You’re finally feeling more confident delivering virtual presentations and along comes the next new thing. Hybrid presentations — where part of your audience is on site and part is virtual — present their own unique challenges. While making it easy for everyone to “get together,” a hybrid presentation multiplies the amount of technology issues and inputs a presenter must manage. Add to this the fact that hybrid presentations require excellent face-to-face and virtual presentation skills and you can see why they are greeted with something less than enthusiasm by presenters and attendees alike.
Sound fun? Well, buckle up because hybrid meetings are going to become more commonplace. According to McKinsey, 90% of organizations will adopt some combination of remote and on-site work as they emerge from Covid restrictions. The question is not “Will you be doing hybrid presentations?” but rather, “will you be doing successful hybrid presentations?”
The Hybrid Presentation Challenge
One of the biggest challenges with hybrid presentations or meetings is focus. Regardless of their location, an audience member will lose focus if they must struggle to hear or see, are presented with numerous technical challenges or distractions, or feel left out. (I share a few best practices below to alleviate that.)
A presenter’s focus is compromised in a hybrid situation because they must monitor, connect and engage with two disparate groups with different needs. Whether the presenter is logging in remotely or actually on site, their focus is rarely well balanced. In fact, one audience group almost always gets the short end of the stick. The remote audience.
Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella addressed this very challenge in the following statement:
“We want to ensure those joining remotely are always first-class participants.”
I think most remote participants would agree that hybrid meetings as they are today feel less like a first-class experience and more like a basic economy, seat-near-the-restroom experience. The good news is that many of these issues can be resolved with the right planning and preparation.
Three Ways to Create a First-Class Experience for Your Hybrid Audience:
1. Deliver Consistently Great Audio
Many people will tolerate subpar visuals, but subpar audio is one of the quickest ways to lose your audience. If you are presenting remotely, you should have a quality microphone and speaker by now. In a hybrid environment subpar audio is typically the result of insufficient equipment on site. Even if the equipment is sufficient, the presenter often doesn’t think through specific audio challenges in advance, like how the remote audience will hear the live audience, and vice versa. Having an audio plan is vital to the success of your hybrid presentation.
Best practices for great audio:
- Don’t rely on your laptop mic/speaker alone. The sound quality and reach are rarely adequate – especially on site.
- Use an external speaker/mic combination (Jabra for example) so your remote listeners can hear all comments/questions from the live audience.
- Test the range of your microphone in the room and position it so it picks up as many voices as possible.
- Have a handheld mic available on site for questions.
- Always repeat all questions and answers (succinctly.)
- Engage someone to write down all questions and answers to help keep track.
2. Optimize Visibility For All
Obviously everyone in your presentation needs to clearly see you, the presenter, your presentation, any physical props, handouts, whiteboard or flip chart content that you reference. It’s nice if they also can see the other group of attendees, but that may require more technology than what’s available. Like audio, you’ll want to confirm what cameras, projectors, screens, etc. are available beforehand so you can avoid any unwelcome surprises.
Visibility for your remote audience, or your on site audience if you’re also remote, is through the camera. So it’s important to keep in mind the following point:
“If the camera doesn’t see it; It didn’t happen.”
In other words, you need to know exactly what the camera (and thus your audience) sees to avoid leaving anyone in the dark.
Best practices for great visibility:
- Use an external webcam. If you are on site, this will be directed at you. If you are remote, it should be directed at your live audience.
- Bring a desktop tripod for flexibility. This will allow you to position the camera for optimum visibility and allow you to alternate views if necessary (e.g., if you move around the room or go from a seated to a standing position.)
- Mark the boundaries of your frame when on site so that you can avoid stepping out of your audience’s view.
- Ask someone in the room to move the camera as you move or when others speak.
- Do any screen pointing, annotations or whiteboarding on your remote platform.
3. Plan Engagement Options for Hybrid Presentations
Engagement is the hallmark of a successful presentation, but in a hybrid environment it’s not going to happen without your careful planning. It’s vital that you review each activity and consider how the two different groups will engage. For example, how will each group ask or respond to questions or polls? How will they hear the other group’s answers? Will there be introductions, group discussions, or brain-storming sessions? All of these need to be addressed in advance to avoid unnecessary confusion and chaos.
Keep in mind that it’s very easy to engage with your live audience and forget your remote audience for long stretches of time when you are also on site. To avoid losing any part of your audience due to inattention, follow the best practices below:
- Tell your audience precisely how they can engage (e.g., raised hands for in-person, virtual hands/chat for remote, texting for tech issues, etc.)
- Ensure your remote audience is familiar with the platform you’re using. If not, send them instructions in advance on how to use the engagement tools.
- Avoid letting in-person attendees dominate the discussion by rotating between live and remote audience members.
- Check your remote panel first when you ask a question.
- Draw remote audience members out as they will tend to be more passive than your in-person attendees. Use names, plan something for them to share in advance, etc.
- Consider using a facilitator in the location you are not in to handle engagement, monitor body language, manage introductions, etc.
Careful planning is a key element of a successful hybrid presentation or meeting, but that’s not where the work ends.
There are additional unique challenges and considerations when it comes to delivering your hybrid presentation! Sign up here to be sure to get the best practices for Delivering Winning Hybrid Presentations.
This is just one of the tips that I include in my new book that won the Gold Medal Top Sales book of 2021, Look Me In The Eye Using Video to Build Relationships with Customers, Partners and Teams. Feel free to check it out if you’re looking for more tips on how to engage customers and drive more sales on video.
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