The following new resource provides guidelines for facilitating hybrid meetings and training events. It was prepared by the Education and Organizing Unit, OPSEU/SEFPO Political Action and Education Division.
When a meeting is hybrid, it creates opportunities for accommodation of disabilities, provides options for participants with different schedules, increases accessibility related to travel and health and safety, and generally provides a broader opportunity for participation. Note that there are additional considerations that can help remove barriers to in-person participation including providing childcare and ensuring an in-person meeting space is wheelchair accessible.
- Consider the physical meeting space and how it can be adjusted to better accommodate a hybrid meeting.
- Ensure a large screen with the online participants can be seen by everyone attending in person.
- Have a good speaker system so that those on screen can be well heard. This may involve bringing a portable external laptop speaker to the meeting, depending on the setup available.
In advance of the meeting
- Ensure all participants are given fair notice that this will be a hybrid event, and that they may choose their preferred method of attendance. Send a link to join online the night before the event. Reissue the link with a reminder in the morning. Note that if you send out the link too early, it will become lost in the participants’ email.
- Ask participants to confirm in advance whether they will be attending in person, or online. Keep note of the numbers for each kind of participation to ensure facilitation goes smoothly.
- Request notification of accommodation needs by all participants. This is an OPSEU/SEFPO best practice for events, but it is worthwhile noting that the accommodation forms should be reviewed with an eye to whether there are attending online, and will have needs that can be accommodated in an online participation environment.
- Email all participants digital copies of any materials required before the meeting/event. Note that soft copies of the materials can also be put into the chat for online participants in case there are any last-minute handouts, so be sure to also have soft copies on hand.
- If possible, mail the online participants hard copies of the materials so that they arrive a day or two before the event date, especially if participants will have trouble doing their own printing: this can be because a document is long, requires colour printing, or the participants don’t have easy access to a printer. NOTE: Advance hard and soft copies will respect a variety of accessibility needs including preparation before the event, large type, audio reading of soft copy materials after the event etc.
- Share the meeting agenda, giving enough time for participants to propose additional items, or provide questions they would like addressed during the meeting, if appropriate.
At the beginning of the meeting
- Turn on captioning for Zoom or Teams to assist with auditory accommodations.
- Assign a facilitator to assist the online participants. Their tasks may include the following:
- Request that online participants rename themselves to include appropriate assignations such as local number and their preferred pronouns.
- Assist any online participants that are unable to do their own “renaming” or who may have questions about how to use the technology
- Assign temporary co-host permissions to participants who wish to share their screen with the group
- Admit participants who are in the waiting room. Note that sometimes a participant will inadvertently leave the meeting/event and will require readmission.
- Watch for online participants who indicate wanting to speak by raising their hand, turning on their mic or making eye contact, and ensure they are heard.
- Monitor the online chat forum and answer any questions that arise there.
- Share any questions, answers or remarks from the online chat forum with the full group.
- Establish how the online facilitator and in-person facilitator will communicate with each other during the event. This may be via direct messaging on the Zoom chat, texting by phone or with an app such as Signal or What’s App.
- If there are multiple screens of participants, consider changing the screen periodically so that the different online participants take turns being visible.
- Be mindful of visuals including flip charts, white boards, jokes, gestures, etc. that are only visible to the in-person participants. Narrate relevant content if necessary.
- Ask everyone to introduce themselves at the beginning of the meeting, even if everyone knows each other. This will give everyone the opportunity to know who is participating.
- Ask online participants to change their name to include first and last name, and preferred pronouns
- Ask online participants to turn on their camera if possible. Explain that this will improve our ability to include everyone’s voice in the meeting, although it is tiring to keep the camera on.
- Ask online participants to send a chat message to the facilitator if they are going to step away from the discussion.
- Ask in-person participants to be aware that it is hard for online participants to follow the conversation if more than one person is speaking at once. Note that as a facilitator you will have to monitor the occurrence of side conversations that may make it difficult for those attending online to hear properly.
- Establish ground rules for the event that apply to both the online and the in-person environments. These can be recorded as a Word document shared on the screen and saved so that it can be referred to later. Items may include equitable sharing of the time, indicating preferred pronouns, and being conscious of possible privacy concerns depending on the type of meeting.
- Be clear and transparent about whether the event is being recorded, and if so, what the recording will be used for.
During the meeting
- When there is a document on the screen it means the online participants are reduced to very few faces. Alternate between sharing PowerPoint presentations and other documents and turning off the shared screen function.
- Ensure all voices are heard, and that online participants are given equal opportunity to participate.
- Ask for a show of hands for online participants who have questions or want to speak. Call on them in order of the Zoom list created.
- Participants attending in person will find it easier to chat with each other and feel part of a larger community. The facilitator should consciously and regularly find moments to bridge the gap between online and in-person participation. You can do this by asking for feedback, or asking whether there are any questions.
- Create opportunities for online participants to share something personal and feel heard. This can happen with introductions, Zoom breakout group discussions and/or by asking specific individuals on screen to share something with the larger group.
- When you share a video with Zoom participants present, be sure to share the sound, otherwise the online participants won’t be able to hear it well. This is a “share sound” function within the Zoom interface.
- Make sure there is more than one host of the Zoom meeting so that if the Internet fails for one host, the meeting doesn’t end for everyone.
- Consider using a shared Google Document to participate in a hybrid meeting group think. This will allow all participants to share ideas in real time.
Following the meeting
- Save the Zoom chat file and the polling results (if applicable) so that they can be referred to later if necessary. Sometimes they contain questions, links, shared documents or feedback etc. that can be good to save.
- Use chat apps such as Slack or Signal to continue the meeting asynchronously.
Using Roberts Rules of Order
Roberts Rules don’t change within a hybrid environment, however the following are guidelines regarding their application.
Voting by show of hands
Allow ample time for online participants to raise their hand icon and also lower it again before the next vote.
Ask people in the room to keep their hands up until everyone has been counted both online and in person. This will reduce the need for a recount.
Order of speakers
It’s almost impossible to know who asked to speak first when there are both online and in-person participants, and this is particularly difficult when there is a need for Pro and Con mics. The facilitator can make sure everyone is heard and can alternate between in person and online speakers.
When running an election in a hybrid environment, all participants will use an online voting application. Some commonly used election applications include:
Data on the spot; Election Buddy; Simply Voting
- If the meeting is with OPSEU/SEFPO members, then the facilitator can refer to the Statement of Respect, and call on the people named at that time as those who the members can speak to in a conflict situation. If possible, ensure there is someone in the online environment that participants can turn to, as well as someone attending in person.
- If a conflict arises that involves an online participant, message the person/people involved directly through the chat, and let them know you would like to join them for a private conversation in a Zoom breakout room. Notify any other co-facilitators and let them know privately that you will be temporarily leaving the meeting to resolve the issue. You may be able to wait until a break, but sometimes things must be resolved in the moment.
Integrating Zoom/Teams participants
- Assign a co-facilitator (or one of the in-person participants) to be in charge of the online attendees, so that they are heard, and can be fully integrated into the meeting.
- Encourage online chat participation, which can be integrated into the event by reading them aloud for the full group.
- Use breakout rooms for discussions so that online participants can have equal opportunity to share their ideas.
Integrating phone participants
- In general, a participant will use their phone to join a hybrid meeting because they don’t have easy access to a laptop or desktop computer. However, some participants may not realize that using a laptop will give them additional functionality and make it easier to participate. Explain to any participants joining by phone, that they may prefer to log in using a laptop.
- A participant may be using their phone because they are in transit. In this situation ask them to please mute their phone to block out any ambient noise.
Since OWLs are currently commonly used during OPSEU/SEFPO hybrid meetings, here are some OWL best practices:
- Arrive early to set up the OWLs, and have a tech backup plan in case they don’t work. Ideally, have someone present to assist with the OWL technology set up and trouble-shooting so that the facilitator can focus on other meeting details.
- OWLs pick up ambient surface noises including shuffling papers or tapping on the table. Place the OWLs on their own table to minimize surface sound distractions.
- OWLs only work for a smaller room, for a larger room you will need to set up multiple OWLs.
Not using OWLs
If you don’t use an OWL for your meeting, set up an extra laptop so that the camera shows the full room of in person participants, and log into the Zoom/Teams call. This laptop should not be used for any other function. This ensures online participants will always have a view of the room and will have a better feeling of knowing and understanding what is happening.