Experience: The Return to 3D
Before Covid-19 (BC), we typically preferred to meet face-to-face (F2F) and did our best to prepare for and facilitate effective meetings assuming that context. During the pandemic, nearly all of us were forced to work in the virtual format and found that though at times it wasn’t optimal, it was doable. Some of us even learned to use various tools and techniques to make the most of this format, many of which we began sharing in our 2-day Journey to Group Power class.
As we all begin to return to the F2F context, it’s becoming apparent that many organizations will allow employees to work from home at least some of the time. This seems like a win-win arrangement that may save the organization money in terms of facilities costs, while at the same time reducing stress, time and money spent on transportation, and increasing employee freedoms.
Relevance: Hybrid Reality
As we move back into our workspaces in this time of transition, we believe more “Hybrid” gatherings (meetings, events and conferences where part of the group is F2F and part of it is virtual) will become commonplace. This is the future of meetings. And it is happening NOW.
While hybrid meetings can work well, there are several pitfalls we will need to overcome. We share a few of these below, followed by some remedies.
Practice: Bridging the Virtual Divide
Challenge: Virtual participants can feel “disconnected” from those “in the room.” This may cause them to checkout and multi-task more often, leading to reduced engagement.
Remedy A: Assign two facilitators, one to facilitate the F2F room who will convey visual cues verbally to participants in the virtual room, e.g., “I see lots of heads nodding right now.” The other facilitator will be in the virtual room running the entire meeting, soliciting and sharing input from virtual participants.
Remedy B: Have everyone in the meeting login to an online document to collaborate on a relevant task. Some of these activities might be done silently and visually thus leveling the playing field for all participants. This option offers the added benefit of work being captured real-time for later reference and further development.
Remedy C: Conduct breakouts to work on challenges in dyads or small groups. These can be done in both the F2F and virtual rooms providing your virtual platform supports it. If some F2F participants are logged into the virtual room, they can be having their own “hybrid” breakouts as well to further blur the boundary between the two rooms.
Challenge: Informal chatting and side conversations “in the room” are isolated from virtual chatting happening in virtual room.
Remedy: F2F Facilitator conducts periodic check in with virtual facilitator/participants. One F2F participant can login to the virtual room to convey informal but important side comments and also convey relevant virtual chatting with the F2F room.
Challenge: Meeting norms are the “in the room” norms by default. Therefore, virtual participants have to adjust or participate on the fringe.
Remedy: Project the video portion of the webinar in the F2F room so these participants are aware of hand raising in the virtual group. This can increase a sense of presence of the virtual group in the F2F group.
Challenge: Participants “in the room” have the advantage of visual cues for things such as turn-taking, validation, and change in direction, which are not typically available to those on the line.
Remedy: Place name tents in the F2F room with the virtual participants’ names near the speakerphone to remind room participants that there are others in the meeting who are not in the room. Provide everyone with a diagram of all participants “around the table” with pictures, names, other pertinent information to affirm that this is one group.