Don’t Forget the VIRTUAL Audience During a Hybrid Panel Discussion

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With all this talk about “opening up” the country, I have to believe that people will eventually start coming together – in small groups live-streamed out to the larger world.  Many meeting professionals call this the “hybrid” meeting.

The “hybrid panel” has a live, face-to-face (F2F) element as well as a virtual element where the F2F panel is live-streamed to geographically dispersed locations.  The audience may be able to participate remotely or watch via a replay.  You may also live-stream a “remote panelist” to join the panel on the stage (which technically, isn’t a hybrid panel, but is often lumped into the same category).

It’s downright depressing to see a “hybrid panel” exclude (or forget about) the audience.  I get it.  It’s easier to focus on the discussion in front of you; whereas, moderating a lively panel discussion onsite and online is harder.

As a panel moderator, you have to intentionally break the “fourth wall” to reach out to the audience on a periodic basis.

Here are some ideas to make it easier on you and to help your virtual audience feel more included:

  • Have a two-way livestream. Not only can your virtual participants see the panel, but the panel needs to see who is watching virtually (or at least a representative sample).  If you have confidence monitors, project the audience stream to the monitors in the front of the room.  That way, you don’t forget about your virtual audience!
  • In your opening remarks, look directly at the camera and welcome the virtual audience and tell them how they will be encouraged to participate.
  • Shift gears periodically and create specific opportunities to include the F2F and virtual audiences.
  • Personalize the Q&A by not only reading the question but saying the name of the person who submitted the question.  “Joe in Scottsdale, AZ has a question about XYZ.  [Looking into the camera], Hi Joe!  Glad you’re with us today!  Who wants to answer the question?” or you can suggest a panelist answer the question.

Simply because the task of moderating a hybrid panel is so difficult, I highly recommend you have a technologist to control all aspects of the digital platform and an ombudsman to work the virtual crowd.  (For smaller digital events, this may be the same person).  The ombudsman is ideally situated to:

  • Welcome the virtual attendees into the room and encourage them to start “chatting” in the chat box. They can even strike up an audible conversation, depending on the number of people in the virtual audience.
  • Stimulate discussion in the chat box by capturing key ideas or asking probing questions.
  • Check the pulse of the virtual room by taking a poll (either pre-set or impromptu).
  • Send the best/most asked questions asked in the virtual room to the moderator to ask the panel.
  • Open up the audio/video for a virtual audience member to ask the panel a question.
  • Virtually “cue” the next person that they will be unmuted and can ask the panel a question.
  • Clarify a statement or anything that did not come across well from the F2F into the virtual world.
  • Mine the question/chatbox for additional questions and ideas to extend the conversation beyond the life of the panel.
  • If there isn’t a technologist, make sure the technology is working!

Please don’t forget about the virtual audience when moderating a hybrid panel discussion!

 

Related Articles:

How to Moderate a Virtual Panel Discussion

How to Create GREAT Questions for Your Panelists to Answer during Your Panel Discussion

Panel Discussion Tip #185 with Jeffrey Hayzlett: Finishing Panel Discussions

 

For more resources on moderating panel discussions, visit the Knowledge Vault. To have Kristin moderate your next panel, visit the Powerful Panels official website.

Photo by CoWomen on Unsplash

Kristin Arnold
Kristin Arnold
Award-winning author Kristin Arnold is an expert panel moderator and professional meeting facilitator.
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