In hybrid formats, participants meet both in person and online at the same event. In contrast to the well-known, often short video conferences and meetings, the formats described here are events that can last up to several days. This article describes challenges and advantages of hybrid formats and their moderation. Well prepared and moderated, hybrid events are a format of the future for us.

Due to the necessity of social distancing, companies and organizations have adapted to the conditions under Covid-19 faster and more successfully than expected with home office and virtual meetings. For process facilitators and moderators the requirements are becoming increasingly complex. For purely physical events, it was necessary to keep an eye on the goals, the process and the group dynamics. In purely digital events, as was necessary in the first months of Covid-19, the technical component was added. The moderation also ensured that closeness and connection among the participants also came about in the digital space. In both settings the participants have very similar opportunities to participate, because they are either all in one room or all connected digitally. This means that there are no locational advantages.

Despite surprising advantages in the implementation of purely virtual formats (we experience and hear again and again about successful cooperation and more efficiency), the desire to meet each other in real life again soon in the professional environment is clearly noticeable among all clients. Although personal encounters, even in larger groups, are becoming more tangible in the professional environment, we assume that a substantial proportion of participants will continue to participate virtually in meetings and events in the future. We believe that hybrid event formats will become part of the new normal of companies and organisations.

From our experience, hybrid formats can be made future-oriented, entertaining and result-oriented with appropriate preparation and moderation. In order for this to succeed, a framework should be created in which all participants have a fair level of participation that is appropriate to the organisational culture, regardless of whether they are in the same room with other people or are connecting from the home office. Here too, the aim is to ensure that all perspectives have their say and that everyone’s expertise is put to the best possible use. Helpful here is a supplementary virtual moderation platform which the participants can access and interact with each other during the event – both on-site and virtually.

Advantages of hybrid formats:

  • Greater reach, because significantly more people can be integrated into processes
  • New interesting possibilities of staging (By designing one or more “stages”, depending on how many people are in one room. It is clearly entertaining for all participants to witness a dialogue between different people who are in the same room. The impression is that of a talk show or a panel discussion instead of a zoom setting in which people talk exclusively via the camera).
  • Integration of people from other regions worldwide
  • Time and travel cost savings

Challenges of hybrid formats:

  • The preparation effort is higher with hybrid formats, because the interactions and togetherness have to be choreographed very consciously, so that all participants, whether in the same room or virtually present, feel picked up and integrated.
  • The implementation is more demanding, because the access to the participants is very different. Body language, facial expressions, gestures, small signals of fatigue can be read less well by the moderator.
  • Booth magic vs. staging possibilities
  • You can’t interact so spontaneously
  • Preparing an interaction is more complex
  • Different levels of knowledge and technical possibilities for customers in dealing with technology (microphone, camera, Internet, technical requirements)
  • Demands on the moderator to act with more complexity and to take into account the different needs of the participants

The following should be noted:

  • It is essential to agree on binding rules of cooperation
  • Facilitation needs clarity about consequences and demands on possibilities and limits in the process
  • Methodical: Less is more, set focus and clarify priorities
  • Good clarification of whether a hybrid format is really suitable to achieve the objectives or, if necessary due to the constraints, to make the risks clear
  • In the case of a factual event, the hybrid event is easier to organise than in the case of conflictual topics, especially in the case of foreseeable conflicts on the relationship level
  • An open process ideally requires different formats than a structured process. Rule of thumb: The more open the process, the more clearly the same basic

Dr. Brigitte Schwinge, Dorothee Overberg, Dorothea Kriele, Claus Pakleppa August 2020


p4d uses the virtual software Howspace for hybrid events.

19. Forum Leading. Design. Networking – Hybrid will take place on September 09, 2020 from 19.00 in the p4d rooms and via Zoom

Workshops on the topic can be found at the p4d Academy: