You are here

Mastering hybrid workshops

Submitted by donna on 25 February, 2023 - 07:47

"I challenge you to make it the best of both worlds"
- Pia Andrews

Report back status: Work in progress.

During the middle of the beginning of the covid pandemic, I was talking to friend, and occasional co-conspirator, Pia Andrews, about the challenges of facilitating hybrid workshops. I was frustrated. "It's the worst of both worlds!" I complained. Pia's challenge resonates in my mind like a buddhist gong.

Whether in person, or distributed across geographies, and timezones, I truly love facilitating workshops for people who want to get things done. But hybrid sessions are hard. Really hard.

"Hybrid events require three complete designs: one for the people who are sharing the room, one for those joining remotely, and one for the connection between the two." - Deborah Rim Moiso Session lab

When we ask people to collaborate, we need to respect the time, skills, and interest levels they bring to the engagement. When we ask online attendees to participate as completely, and equally as the majority of people who are onsite, we must ensure they have complete, and equal access to contribute to the discussion. They can't be forgotten, or left hanging. Technology should facilitate their involvement, not get in the way.

This is an incredible opportunity to re-think the work we do in workshops.

Some tactics:

  • Ask everyone to wear headsets, and mics, and to behave as though they are all distributed. Use mute, to focus on once voice at a time.
  • Use a virtual whiteboard canvas for onsite and online participants - this also saves on harvesting, and transcribing.
  • In large groups, use breakout sessions to give everyone a chance to use their voice. People are often more comfortable contributing in smaller groups. Summarising those small group discussions and highlighting the key take aways with the larger group ensures the value of those breakouts is realised.
  • Break a long session into a series of small sessions, with breaks between them.
  • Mix up the pace, and the medium. Use videos, use pictures, use music. Work hard, to make it easy for everyone to stay engaged.
  • Have multiple "onsites" - co-located groups of people in different places - and ensure each group has a local facilitator, time keeper, note taker.
  • Send online participants a workshop kit in advance. Include healthy snacks & sugar hits, and a food delivery voucher for something more substantial. Add a notebook, a pen, and some coloured pencils, and plan to use them in the workshop.
  • Encourage the use of mobile phone devices to capture and share photos, audio and video snippets.
    Take some of the work offline, and asynchronous, pre-work, and post-work with clear timelines can increase the effectiveness, and diversity of the types of contributions people are able to make.

Lots of facilitators are experimenting, learning, perfecting approaches that meet the challenge.

Here's some resources I've found useful to learn how others are adapting, and perfecting their approaches.