As you are putting together the plans for both the logistics and the structure of your hybrid meeting, it is time to start running a risk assessment to anticipate potential challenges that come with hybrid meetings.
What can go wrong?
- Scenario: The internet connection at your meeting venue crashes or becomes unstable. Having a dedicated virtual host helps ensures your virtual audience is being taken care of even if the internet becomes unstable or unavailable at your in-person meeting venue. As an extra redundancy, it would be best practice to have both a primary virtual host and a backup virtual host can help in case there are any internet connection issues with your primary host, your backup virtual host can step in.
- Scenario: Zoom (or your video conference tool) fails or is unavailable. Just like your computers or local internet has a chance of failing, all digital services — including video conferencing tools — have a chance to fail or become unavailable. Having the contact information for all of your meeting attendees to be able to send out an urgent real-time message can be important in the event you need to quickly provide a status update or make an announcement. Having your preferred communication method setup in advance — such as an email list of all attendees or a text messaging service that can reach all of your attendees— makes a huge difference when you are busy putting out fires.
- Scenario: Your meeting venue becomes unavailable or it is no longer possible to meet in-person. Being flexible is a critical component to being successful in a hybrid meeting setting, and that includes being able to have a plan of action if you no longer can meet in-person. If it is just a meeting venue issue, do you have a backup meeting venue that meets all of your requirements and has the required internet and audio-visual setup? As a backup, are you able to quickly transition the meeting to a fully remote, online meeting instead — especially knowing that you already have a virtual audience that is committed to attending?
- Scenario: Your meeting host’s computer or tablet fails or becomes unavailable. Have backup devices for the computer or tablet devices you are using for both audience engagement and for video/audio streaming. It is best when these backup devices are already powered on, connected, and ready to be swapped in. That will help ensure minimal delay in keeping the show running, in the event of a disruption.
- Scenario: You have too many people either virtually or in-person. Unless your meeting requires registration in advance, it is sometimes difficult to know if you are going to unexpectedly hit your meeting capacity. What if your meeting is too popular? For the in-person component, do you have additional space to accommodate more people? For the virtual component, does your video conference tool — such as Zoom — have the upgraded account license to allow for more people? These are components to research, as upgrading meeting capacity is a different process for every tool. While this may be a positive scenario to have too many people, it is important that you have done your research and are prepared in the event you hit your original capacity limits. It is also important to note that as you scale up with more attendees, many video conference tools like Zoom impose other limitations. For example, the maximum number of breakout rooms in Zoom Meeting scales down the more attendees you have on — and breakout rooms stop functioning once you have 500 or more attendees on your Zoom Meeting, unless you have special permission granted in advance from Zoom Support.
- Scenario: Technical issues and all other delays. Remember the last time you were in an online or in-person meeting and there was a technical issue or delay waiting for someone? It happens all the time. While you may not be able to prevent all delays, it is important that your meeting facilitators — both the virtual and the in-person ones — are ready to quickly adapt. Having backup voice-only presentations, icebreakers, jokes, and conversation-starters ready to be used can help make sure an unexpected delay is a positive moment. If the meeting host is not comfortable with improvisation, then it might make sense to recruit someone who is great at impromptu to be the meeting’s designated assistant emcee or assistant host.
Not all of the possible risk scenarios are covered here. You are encouraged to think about everything that could go wrong, and what your action plan is for each of those scenarios. The more you can plan in advance for potential risks, the better prepared you will be if they ever happen. Proper preparation will make your unexpected scenarios seem like just a smooth bump in the road.
What other risk scenarios can you think of?