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UK Parliament joins the hybrid revolution

Paul Cook elects to review how Parliament continue to meet during the Covid-10 crisis

On the 22 April 2020 history was made when the UK Parliament changed some of its working practices. It was a big step for Parliament.

Effectively the UK Parliament decided to carry out their business using a hybrid approach. They now have a limit of 50 MPs that physically attend the House of Commons, while other MPs are bought in remotely via a web-link to be part of the discussion.

MPs are able to pose questions and take part as if they were debating in the chamber. For example, whilst a time limit has been placed on debates, time has been built in for those all important points of order.

In other words, the UK Parliament is holding a hybrid event (attendees at a venue and attendees coming in remotely) every time that they sit.

On the whole the new approach is working pretty well. Yes there were a couple of glitches on the first day but overall, it looked fine.

Proceedings in the House of Commons have been live streamed for many years through TV. But being on TV, is a world away from being a remote speaker. Every word and action is scrutinised by a viewing audience that cannot be seen. Now of course this applies to TV as well. But the key difference is that on TV, the producer tends to break up images by using different cameras for alternative shots. This doesn’t happen for remote speakers. They are the single shot being shown. There is no hiding place for them.  

Speaking remotely is very different to speaking in the House of Commons.  The blinking light of a webcam tells the remote MP nothing about how well their words are being received. It’s a different experience to being in the Commons with fellow MPs cheering their every word.  

An MP that has great presence in Westminster needs that energy to be replicated as much as possible when they are speaking remotely. Some MPs nailed it. There was great energy that came down the wire. However, others will need to make up their sparkle. None of this is easy. You lose energy just by sitting down.  

The hybrid event revolution means trusting the technology. For many years, some people have used fear of technology as one of the reasons for not getting fully on-board with hybrid and virtual events. That escape route has now been shut due to the impact of Covid-19. Everyone has to use technology to get their work done and so it was for the MPs. It’s always best to test the buttons before going live. Fortunately for the MPs there were no significant blunders.  

However, that hasn’t been the case for other people trying to get to grips with the technology. Unfortunately, a priest delivering a mass on livestream, had hit the ‘extras’ button. This meant that every few seconds, the priest would be shown to be wearing a different outfit.  Whilst amusing, it definitely detracted from his words. Then, there was the lady chairing a meeting, who got herself in a mess and somehow turned her image into that of a potato avatar.  

Event professionals and MPs are on the same trajectory of learning and figuring these ‘new’ events out. Some of us have been working on hybrid events for years but it’s taken a global pandemic to create different ways of working.  

There is a revolution going on and out of revolutions comes change. Any event professional that believes we can go back to delivering events the same as before the virus will lose out. Hybrid events are here to stay. After all, they can help reduce the impact on the planet, extend the reach of organisations and enable business to be more productive. What’s not to like?

This hybrid revolution is welcome. The UK Parliament has joined, make sure you have.

Image: ©UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor