How to prioritize connection and attendee experience in a hybrid workshop

If you are thinking about running a hybrid workshop, there’s a lot to consider. The hybrid landscape is a new frontier for event facilitators and attendees alike; therefore, putting on a hybrid workshop will require a different approach and mindset than an in-person or virtual one. It will also require alternative tools and methods to create an equal and engaging experience for all attendees–no matter if they’re in the physical workshop room or Zoom room. 

The priority of any workshop should be to engage participants and help them get the most out of their experience to make a lasting impact. Focusing on connection in a hybrid workshop is even more important as you must create an environment that bridges the two worlds and equally supports in-person and remote attendees. People come first. Everything else trickles down from there. With that being said, the right tools and processes are also essential for a hybrid workshop to exist. 

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Hybrid Workshop Tools & Processes 

The proper tools and processes are a critical component of hybrid workshops–both practically to run an event smoothly and strategically to bring all participants together. A hybrid environment is more complex than an in-person or virtual one; therefore, a hybrid workshop will also be. That’s because you have two different types of attendees to consider: those in the physical room and those dialing in virtually, and you want an equal experience for everyone. Prep will require much more time to adequately organize all attendees and set them up with everything they need to thrive. First, you’ll need to decide on the event platform that will support all of your workshop’s needs:

  • Live streaming support
  • Integrations that offer the highest production quality
  • Networking capabilities that allow easy attendee engagement
  • Management capacity to run the event smoothly behind the scenes

Then consider the scene from which you’ll run the event:

  • Will you be on a stage with cameras to capture the experience?
  • Will you be in an office and operate more like a typical video conferencing call?
  • Decide the best scenario that supports the event–from the background to the props that will appear in the frame–then gather the materials you need to bring it to life. 

While tech and hardware are the lifelines that make a hybrid event possible, the biggest challenge with remote or hybrid work of any kind is genuine connection. It’s the essential missing element of in-person connection that cannot be replaced by technology–no matter how innovative. There is no substitute for human interaction. To provide the same fidelity of experience for both in-person and remote attendees, you’ll need a tool that supports collaboration, like the virtual tool MURAL. We personally like MURAL at Voltage Control because it’s a customizable virtual whiteboard that supports interactive and collaborative work with a distributed team. Everyone can work together in one visual space, and you can create your own templates to support your specific needs. It helps to bridge the gap between being apart and working together, no matter where you are. For this reason, it’s a great tool for hybrid workshops.

Pro-tip: Check out our MURAL Cheat Sheet for a quick reference of how to use MURAL.

Use a virtual tool like MURAL in your hybrid workshops to foster connection amongst attendees.
Use a virtual tool like MURAL in your hybrid workshop to foster connection amongst attendees.

One method to foster connection with distributed participants is to have everyone join the meeting the same way or work together in the same place. Have everyone join the meeting on their own devices via a video conferencing tool like Zoom. This creates a more even playing field for remote participants; when everyone joins the workshop in the same way, there is a smaller feeling of division. Having everyone use MURAL via their own devices to work together is also an effective way to create connection and community. All participants can see each other’s work in real-time no matter where they are physically. 

Once you have your decided tools and location, you must set up attendees before the workshop begins. Preparing attendees may include:

  • In-person walkthroughs to set the scene and ready cameras
  • Lighting and other production gear
  • Virtual walkthroughs on the virtual event platform to teach remote attendees how to navigate the space

If the workshop requires attendees to have certain materials to participate, please send them out in advance. This will ensure all attendees are on the same page before the workshop begins.

Hybrid Distribution

Hand-in-hand with tools and processes is the distribution of attendees and how they’re configured. There are endless configuration possibilities for a hybrid workshop. Here are a few examples: 

  • 2 in-person workshop spaces with 10 attendees in each, 1 facilitator in each; 5 remote attendees
  • Facilitators are in person and all attendees are remote
  • 1 in-person workshop space with 1 facilitator & 10 attendees; 10 remote attendees

Note that it’s just as important to consider the configuration of facilitators as it is for attendees. You must decide where you’ll need facilitators and how many. For example, as in the second configuration above, you could have three facilitators in the same physical room, all with specific jobs, to backchannel together while the participants are remote. This could be a cool experience to lead and navigate the workshop with co-facilitators in person. All facilitators would be on the same page, and the focus of connection would then be on creating an excellent experience for all remote attendees. 

You can also use the distribution of attendees to your advantage. For example, are people who need to be together already in the same room? In this case, a lot of the leg work is already done to foster connection amongst attendees. The people who need to be connected have the advantage of being physically together. You could even have a facilitator in each room to help the groups navigate the conversation/work. Then it’s about effectively communicating each distributed group’s work to the other groups.

Use the distribution of hybrid workshop attendees to your advantage.

While there are copious permutations, keep in mind that each one is unique and will require different considerations and approaches. We’ll never have an exhaustive list of every possible configuration. The important thing is that you consider:

  • How are people distributed?
  • How is the environment shaped?
  • What issues might arise and how might that benefit you?

Hybrid Workshop Resources

In sum, when planning a hybrid workshop, map out:

  1. How your attendees are distributed
  2. Where facilitators will be and how many are required
  3. How collaboration will flow
  4. What tech is required to make it happen
  5. How the environment is shaped
  6. Your point(s) of engagement

Then, when it’s time to start thinking about the experience. Check out our Workshop Design Templates to help guide you through the process. You can also find more information about running effective hybrid workshops, meetings, and events (including more configurations) in our free Hybrid Work Guide. Interested in talking to us about how you can effectively run a hybrid meeting or event? Let’s chat.