Hello ATD Kansas City!
In August, ATDKC held its first hybrid chapter meeting. The pandemic created an environment of almost constant change, and while we were able to successfully pivot in 2020 to hosting all events online, we were eager to see your faces in person! We entered into this hybrid event challenge hoping that we would be holding hybrid events through the remainder of 2021, and we expected that this first opportunity to try the hybrid format would lead to some key learnings we could apply going forward. As many companies are working through that same challenge right now, I am excited to share some of those key learnings from this first hybrid meeting with you, in hopes it helps provide some guidance to those of you on teams who are focused on success in our new hybrid environment.
Our goal was simple: to make sure our in-person and online participants were all equally engaged in the program.
To do this, we made the following decisions:
- We hosted an amazing, experienced speaker, ATD Master Trainer Keith Johnson. We secured Keith as our speaker very intentionally, knowing that this first hybrid meeting would benefit from having a presenter used to working in different conditions and technical situations – should anything go wrong.
- We also chose one of our regular technical partners, Training Umbrella, as a location to host our on-site participants, knowing they have extensive technical experience and have hosted other hybrid events for companies. We anticipated that they would be able to teach us some things about how to make hybrid events successful in the future when we might not have access to the same technology.
- We secured a producer for our “online” participants so we would have someone who could lead engagement activities and distribute materials online as these actions were taking place in the physical room.
- We secured an in-person “speaker handler” to assist with handing out materials, with
- We held a production meeting a week ahead of time with the speaker, the online producer, the “speaker handler”, and our contact at Training Umbrella to talk through the details of the event. We wanted everyone who would be involved in the program to know what sort of engagement activities were planned, what the technical set up would look like, and what each person’s role would look like during the event.
We felt as prepared as we could be! The day of the program, everything was set up – our microphone was working, the online participants could hear people talking everywhere in the classroom, but our speaker was still prepared to repeat questions asked to make sure nothing was lost in translation. The videos that the speaker planned to show were playing correctly . . . we were READY.
For everything . . . but the power going out.
The power went out in our in-person location about halfway through the presentation due to a storm in the area. Our in-person participants could no longer see the presentation on the large screens in the classroom, but they could still hear our speaker. Our online participants could, miraculously, still hear our speaker AND still see the presentation he was sharing from his personal laptop. We forged ahead!
We never got the power back, but we were able to continue the program – but it wasn’t the quality we were originally hoping for. Our online participants got to see the slides, and while we did end up encountering some sound issues after the power outage, they were able to engage with the material.
- Our speaker was quick on his feet – he admitted after the event that in his 20+ years of facilitating he had encountered a lot of challenges, but never a power outage. It helped to have a presenter who could adapt quickly to the adjusted circumstances.
- Our online producer was a big win. It helped to have someone who could ensure our online participants were engaged.
- Having our speaker not only plug into the classroom technology in order to show his materials in-person, but also log into the Zoom link, mute his microphone and camera, and “share” BOTH his slides AND audio with our online participants ensured that his videos were heard, and that the online participants could see what was being presented clearly.
- Having a computer logged into the Zoom link and projecting onto a screen in the classroom was useful because our in-class people were able to see the videos of people participating online! It helped create the feeling that we were all in class together.
- This wasn’t planned ahead of time– but having someone who was participating in-person log into the Zoom in order to see what our online participants were seeing ended up being critical when the power went out. That person was able to discern that our online participants could still see and hear, and could explain in the chat what we were experiencing in person was a big help as the session continued. We even ended up having that person move closer to the speaker at one point when we experienced audio issues so that our online participants could hear through the individual’s system microphone for a short time.
- Practice your technical aspects in advance. Play around with different ideas to see what might work best in a troubleshooting scenario!
- Stay flexible! None of us anticipated a power outage. Being adaptable and communicating with participants as best we could during the event allowed us to continue, though we could all agree it wasn’t exactly the event we were hoping for.
Ultimately, we are logging these key learnings for future hybrid events. We know that due to updates from the CDC about current COVID Delta variant conditions we are transitioning back to fully online events in September for ATDKC, but hopefully our experience provides some useful information to those of you currently working through the hybrid challenge! Watch your event announcements for details on upcoming opportunities to participate in programs and Special Interest Groups.
Cheers to all of you, and I hope to see you online for the virtual ATDKC conference in October!