To ensure participation of all attendees in a hybrid event, facilitators need to find creative solutions to make sure everyone is heard, seen and included! In this list of 36 hybrid activities, we have selected methods and tools that do just that, so get started designing your hybrid event with everything from icebreakers to decision-making tools!
Hybrid gatherings, in which some participants join remotely and others in person, are a growing trend in facilitation worldwide. For those designing and running workshops and meetings, this poses new, unique challenges.
How to make sure everyone is included and heard? How to create connections and deepen understanding among participants? How to run activities that feel cohesive and aligned, when people are in different places, working at different speeds and rhythms?
In this collection of hybrid-friendly activities, you will find ideas to support your design every step of the way. Start with ice-breakers and energizers that help everyone feel welcome. Get inspiration from hybrid team building ideas with games and canvases. Brainstorm and ideate together, despite being apart!
Once the team is working well, face the obstacle of how to reach convergence and take decisions with these activities and tips for hybrid decision-making. And finally, find out how working collaboratively on virtual whiteboards helps hybrid teams co-create visual records, document progress, and wrap up their work together.
This is what we will be covering in this collection of hybrid-friendly activities:
- What is a hybrid event
- How to pick activities for hybrid facilitation
- What to keep in mind when facilitating hybrid events
- Hybrid ice-breakers and energizers
- Hybrid team building activities
- Fostering connections between in-person and online participants
- Ideating together in hybrid meetings
- Taking decisions in hybrid settings
- Colorful ways to close hybrid gatherings
- Inspiration from successful hybrid events
A hybrid event is one in which some participants are gathered in person, sharing the same physical space, while others are joining remotely online. Organizations all over the world are learning how to best accommodate the different needs of these different cohorts.
When designing and leading a hybrid meeting or gathering, you are facilitating three designs: one for those joining in-person, one for those joining online, and one for bridging the two groups.
Facilitating in hybrid mode has its unique challenges (and you can read a more in-depth guide about how to face them). The good news is that with a bit of extra planning, most activities you love as facilitators can be used in this novel context.
Below you’ll find some tips on how to choose and adapt activities for hybrid facilitation, and a selection of 36 icebreakers, team-building exercises, decision-making tools and closing rituals guaranteed to work in the new, hybrid world!
Hybrid environments are complicated. You will need to provide clear instructions to different cohorts, and the instructions might vary slightly to account for different situations. Therefore, choose activities that are simple, with clear step-by-step instructions.
For most of these methods to work, you’ll need people to be able to see and hear one another regardless of which cohort they are in. If this is limited by your technical and logistical set up, that’s ok: constraints inspire creativity!
You might, for example, be in a space that does not allow small mixed groups of in-person and remote attendees to be speaking at the same time, because of audio returns from all the speakers. That’s a good setting for ice-breakers that don’t require participants to talk much, like charades or other games involving miming.
Go through each activity from the point of view of both remote and in-person participants: what do you need to change to make it work for all?
How will participants know who they are interacting with? Make sure in-person participants can clearly visualize (e.g. on a projected screen) the names of those joining remotely. To enable those who are at home in front of their computer to know who is in the physical room, set a pattern of people stating their name before speaking in plenary “This is Anne here in Savannah, I have a question for the group over in Dallas..”
If people are creating a small huddle in front of a computer in order to interact with remote attendees, make sure they rename themselves with each person’s individual name, in the order in which they appear on camera (“Anne | Francisco | Karola – Savannah marketing team”).
Having a map of “who is in the room” (and which room!) accessible to everyone is a fabulous way to support inclusion and participation. Create this on a virtual whiteboard and have a copy in view of people in the physical space. See our guide to hybrids for more tips on how to work in small groups in hybrid settings.
Participants joining online and those in person have different tools at their disposal. From a computer, it’s easy to do quick research, for example to create an online collage of images. In person, participants can use objects and move around in space, e.g. to create sketches and role plays.
Make sure these differences are used to the advantage of the whole rather than be perceived as handicaps. By giving mixed groups different tasks they need to complete together, you can showcase unity in diversity and boost collaboration!
This collection is divided into six categories, each full of methods and ideas to pick from for your hybrid event design. From start to finish, you’ll find tools for ice-breaking, team-building, strengthening connections, ideating, deciding and closing!
- Hybrid ice-breakers and energizers
- Hybrid team building activities
- Fostering connections between in-person and remote participants
- Ideating together in hybrid meetings
- Taking decisions in hybrid settings
- Colorful ways to close hybrid gatherings
Ice-breakers and energizers are a great way to kick-off meetings and events, get everyone ready for a productive time together, or pick up after a break or lunch. These seven variations on classic ice-breakers are easy to use in hybrid settings.
Any one of these will enable you to set the stage for a collaborative meeting in which all cohorts can directly experience that it’s possible to work (and have fun) together!
- Touch blue
- Human objects
- Remote: change three things
- Chemical reaction
- Social media scavenger
- Story around the circle
- Blind drawing
A simple, fail-proof and versatile activity in which participants are asked to touch different colors or kinds of objects and bring them in front of the camera to show to all. People working from home offices might have easier access to certain objects, while those in person might have a bit more fun moving around and interacting with one another. This gives the facilitator plenty of opportunities to point out the differences between remote and in-person modes of participation in a light and playful way.
Encourage everyone to move around and stretch in this quick, fun ice-breaker inspired by improv theater. Ask the online participants to pick their favorite human object from the in-person group if the camera is pointed on the entire group. If it’s hard to see everyone from a camera, get a bit of competitive fun by first inviting the two groups to compete separately, then have a in-person vs remote tournament by inviting the champion roomie* to step in front of the camera and challenge the champion of the Zoomies!
Roomie and Zoomie are two helpfully playful words to refer to the different cohorts in hybrid meetings. While they may not always apply (you might be using other software tools, for example) they are great inspiration for terms that are fun and do not create accidental hierarchies. For more on this, check out SessionLab’s Guide to Hybrid Events!
Not only is this exercise a lot of fun for all: it can help participants be more aware of others in the meeting, both in-person and remotely. Remote attendees switch off their cameras and change three things in their appearances. The in-person group does the same, either by switching off the cameras you are using in the physical space, or by walking (or ducking!) off-cam. Call out a person from one cohort to discover what has changed in the appearance of someone in a different cohort… Who are the keenest observers?
Pair up remote and in-person participants on individual devices (such as people’s phones) in this activity to quickly create collaboration and connection. Expect lots of laughter as pairs ideate team names from combinations of their responses to your prompt. If you plan to create “hybrid buddies” to support one another throughout the session, this is a perfect way to start (see this card on Forming a Buddy Group for more ideas on this topic).
In this ice-breaker, participants search the internet for information to share with the group. This is a fun way to know one another better for any group, likely to elicit some laughter and re-kindle curiosity in team-mates who may be stuck in set patterns of interacting with one another. In hybrid events, it is also a way to highlight how being online can offer extra opportunities to those joining remotely, as it is easier for them to collect information at speed.
In his article on holding a four-day hybrid event, Daniel Unsöld mentions that activities based on shared story-telling, in pairs or small groups, work very well to foster connections in hybrid environments. In this simple and effective method from Teampedia, get the whole group talking and creating a story together. Collective storytelling is a playful and meaningful way to draw out feelings and reactions to working in hybrid mode. Not sure how talking in a circle can possibly apply in such a setting? Read these tips on Hybrid Rounds to find out.
Use this activity in hybrid settings to inspire a reflection on the challenges of communicating across different platforms. Have participants try out different options of giving one another instructions on how to draw an object: is it easier for those who are sharing a space? Are participants joining remotely clearer in articulating instructions? What can we learn from this?
From this game, you can lead the group to brainstorm tips and tricks to help bridge the online/in-person communication divide.
Facilitators have the tools and skills to help teams move through the various phases of their development more efficiently and effectively. The following tools will help you raise awareness among participants on the specificity of the hybrid scenario, allowing for collaboration in how to best manage it. Choose among these 9 activities for hybrid team building to give your groups the structure they need to decide how to best work together in a great team culture!
- Diversity welcome
- Show us your tech
- Hybrid scavenger hunt
- Stinky fish
- Group contract for trust, creativity and high performance
- Hybrid team canvas
- Roles in a meeting
- Empathy map
- What I need from you
This heartfelt opening from the capacity-building organization Training for Change is a great way to acknowledge diversity in any group. Adapt it for hybrid events by adding a welcome to all the different cohorts, wherever they are joining from. Acknowledge and name the specificities of the situation to raise the group’s awareness; from here you can move on to having conversations and creating agreements about how to welcome, include and honor diversity.
Create a whiteboard space where each team member can upload pictures of the technology they use for working remotely, and have the participants joining in person add images of how the room they are in is equipped in order to allow for interaction with the remote cohort. As a next step, the facilitator can invite a conversation around how to improve the set-up, and raise awareness about constraints and possibilities.
Get participants from the different cohorts in mixed hybrid teams to hunt for real and digital items. Each team will have to collaborate to create the best possible collection of videos, music and pictures, and learn how to work better together along the way! A scavenger hunt is always a fun team-building activity: this one is adapted to leverage the different tools available to people joining the event in different ways, by encouraging participants to mix found objects from the virtual and physical worlds.
Get fears and anxieties about working in hybrid mode out in the open from the get-go with the Stinky fish metaphor, as designed by the folks at Hyper Island. Ask the different cohorts (in-person groups and remote participants) to discuss separately what are their anxieties about working in this new setting. In plenary, collect these fears on a whiteboard; revisit the list at the end of the day: was it as bad as we feared? Or did we find ways to mitigate risks for a productive and enjoyable time together?
Creating a group contract enables people to mindfully ground their behaviors in inclusivity and respect, and promote psychological safety (psychological safety is one of the keys of successful team work, as any facilitator knows and as this research by Google has famously proven). Adapt this in-depth exploration of what will support the group to work at its best by adding a few questions around improved hybrid collaboration.
The Hybrid Team Canvas is a support for groups in mapping, assessing, and designing company and team culture in hybrid settings. By going through the canvas, teams that work together in hybrid workplaces are guided to reflect on the specificities of their situation, resulting in agreements on team rituals, rules, norms and decision-making. You can choose whether to have the different cohorts work at the same time on a virtual whiteboard, or to work with each cohort separately at first, then discuss in plenary.
Set up a collaborative atmosphere by sharing some process-related tasks with participants! Meetings will run smoother, and everyone will gain a bit of experience and understanding on what works for improved collaboration. Specific roles for a hybrid setup might include, for example, a person whose role it is to support remote participants in making themselves heard in the main in-person plenary, or a tech assistant helping with links and webcams.
This tool to support mutual understanding can be turned into a hybrid team building activity. Invite people to step into the other group’s shoes. What are the groups joining from different locations hearing and seeing? What could be hard or frustrating about participating remotely rather than in-person? Use this tool to improve collaboration, support and kindness among the different cohorts.
Over time, different cohorts will create different cultures (we are humans, that’s what we do!). This can potentially create misunderstandings and prejudices among the various groups joining your hybrid event. Prevent this by building a common understanding of the different needs of team members joining in-person or remotely, from different locations and setups, by running an activity known as “What I need from you” (WINFY) in which different groups ask one another for support.
A unique challenge in hybrid events is how to facilitate understanding and collaboration among participants in different groups. Break silos and build bridges with these 6 quick activities designed to deepen trust among participants joining your hybrid meeting in different ways.
- Active listening
- Paired walk
- Secret handshake
- Quick reviews in 2 minutes
- Hybrid checkpoint
- Forming a buddy group
Create space for participants to deeply listen to one another in this activity which is as simple as it is transformative. To adapt to hybrid, pair up in-person and remote attendees and have everyone connect from individual devices. At the start of a workshop, suggest topics that touch upon personal history and/or gratitude (“Where did you like to go when you were a child?” “What gives you joy at this time in your life?”). Mid-way, try out questions directed to sharing feelings around the hybrid environment (“What has this event been like for you so far?” “How does it feel to be joining in person/remotely”).
Send participants to take a walk together by pairing up in-person and remote attendees for 15/20 minutes. Spending time outdoors together helps create a common ground in a way that feels informal and natural, and can help prepare the terrain for more difficult conversations. A paired walk is a great activity for hybrid settings in which you’ll need to disperse your participants outdoors in order to allow for everyone to hear one another from different devices and avoid annoying audio returns!
For some guaranteed hybrid giggles, send participants from different cohorts to breakout rooms to create their secret handshake based on this exercise developed by Erica Marx. Then, invite them to do the “secret handshake” every time they see one another on screen! In a big conference in which in-person participants might find themselves in view of the camera at various times, this can lead to some pretty funny dynamics!
Intersperse your hybrid event with rapid-fire sessions in which online and in-person participants join forces for a moment of reflection. Even in just 2 minutes, giving participants the opportunity to review how the meeting is going and how different groups of participants feel in it will help foster collaboration, connection and learning. And if you have a bit more time, check out reviews in 5 minutes!
There may be sections of your hybrid design in which participants joining in different ways are having parallel sessions and are not involved in the same activity. Maybe there is a shared output or intention, but the two (or more) groups are working separately. In that case, punctuating the time with moments in which attendees are paired up to discuss their insights and learnings can do a lot to foster connection.
See how we used the “hybrid checkpoint” pattern in this template based on a gathering held in December 2022!
Enable participants to join forces and support one another in their different situations. Online attendees have easier access to research and notes. Those in-person might find it easier to attract the facilitator’s attention or do some quick networking. Create stable “buddy” or “home” groups of 5 /6 people, with a mix of participants from the different cohorts. At various occasions during the event (e.g. at the end of each block of sessions or of each day) have them convene to design and perfect their support systems.
With some creative planning and a few tech supports (e.g. whiteboards) it is certainly possible to capture collective ideation in hybrid environments. Following are some tips for activities and conversation patterns that will work to get participants who are in-person and online to exchange thoughts and ideas for divergence, co-creation and brainstorming!
How can you organize participants so that everyone speaks in a “round”… if everyone is in different places and situations? Having a pattern set up to enable everyone to speak will help with making sure there are moments in which all participants can be heard and included. Check out this handy activity card on how to set up talking circles in hybrid meetings for tips on how to give directions and keep track of who has spoken.
A Conversation Café is a template for structured conversations in which everyone has their turn to speak, and can be useful to enable a group to reflect together and delve deeper into a topic. Adapt it to hybrid by (1) using Hybrid rounds (2) allowing participants to speak in their own cohort (in-person in small huddles, online in breakout rooms) during the third round and (3) collecting takeaways in plenary in a shared whiteboard.
Lucky for all facilitators, this basic Liberating Structure moving from individual reflection to plenary discussion works just fine in hybrid events. Whether you combine in-person and remote participants in the pairings and small groups, or keep the different cohorts working separately until the plenary should depend on how well your location supports many people talking at the same time (considerations related to both bandwidth and audio interference apply)!
Most methods for brainstorming and sharing ideas will work in hybrid settings with just a few tweaks to the setup. In hybrid meetings you will always have to choose between having the different cohorts run different activities in parallel, or working together. Here is all the information you need to start creating groups in hybrid gatherings. Read up and you’ll be ready to adapt all your favorite small-group activities!
Once you have a series of proposals and options on the table, it might be time to move towards a decision. Find below a selection of 5 useful methods to support a group in taking collective decisions. Whether you plan to vote by majority, check for consent, or rank proposals for a committee or individual to choose from, combine use of personal devices, online whiteboards and offline sticky notes to get the group to convergence in hybrid meetings!
Sometimes it’s that simple! Introduce hand signals like “Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down” to check, at a glance, whether the group is moving towards agreement on a proposal. This will enable everyone to get a quick feel of how a decision is perceived, and what should be the next steps. Should we have a deeper discussion, or move on to action points?
With a camera pointed at the in-person group, they will be visible to the online attendees. The online group should be visible via a projection on a screen. It’s great to know that hand signals work in hybrid events!
A handy cheat sheet on best practices for adapting any polling/prioritizing/voting method to hybrid environments. With participants joining in different ways, how can you make options visible to all and collect votes? Find out simple tricks on how to allow all participants to see the various options, vote, and see results.
Spoiler: every in-person participant is likely to have an ideal voting device in their pockets!
Check out this handy review of tips for all you need to know on how to use dot voting for ranking and prioritization. This is a fast, effective tool for quickly making decisions in any group situation with multiple options. The method supports a group to quickly see which options are most popular or relevant. Each person votes for the options they think are the strongest, and that information is used to inform a decision. The above tips on using polls for hybrids apply!
There is a risk in prioritizing ideas that people will choose those most familiar. The way around this is to set criteria for voting, and the How-now-wow matrix from Gamestorming methods is a great way of doing this, allowing participants to rank ideas based on how original and/or feasible they are. To make the voting process simple for every participant in a hybrid, set up a poll on a tool that can be accessed from smartphones (either something like Mentimeter, or a shared GoogleDoc).
Create a matrix upon which to visualize the group’s resistance or approval of a proposal. Each person is invited to rank their opinion of a proposal in a range going from “personal preference” to “objection”, with a middle “range of tolerance”. This supports people to understand at a deeper level that it’s not about picking the one, best, favored solution, but about going forward with something that works for everyone. To check for resistance in hybrid, use Polls for hybrids tips, or have everyone connect to a common whiteboard or shared document.
Creating shared whiteboards can be really effective in hybrid meetings. Set them up to function as “single sources of truth” where participants can always find information on the agenda, sessions and activities.
Give a few pointers on how to use online boards early in the session to enable participants to become curators of the whiteboard space. This could even be a role assigned to one or more particularly proactive participants! As the event progresses, it’s exciting to see boards fill up with virtual sticky notes, insights and reflections. Here are four colorful ideas on how to use whiteboards at the closing of an activity or event!
This activity focuses on celebration and is a joyful way to end a remote or hybrid workshop. The facilitator invites participants to reflect back on their time together and express what gift they have received by participating… through a GIF. And if in-person participants have a hard time finding GIFs, they’ll just have to… mime! Go in a hybrid round to give everyone a chance to express themselves. Put all the results (including pictures of anyone who opted to mime!) in a shared whiteboard to add to closing report for everyone to bring back good memories!
Ask participants to draw their definition of a keyword from the event, take a picture and post them all on a shared whiteboard. Use this tool if you want to encourage creative thinking and an awareness of different perceptions on a given subject. The result will be a mixture of perceptions showcasing unity in diversity!
This activity from the Knowmium toolkit is another example of how using virtual whiteboards can enable participants joining remotely and in person to collaborate and co-create something memorable to record their experience. Invite participants to create a collage of symbols and (the most fun part!) interpret one another’s! This can also be a great way of showcasing the outcome of a hybrid learning event.
What are your key insights after this event? How could you represent them in a picture? Mix images taken from the web with pictures snapped directly at the event to really capture the feeling of a hybrid gathering! This activity will not only be fun, but also provide for lasting documentation to be used in reports or presentations (or just as a memento!) after the event is over.
Promote continuous learning in the organization by making space for feedback at the end of every meeting or event. This method invites participants to reflect together on the process: what worked well? What could be improved? What other ideas do we have on how we work together? Do this at the end of a hybrid meeting to raise participants’ awareness of different needs and to co-design better events that work for this particular group.
In this list of activities that work for hybrid events you have all you need to choose how to ice-break and begin your meeting, work on teambuilding and ideation, select proposals and close the event. To tie it all together, read up in our Honest Guide to Hybrid Events, or get some inspiration from this story from Daniel Unsöld, about how he and his team set up and ran an interactive, 4-day hybrid event with 40 live and 10 online participants. It includes a list of hybrid activities that worked for them, as well as insights on how the hybrid setup influences event design!
You can also start planning your hybrid event from this template which is based on a successful 1-day community gathering joined by 30 live and 20 online participants in December 2022. What activities have worked for you in hybrids? How are you adapting your favorite methods to this novel environment? Do you have questions on how to facilitate hybrid events and meetings? Leave some notes in the comments, we love to hear from you!