Grappling with the never-ending tidal wave of coronavirus variants, we are poised to manoeuvre between in-person and remote learning. As L&D professionals, you might have also encountered a surge in demand for hybrid facilitation, in which some participants meet face-to-face in a shared space while others join online from remote locations through digital devices.
I have been delivering quite a number of training programs in these days that required effective hybrid facilitation skills. Recently, an international luxury brand commissioned me to deliver a regional Strengths-based Team Development Program to a large group of their employees comprising both in-person and remote participants. The program turned out to be a great success. One of the remote participants remarked, “Thank you for making me feel like I was there in person.”
I have been through it, so I know the challenges when it comes to hybrid facilitation – how to get the remote participants as engaged as those attending in person? How to bridge physical and virtual participants so that they can communicate well and work together to learn? How to manage role-play and group discussions effectively across the physical and virtual space for desired outcomes?
Believe me, with the right tools and techniques, you can also overcome these hurdles.
Here are some tips that can help you make your hybrid facilitation more effective and less excruciating:
1. Set a camera in the training room which allows you to see the full view of the classroom. Not only that you can check the learners’ progress, but you can also call on those participants who are losing their attention.
2. Arrange an experienced IT person to provide technical support in the remote classroom. This person acts as your extended arms to ensure things go smoothly at the remote site.
3. Test the sound system before the program starts. Be sure that everyone in the training room can hear your voice clearly. The audio feedback and background noise on the virtual platform should be managed and avoided.
4. Create a group chat on Whatsapp for instant communications among facilitators and participants. Facilitators can send immediate instructions and documents to both in-person and remote participants and address their questions during the training. Participants can also submit their assignments through file sharing.
5. In role-playing sessions, place two chairs at the front of the classroom. Set up a computer with its camera zooming in on the two role-players. Use the spotlight function such as the Zoom’s Spotlight Video to put them in the role-play “on stage”. In this way, not only those who are physically present in the classroom can observe the role-play clearly, but also the remote participants.
6. Set up another computer with its camera zooming in on a flipchart stand. Ask another trainer or a training assistant to capture participants’ inputs by writing them down on the flipcharts, preferably with less wording but more visual drawings. This can help the trainer facilitate the discussions among all participants when the remote participants can also see everyone’s inputs, hence greater learner engagement.
7. Never let remote participants feel like they are being left out. Keep them involved by calling their names, checking their learning progress regularly throughout the training, and addressing them first when asking questions.
In our T&D profession, being agile is the key to success. So, with the right skills and tools, you will find the hybrid facilitation experiences rewarding and enjoyable.