Hybrid Meeting Reflections
Another year in the books! And what a ride this year has been for our Crystal Clear Speakers club. We have persevered and bonded together during the pandemic and continue to do so going forward. I could not have been any prouder of our club members and executive team for their support. We all pulled together during these uncertain times and all of us played significant roles in transiting to the hybrid meeting format, no matter how small or large our responsibilities were in the club.
I am one of the newer members at our club and it has been officially one year for me since I joined Toastmasters. The learning experiences have been great and personally fulfilling for me. And I am happy to take on the role of Sergeant at Arms and Hybrid Committee Chair for the club. I want to thank Donna Ho, Sue Saunders, Oscar Van Der Meer, and Carol Murphy for volunteering to form our club’s hybrid meeting committee. I could not have done this without your help and expertise.
In reflecting on the year, our club was quite enthusiastic in getting back to meeting in-person subject to government COVID-19 protocols and regulations. We had our first hybrid meeting test run on October 5th at the Coquitlam Library. Prior to our test run, our hybrid committee members decided to join in as guests at other District 96 clubs to get a feel as to how they run their hybrid meetings and to determine what best practices and technologies may work or not work for our club.
Based in our findings after our test run and attending other club’s hybrid meetings. We have compiled some generalized feedback below from our hybrid committee members as to what worked and not worked when running our hybrid meeting.
- Our room booking at Coquitlam Library was a good size which allowed ample room for maintaining safe social distancing measures with one another. In the room, we have access to a projector screen, direct audio and video connection inputs, HDMI cable, meetings tables and chairs, and podium/stand which were all provided by the library that made the experience more effective and easier to manage for both in-person and Zoom attendees.
- Running two laptops. Our first laptop was faced towards in-person attendees so that Zoom attendees can have a good view of all people in the room, this laptop was placed near the meeting room projector. The second laptop was placed on the podium stand where in-person speakers stood from and spoke. Having one laptop placed on the podium established a closeup “speaker view” in which Zoom attendees could see the in-person speaker in full stand-up view.
- Portable Bluetooth speaker worked well for our meetings. We setup one portable speaker to our “speaker view” laptop via direct USB connection. In addition, we have the option to connect the portable speaker to our laptop wirelessly through Bluetooth but have not had the need to do that yet. All Zoom attendees can hear all in-person attendees well.
What Did Not Work
- Sometimes the room lighting was not ideal during meetings. There is not much natural outside light that comes into the room, so we are trying to find the right light adjustment so Zoom attendees can see all in-person attendees well. Sometimes speakers look a bit dark on Zoom, so we may need to move the speaker podium to a more well-lit spot in the room.
- During break, Zoom attendees can hear a lot of background noise coming from in-person attendees, so we are working on to minimize background noise by putting the Zoom meeting on mute during the duration of break.
Going Forward in 2022
- Since our club meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month, we have decided on hosting a hybrid meeting only on the first Tuesday and not the third Tuesday of the month. The third Tuesday of the month will be a full Zoom meeting only. The rationale behind this measure is twofold, one it will allow our club to focus on cost savings as we cannot accurately predict member attraction and retention in 2022 largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Secondly, our room booking at Coquitlam Library provides our club with an added financial benefit. The library has so far granted our club’s first meeting/room booking free at no charge. We are not sure if this incentive will continue for our club well into 2022 as this may be dependent on overall demand and usage over the course of the year.
- Our club may explore the possibility of investing in a quality microphone which can complement our current Bluetooth speaker. The goal is to enhance the hybrid meeting experience as this can be useful for attendees on Zoom. Sometimes in-person attendees may not sound as clear to attendees on Zoom due to background noise in the room. The purchase is dependent on our club’s financial capability.
Overall, our club now has a good understanding in running a successful hybrid meeting, however going forward, there are always areas that we can look at in improving whether it be through added technology and/or best practices. As we navigate through the waves of 2022 once again, our club is confident in establishing those positive experiences for all its members and prospective guests.
Cheers! Let’s bring on 2022 and the Sky is The Limit.
Sergeant at Arms and Hybrid Committee Chair