With some of us already back in the office and others continuing to stay remote, how do we speak in meetings or presentations to a hybrid audience of both in-person and virtual attendees?
Over the past few months, we’ve heard this constant refrain from our clients, whether they work at small businesses and Fortune 50 companies: “While we are all anticipating being back in-person in the next few months, virtual isn’t going anywhere.”
I recently wrote an article for the Potomac chapter of Meeting Planners International about how to engage a hybrid audience at a conference. How does this help us in our daily meetings and presentations?
Here are 5 steps to speak to a hybrid audience:
1. Practice it in advance
Read your presentation out loud and, for every question or interaction, talk through how it would work in both mediums. If you ask a question of the group, think through how your virtual audience will answer. If you’re using handouts or slides, email them in advance to the virtual attendees. Set up a laptop at one end of the table and practice with that as your virtual attendee.
2. Make sure the tech works
Troubleshoot your technology in advance. How will the virtual attendees see and hear you, and vice versa? Appoint someone in the room to serve as tech support so they can focus on addressing the needs of those joining remotely. That person can also engage with the virtual audience through a group chat and ask questions to be addressed in the in-person setting.
3. Invite virtual attendees to log in for the small talk
One of the components of in-person meetings that we’ve most missed is the casual conversations before we get down to business. Don’t wait until the formal start of the meeting to dial in those joining remotely. Invite them to be present for the small talk at the beginning so you can build a cohesive bond with them as well, which will reduce your speaking nerves.
4. When presenting, make the camera an important attendee
When speaking to both virtual and in-person attendees, treat the camera as an important attendee sitting around the table. From time to time throughout your presentation, or while raising an issue at the meeting, make eye contact with the camera. When you make eye contact, they will feel more engaged and, as a result, more present.
5. Treat virtual attendees as full participants, not as afterthoughts
So that the virtual attendees don’t feel marginalized, refer to them frequently while looking into the camera. If you solicit questions from the group, call on virtual attendees first, by name if possible. If something funny happens in the room which virtual attendees can’t see, describe it for them so they can laugh as well. The more you protect the space for everyone, the more productive the meeting will be.
In a hybrid setting, use the above strategies to level the playing field between virtual and in-person attendees.
With practice and repetition, you’ll build your own best practices to maximize your message and your impact.