Mixed in-person and remote participation

Covid-19 has got organizations reaching for online meeting solutions or blended meetings with some people face-to-face and others online.

I thought this would be a time to share (again) some of our learning about it. While our deep learning comes from running BEtreat workshops in this blended way I think there is a lot to learn more generally. We charge the same for both types of participation, holding ourselves to the discipline of creating a special and productive experience for both.

Saving the tech reflections for another post, here we are with some practices that work for us:

  • A buddy system – every face-to-face person needs a buddy in the room. the person in the room is responsible for making sure that their buddy can see, hear and be heard.
  • A chat function (or something like WhatsApp) – for back-channel conversations.  It’s a way to keep up the informal conversations, passing comments, observations, quips, jokes, help I’m lost comments….
  • Individual reflection – hourly (or two-hourly) pauses where everyone writes their insights and ongoing questions into a shared google doc.  Note that this practice has now spread to the way we do wholly face-to-face meetings too. It’s a great way to get a feedback loop going about what other people are thinking/feeling or what insights are being generated for them.
  • Online common room – a space for all online folk to be able to talk/message each other. It gives an identity to online folk and emboldens them to stick up for themselves when it’s not working for them
  • Mixed group formations – Lots of time for small group conversations, sometimes mixed face-to-face and online groups, sometimes groups made up of only online participants and only face-to-face
  • Guidelines for online participants – about how to make the most of participating online (including things like – call for breaks if you need one, a playful attitude helps)
  • Guidelines for face-to-face participants – about making the most of their participation with people participating remotely (including things like – say your name before you speak so online folk know whose voice it is, look into the camera when you speak)

Reflections from the past

In 2016 I wrote a post “Blending online and face-to-face”. In this post I shared the tech set up we use – our aim being low-tech and affordable to communities with low budget. I also talked about our practices around using the tech and what definitely doesn’t work. I mention that some people prefer participating online and why, and reflect on things we need to get better at.

In 2014, “I’ll take you with me…” was the title of the post. I described the experience of being online at one of our workshops and summarized some of the lessons learned.

In 2012 I shared the tech we use. This post serves as a reminder of how quickly tech is changing as we don’t use any of that equipment any more!

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