Prior to 2020 most of us were accustomed to presenting in person only.
Through 2021 we honed our skills to present in a virtual environment.
Today, you need to learn a new set of skills, delivering an effective presentation in a hybrid environment.
It is crucial you learn these skills as hybrid environments - where some participants are in person and other are virtual - are here to stay.
THE CHALLENGE OF A HYBRID ENVIRONMENT
Hybrid environments have a danger of which presenters must be aware. They are uniquely susceptible to creating two classes of attendees - participants and observers.
When you are all in-person or all virtual the playing field is level. When some attendees are online, and others are in person the landscape changes.
Watching a meeting or conference happen is different than being in the room. It's like watching Hamilton on Disney+. It's great, but it's not like sitting in the theater on Broadway.
As a presenter, you know what it feels like to have your audience lean in, ask questions, and respond to your words. You also know the sinking feeling of presenting to an audience of casual observers. They hear your words, but they are not listening.
In the hybrid environment, you can easily end up with a room of engaged participants and a virtual room of casual observers.
THE 4 SKILLS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE HYBRID PRESENTERS
The key to delivering an effective hybrid presentation is to ensure both the in-person and virtual audiences remain engaged participants.
To do this, do these four things.
Include the virtual audience in the small talk that occurs before the presentation. As people in the room talk about the weather and their weekend plans, ask the virtual attendees their thoughts and give them an opportunity to contribute.
At the start of your presentation, acknowledge the reality that the audience is hybrid. Specifically welcome both groups. Say hello to a few of the virtual participants by name.
Inclusion in small talk and an intentional welcome help to level the playing field and signal to the virtual audience that they are important participants.
PLAN INCLUSIVE ENGAGEMENT
As you prepare your presentation, keep the in-person and virtual audience at the forefront of your mind.
If you ask a question or want the audience to interrupt you with questions, keep in mind the virtual attendees need more time to respond. Give any period of silence a few extra seconds before you move on in case someone online is about to voice a question. Even better say, "before we move on do any of our virtual attendees have a question or comment?
In addition, ask the virtual attendees to utilize the chat feature within your online meeting software or raise their virtual hand to signal to you as the presenter that they would like to contribute.
MAKE SURE EVERYONE CAN SEE EVERYONE
If you have slides you need two screens in the room. On one, show your slides. On the other, put the virtual audience on the screen.
Invite your in-person participants to close their laptops as they can see your slides and the virtual attendees.
For the virtual attendees place an external camera at the front of the room so they can see all the in-person participants. Even better, invest in a camera that shows multiple in-person attendees at one time.
I use the Meeting Owl Pro, and it works very well when 1 - 15 people are in the room. It is easy to set up and the multiple cameras give the virtual audience a clear view of who is speaking in the room.
Ask virtual attendees to turn on their cameras. Say this, "no judgment at all if you're not in a place where it is not possible to turn on your camera, but if it's possible I'd like to ask our virtual attendees to turn on your camera. It gets a little lonely here in this room all by ourselves, and we'd love to see you." As virtual participants turn on their cameras welcome them by name and tell them you're glad to see them. Trust me, it works.
MAKE SURE EVERYONE CAN HEAR EVERYONE
Recently, I was delivering a hybrid presentation and due to the set-up of the microphones, I knew the online audience could not clearly hear the conversation happening in the room. When a participant asked a question, I took a moment to repeat the question.
Two days later a virtual attendee made a note to thank me for repeating the questions so they could follow the conversation.
When you present, control what you can control. Even if the camera and microphone setup is outside your control, you can still keep your entire audience engaged by simply ensuring everyone is hearing what is said.
THE BIG QUESTION
Hybrid presentations are their own unique environment.
As such, they require a new set of skills to deliver an effective presentation.
Throughout your preparation and delivery focus on this question - "How can I create a level playing field where both in-person and virtual attendees feel like valued participants?"
For further best practices on presenting a hybrid environment read this great article - "The Right Way to Run Hybrid Meetings" by Sacha Connor.