The genie is out of the bottle — virtual has become the new normal. Organizations understand that remote attendance for meetings and training classes is not only convenient but cost-effective.
In the How to Avoid Key Pitfalls to Reach Hybrid Training Success, guest speaker David Adelman, instructional designer, Certified Virtual Facilitator, and the Director of Training Services at Leadership Strategies opened up about the challenges of facilitating training events that bring together in-person and virtual participants.
David kicks off the presentation with a detailed definition of hybrid training.
He emphasizes how all participants, whether in person or remote, are intended to have opportunities for the same, or nearly the same, level of involvement, interaction, and engagement.
“A hybrid training is a gathering with a core group of active participants in the same room and one or more active participants remote,” he explains.
In bringing virtual and in-person training together, facilitators and participants will encounter already-known challenges of a virtual training environment such as:
- Technology and connectivity issues
- Lack of user or facilitator tech skills
- Poor training skills
- Lack of engagement
However, hybrid training presents a host of new challenges. The potential new issues facilitators need to think about when creating hybrid learning experiences are:
- Sound issues like echoes or not hearing people who speak in the room
- Missing important visual cues
- Accessibility of handouts and other printed materials
- Maintaining balanced interactions between all participants, both in-person and virtual
David also points out that as facilitators we need to become comfortable with these challenges as they cannot be completely avoided.
In the next section of the webinar, David counts down the top five pitfalls facilitators should try to avoid during hybrid training or meetings.
As facilitators, you must ensure all participants are in front of you. Remote participants must be able to see and hear everyone in the room and vice versa.
When virtual participants cannot see the facilitator or other participants well enough or cannot see the whiteboard or flipcharts, they become an afterthought to the training. This leads to low engagement, low buy-in, and low benefit.
Any organization that is serious about being successful in managing and delivering hybrid training experiences needs to invest in its audio-visual equipment.
Such as investing in specialized expertise, like an audio/visual tech person on-site and a virtual producer to support the training event online.
The facilitation and tech support team should also include testing and practice as part of the overall preparation for a hybrid event.
Even with good room arrangement and audio, David emphasized the need for facilitators and instructional designers to actively include engagement strategies for remote participants.
He then shared some of the top strategies he regularly employs to keep everyone engaged during a hybrid training session:
Roles in the room
There should be clarity of roles for everyone who is part of the training:
- Tech support
- Virtual producers
- Virtual moderators
For example, a pod is a group of people attending the training remotely. Each pod should have a point person to help control the room for you.
Rules of engagement
Ground rules are key success factors. The most important of which is, “If you don’t see, hear, or have something, say something,” explains David.
Another important ground rule is to make sure everyone is aware of who is speaking.
For example, this can be done by the speaker identifying themselves or by the facilitator following a consistent order of inviting participants to speak.
The Roll Call list
When inviting groups to all speak or contribute on a topic in a round-robin, a roll call list can be an invaluable tool to help you keep track of engagement. However, while very effective, David cautions that the remote participants should not be the last to contribute.
Facilitators should construct their order in advance, either alphabetically or in some other way that switches between people in the room and those who are remote.
Not all in-person dynamics translate well to a remote participant.
For example, holding up a drawing for the room to see which is not visible to remote participants, or forgetting to prepare a digital handout for remote participants or asking participants to write on a flip chart in the room.
While the other four pitfalls are important and can cause a lot of unnecessary problems for hybrid trainers, the main challenge is the process itself.
“The main pitfall for hybrid training sessions is just not thinking through the process,” explains David.
Expanding on his insight into a facilitator’s process, David discusses what he refers to as the “6 Ps of Preparation.”
In order of priority, there are six things that need to be discussed with the sponsor of any hybrid training event:
- Probable issues
- Place or platform
What do we want to get out of this training session?
Hands, heads, and hearts. Hands. Is there something you want participants to literally walk out of the training with? Something tangible: an action plan, a specific skill?
Heads. What do you want them to know that they didn’t know before the training? Heart. What do you want them to believe differently as a result of the training program?
What are the roles of the various participants? Are they from the same group or department? Who will be remote? Who will be live? Will they be in different time zones?
What may get in the way of this training being successful?
How will you go about engaging the participants? What are the expectations for the participants? Don’t forget to get your sponsor’s buy-in for the process!
Place or Platform
Where will the session be held and with whom should you speak about the needs for the room? What technology/platform will be used? Is there an AV tech person? How will the place and platform get integrated so that everyone gets an equitable opportunity for engagement?
Finally, David brought everything full circle and discussed some best practices for hybrid training.
First, an agenda is not the same as having played through the process. So, think about the HOW of the training session and not just the what. Document hybrid interaction details in your agenda.
Second, when interacting with hybrid audiences, use a digital resource that is shared on-screen such as a slide board or jam board.
Working from a clear understanding of what hybrid training is versus in-person and virtual training is an important starting point.
From there understanding the potential obstacles, avoiding common pitfalls and mastering the “6 Ps of Preparation” are all necessary to becoming an effective and engaging hybrid facilitator.
Above all, as long as your primary focus is meeting the ultimate goal of ensuring all participants, in the room and remote, are active and engaged, you are well on your way to achieving hybrid training success!
Looking for more? Be sure to watch all the video highlights from the How to Avoid Key Pitfalls to Reach Hybrid Training Success webinar.