle this with humour and just get on with what they are doing is imperative.
- Coughing by the audience and other background noise is much more annoying when you’re not in the room. We’re so used to be able to mute this online.
- There were no questions invited from the audience in the room. I think I’d have missed that opportunity if I were attending in person. The implications for those in the room asking questions to an unknown audience watching online may have played a part in this and certainly needs consideration in these types of event.
- If you as a presenter ask the audience a question (e.g. for a show of hands), make sure you verbalise what you can see for the online audience who cannot (e.g. everyone had their hand up, only around 10% have heard of this).
Good speaking skills always make a difference
As with any type of presenting, good public speaking skills matter. No matter how good the tech, those attending will be engaged (or otherwise) by the presenters. Some points I noted:
- Making a concerted effort to cut out the filler words (erms, ahhs, you knows, etc) makes a huge difference.
- It was great to see the presenters smiling at and connecting with the audience in the room. As an online attendee, I didn’t mind that they were looking at those there in person and not me through a camera lens.
- If you are one of several presenters, make sure you (at least appear to) listen to other presenters.
As mentioned, this was my first major hybrid event. The seminar format didn’t need it in this case, however, some hybrid events will require interaction throughout the event with audiences both in person and online. How the interaction between the two is handled will be interesting to see. I’m looking forward to watching, participating and learning as this type of event format grows and develops.