Master Facilitator Journal


Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0381, Feb 17, 2009

Dear Friends,
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Is this world of distributed work teams, group participants are often spread across the globe, meeting with their teammates virtually. Sometimes, a subset of a working group does in fact work in the same building or nearby at least. This group may at times attend a meeting together in a conference room using a speaker, microphone, and camera to connect them to the virtual group.

Meetings where some participants are together in a face to face situation who are interacting with a number of people virtually are referred to as "hybrid" meetings. While hybrid meetings can work well, there are several pitfalls to be aware of. Read this week's article,
Resolving Problems with Hybrid Meetings to learn about these pitfalls as well as some remedies you can use to curtail or minimize these problems before they start.

The recorded version of Facilitating at a Distance is available here.

We hope our work continues to bring inspiration to your world. Thank you for being a part of our growing community. Please continue to send the wonderful feedback.

Blessings,

Steve
Founder, FacilitatorU.com

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The Point

Resolving Problems with Hybrid Meetings
Know the pitfalls of hybrid meetings and head off problems before they start.


Group Dynamics Skill


Is this world of distributed work teams, group participants are often spread across the globe, meeting with their teammates virtually. Sometimes, a subset of a working group does in fact work in the same building or nearby at least. This group may at times attend a meeting together in a conference room using a speaker, microphone, and camera to connect them to the virtual group.

Meetings where some participants are together in a face to face situation who are interacting with a number of people virtually are referred to as "hybrid" meetings. While hybrid meetings can work well, there are several pitfalls to be aware of. The main pitfalls are discussed below, follow by some remedies you can use to curtail or minimize these problems before they start.

People sitting by themselves on the telephone or peering into a webinar on their computer screen can feel “disconnected” from those “in the room.” This may cause them to checkout and multi-task more often, and they may not be as committed and engaged with the work of the group as a whole.

Useful information from informal chatting and side conversations “in the room” are not available to virtual participants. These can marginalize the virtual participants by putting them at a disadvantage.

Meeting norms are the “in the room” norms by default. Therefore, those on the line have to adjust and often participate on the fringe.

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.

So is there anything we can do to level the playing field as it were?

Application

Here are some possible solutions to the typical problems with hybrid meetings.

Assign two facilitators, one to facilitate the Fact to Face (F2F) room who will convey visual cues verbally to participants in the other room, e.g., “I see lots of heads nodding right now.” The other facilitator will be in the virtual room running the entire meeting, taking input from his or her partner in the live room.

Place name tents in the F2F room with the virtual participants’ names near the speaker phone 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.

For ongoing group meetings, take five minutes at the beginning of each meeting to do an in-depth, personal introduction of one team member to build connection and relationships between team members.

Hold virtual celebrations of important events such as baby showers, holiday parties, etc. Real gifts can be delivered, shown on web cams, or virtual gifts can be exchanged just for fun.

What other ideas have worked for you in closing the gap between virtual and F2F groups in hybrid meetings?
Action

Tell me, what is your experience of hybrid meetings? What kinds of problems have shown up and what have you done to resolve them? I'd love to hear from you. Send me your experiences and ideas by replying to this email.


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