VAC Tips for ‘blended’ meetings
Online and blended meetings have emerged as an important requirement of the Covid-19 pandemic. They have allowed the Voluntary and Community sector to continue its work under incredibly tough circumstances. This Guide will give you some helpful tips to run a hybrid meeting effectively.
The sector has been a helping hand, a welcome ear, a signpost to, and supplier of, critical aid to those in need. To be able to continue onward, amid travel restrictions and social distancing rules, has meant that these online and blended meetings are essential.
However, even for the most experienced, hosting blended meetings can be a daunting prospect. Will the staff or guests be able to join? How can everyone be heard? Will the equipment work?
Having spoken to VAC staff, community members and sought advice online here are some tips that helped us muddle through the first few months, and soon, learn to take advantage of the opportunities available with a blended meeting.
Get to know the software and the hardware that you are using. If you can, have someone join the call early so you can check that the sound and the video is working properly.
Stick to commonly used products
A number of easy-to-use software products are available. Zoom, for example, has almost become synonymous with the lockdown, with many people comfortable using it. If an attendee is concerned, perhaps include them in your preparation or discuss the how-to over the telephone beforehand.
It is important that those joining online are not placed in the corner where they can only see a small part of the meeting. Consider where to put the laptop (or another device) so that the camera can see the in-person attendees. If possible, connect the device to a larger screen (usually via an HDMI cable plugged into both devices), so that those present can see all those connecting virtually.
However, if this is not available, do not worry, just do not forget to address those online as well as those in the room when speaking.
Nominate someone present to attend to those online
While it has become common etiquette for online meetings to remain ‘on mute’ when not speaking this should not mean that the voices of virtual attendees are lost. Nominate someone close to the chair to watch the chat box and keep an eye out for raised hands.
Dual log-in in the meeting room
If possible, log in to the meeting on two devices in the meeting room. One, such as the laptop, can then be placed with a good view for online attendees, while the other, such as a smart phone, can be either placed more centrally or passed among those speaking so that everyone can hear the discussion.
In person speakers should not need to speak directly into the phone, as if on a phone call, it should be sufficient to have it placed on the desk in front of them.
If you are doing this, do not forget to mute the outgoing voice on the viewing device.
Record the session
If it is acceptable to all present, recording the session is an excellent way to review and take notes later if required.
Consider the time
Online meetings can be tiring. It is said that ‘Zoom fatigue’ is a very real thing. If possible, try to limit meetings to an hour, or allow for breaks if this is not possible.
These are some of the helpful tips that we at VAC have picked up over the last year or so. We are sure that there are many more out there.
Online and blended (or hybrid meetings) doesn’t need to be an intimidating experience. As long as everyone can be seen and heard they can be just as productive and important as the in-person experience.