Now that we have thought through the logistics and the platform, we have to tackle how the meeting structure will work in a way that feels like a hybrid meeting and not just a one-way broadcast.
For an attendee, the ability to engage and have their voice heard is the main difference between a meeting and a recording. A virtual meeting that gives the attendee no opportunity to be engaged and to have their voice heard is just a video recording disguised as a meeting — often leaving attendees wondering if that was the best use of their time.
One of the greatest challenges of a hybrid meeting is coming up with a meeting structure that deliberately and strategically engages both the in-person audience and the virtual audience. Here are 7 ideas to consider incorporating into your meeting structure to help foster engagement:
- Assign a Meeting Coordinator: Having an individual assigned to be the meeting coordinator is a critical component to help bridge both an in-person audience with a virtual audience. The Meeting Coordinator needs to be physically present at the meeting venue, and also connected to the virtual meeting at all times. Their responsibility is to make sure to be the communication bridge between the in-person host team and the virtual host team. Your Meeting Coordinator should be intimately familiar with your virtual platform, and have their own devices (i.e. laptop) with them to connect to it. This ensures one person is responsible for making sure that the virtual audience’s voice is heard.
- Assign a Meeting Host or Master of Ceremonies: The meeting host generally should be physically in-person at the meeting. This person will run the entire meeting, with the assistance of the Meeting Coordinator and Virtual Facilitator. The Meeting Host’s main job is to make sure the meeting moves along as scheduled.
- Assign a Virtual Facilitator: A Virtual Facilitator helps to engage the remote audience with additional conversations, as well as serves the secondary role of providing technical support to remote attendees when needed. This can be especially helpful for any periods of time when the in-person audience needs to take a recess, has any in-person networking time, or is having a food or drinks break. Your Virtual Facilitator should be comfortable with the Breakout Rooms feature and have some virtual icebreaker exercises ready. If possible, consider also assigning someone to be the Assistant Virtual Facilitator in case your first facilitator has connections issues.
- 1-on-1 Hybrid Catch-up: Set aside 10 minutes of your meeting to allow for your in-person attendees to catch-up 1-on-1 with at least one other virtual attendee, by opening up your Breakout Rooms within Zoom, and encouraging each in-person attendee to connect using the Zoom App on their personal smartphone.
- Designate Time for Virtual Breakout Rooms: There will be a desire for attendees who are physically at your venue to want to naturally connect with others who are there in-person with them. Consider creating structured times during the meeting schedule for organic networking time. During this networking time, have your Virtual Facilitator open up Breakout Rooms and have your virtual attendees go into smaller groups to catch-up. This provides a networking opportunity for both audience groups, to make sure the virtual audience is not just sitting there and waiting while the in-person audience group is networking.
- Actively Acknowledge Individuals: Build into your meeting schedule structured opportunities to verbally acknowledge both in-person attendees and virtual attendees. This will help both sets of attendees feel connected, and feel like they were seen. Acknowledging individuals can be as easy as verbalizing someone’s comment in the chat or celebrating someone’s personal success.
- Personalized Attendee Follow-ups: Depending on the size of your audiences and meeting structure, it may not be possible to always give every person time to speak or to be recognized during the meeting. The last thing you want is for your attendees to feel invisible. Consider one to five individuals who are responsible for sending a personalized “Great to see you!” message to your virtual and in-person attendees during and after the meeting. Ideally, the individuals handling the follow-ups rotate per meeting, so that every time a repeat attendee visits, they get the impression that they are seen by others.