I recently chatted with a client regarding “post-pandemic” opportunities for resuming normal business activities, specifically in the world of medical speaker training. We both agree that unknowns continue as we move into the reality of a “new” new-normal. One thing is certain, however. Whoever can master the art of effectively pivoting between the in-person and virtual meeting experiences will be the front runners of audience engagement and meeting success.
PIVOT. How many times have you heard this word over the last eighteen months? According to Merriam-Webster, the meaning of pivot when used as a noun is: the action of pivoting, especially: the action in basketball of stepping with one foot while keeping the other foot at its point of contact with the floor. The basketball player offers a great mental picture for us as we consider how to increase our pivot effectiveness in mastering the hybrid communication world. What can we emulate and apply?
- Stay grounded.
To maintain success in pivoting, the basketball player keeps one foot firmly grounded, watching and listening to what is happening around them. In the “new” new-normal hybrid meeting world, as an effective communicator, you also remain grounded in the delivery skill fundamentals that engage the audience. You know that delivery always matters and is fundamental to audience engagement. Especially in the hybrid world, planning for and managing the details that provide a welcoming experience sets a positive foundation. Of course, eye contact with the camera will invite the virtual participant into the meeting. As always, when connecting with an in-person attendee, look them in the eye. Being grounded in the need to be inclusive with all participants and remembering the virtual audience is also live will contribute to your flexibility and support your ability to strategically pivot between the two audiences. Don’t forget the importance of thinking like a listener and meeting participant. Put yourself in their shoes.
- Stay flexible.
With one foot firmly grounded, our basketball player is positioned to flexibly pivot and move in different directions based on what they see, hear, and sense. Flexibility is a must when managing both the virtual and in-person meeting worlds simultaneously. Strong pivoting skills reinforce your awareness of both audiences, supports easy movement between audiences, and assists you in changing direction in the moment using different engagement strategies and activities when needed. There is no denying that the hybrid world brings much to manage, regardless of the talents and skills you possess individually. Having a team approach is a best practice and provides great benefit in effectively managing our hybrid-event world. A co-presenter and/or a producer can help you manage the interaction and engagement of the virtual audience while you focus on your onsite attendees. This strategy eases pressure for all, and positively contributes to the team’s in-the-moment flexibility.
- Stay prepared.
It is a given that master athletes, including our basketball star, are relentless as they practice, run drills, and prepare for game day. As master communicators looking to excel in the “new” new-normal world, we too should be relentless as we practice and prepare. Here are a few items to consider. First, what have you learned over the “new normal” months of virtual meeting immersion? Necessity IS the mother of invention and we’ve learned that virtual meetings and interactions CAN be done well so incorporate what works from both the in-person and virtual environments. Thinking like a participant will be a great guide as you consider what works. With that in mind, remember that the virtual space has additional details to manage beyond the in-person world. Know your virtual technology platform and how to manage its functionality particularly as it supports virtual participation and engagement. Ask yourself, how will I/my team manage and respond to the remote audience? As you intentionally invite your virtual audience to respond and interact, ask your producer to “feed” your responses via an earbud to facilitate your attention to both audiences. Speaking of platform functionality, preload your handouts to your technology platform so that your virtual audience has easy access to what is being discussed. This scores you significant engagement points with the virtual folks since your preplanning is obvious.
As you continue to merge virtual into the in-person experience, ensure your look is professional. Does your virtual “stage” mesh with what is happening on-site? If you are presenting from your home office, does your audience really want to see your kitchen or the bed behind you? Our hybrid world is raising the bar so think about asking for professional help with your virtual stage.
Have you considered hiring a communication coach who will provide in-the-moment delivery feedback and strategies while you practice and prepare? As a speaker and communication coach, I have the opportunity to come alongside speakers and provide specific and practical coaching tips while they practice their presentations. I get to be a part of the growth that takes place as skills are sharpened, delivery gets stronger, and confidence grows.
Both the in-person and virtual delivery worlds have a significant place in our “new” new-normal. Mastering the hybrid world of meetings and presentations through strong, focused pivot strategies allows us to embrace the future with greater confidence. You can count on the “new” new-normals continuing and the hybrid “pivot-masters” will be leading the way.