Scotland could be a leader in hybrid working if we consider the invisible – Gavin Brown

The program toured around the country every Friday lunchtime debating the issues of the day with a panel of politicians and a “live studio audience”.

It delivered a combination of serious political debate mixed with local issues and was broadcast from town halls, churches or even pub lounges, from Wigtown to Dingwall. There was even the occasional flicker of humor – I always remember a school pupil in the audience who said people over the age of 18 should not be allowed to vote because they keep getting it wrong.

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For those of us on the panel aware of winning over voters, it presented a unique challenge.

Gavin Brown, former MSP and now public speaking expert, said there are new opportunities for business given the move towards hybrid working. PIC: Albie Clark.

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Did we speak to the 100 or so audience members in front of us, or to the many thousands who were tuning in from their cars, kitchens and workplaces?

Businesses across the UK now face a similar challenge as they wrestle with the revolution of hybrid working. It is now abundantly clear that while the workplace restrictions driven by Covid are on their way out, they have left behind a telling impact.

On Thursday, the UK Government published statistics which showed more than a fifth of businesses were actively applying a “hybrid model of working”, where staff spend some of the week in the office and the rest at home. That includes nearly half of those in the information and communication sector, and the professional, scientific and technical activities industries. Across Scotland, that accounts for tens of thousands of people.

This will change a number of things, including how we give presentations. From now on, when a Scottish business finds itself needing to make an important presentation, the chances are it will often be in a hybrid format. There will be many days when not everyone who needs to listen can make it to the office.

Presenting in a hybrid format is a completely different skill, and requires serious consideration of many factors that previously weren’t an issue.

Are the key stakeholders who I need to impress in the room before me or tuning in from a screen above?

Do my slides which look great on the big office screen also work for those who’ve dialed in on Zoom?

Can my virtual audience engage with me in the same way as someone raising a hand in the crowd before me?

The business world is thinking about these changes now, and Scotland has an opportunity to get ahead of the game. Most hybrid presentations have been woeful – but what if we get them right?

Investment in venues which host high-quality hybrid presentations and ensuring our key employees are adequately trained can open up serious economic benefits.

These changes will allow Scottish businesses to pitch to markets they probably thought were out of reach.

During these BBC Radio Scotland debates, it was easy to get sucked into just focusing on the people you could see in front of you.

Those who really made a success of these opportunities were the ones who remembered the invisible voters with an ear to the radio too.

That’s the sort of consideration that will be new for many in Scotland’s thriving business community.

But in these post-pandemic times, it could well be one of the most important.

-Gavin Brown is the director of Speak With Impact and former MSP for the Lothians

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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