Let’s Have a Great Hybrid Meeting!
by George Hazzard, DTM
Have you noticed that people are yearning to get back together again in meetings?
They want to be able to meet other people face to face. By getting ready and gearing up for hybrid meetings, you will set yourself up for success in your Toastmasters club.
If you’re new to hybrid meetings, it can be a challenge to ensure that they run smoothly. However, with a simple and straightforward setup, you can have a great hybrid meeting.
You may have questions such as, “What type of camera, microphone, or speaker system should I use?” or “Can I have multiple computers in the room?”
We’ll talk about the main setup and then some other considerations as you get underway with your hybrid meeting.
I am in two clubs here in Orlando and will share with you how we set up our systems there.
One of the most important things one needs to do when setting up a hybrid meeting is to ensure you only have one system with the microphone and the speaker. Perhaps you’ve been in a meeting where multiple computers are open with their sound systems going. It makes for echoes and strong feedback. Others in the room can have their computers on, just not with their sound and microphones open.
For instance, the timer for the meeting may bring their laptop to the in-person meeting. Our timer will log into the meeting, but we’ll just ensure they have their speaker and microphone off.
If people cannot hear well, it makes for a bad meeting. People can tolerate poor video quality, but if they cannot hear well, it makes it a problem.
The first thing we do is set up what we call our main computer laptop near the lectern. We will plug an external camera and microphone into that laptop. We have found that we can enhance the quality of our meetings just by having a better camera plugged into a USB port.
It does not have to be a fancy camera. We have purchased great cameras for as little as $10. You don’t need to break the bank to get a good camera.
We also plug an external USB microphone into our main laptop. We did end up getting a blue Yeti microphone that has proven to be of very good quality. It costs about $125 on Amazon. While it still picks up most of the room, we still ask members to come to the lectern to speak. It’s just like the good old days.
We found that the speakers in the computer are not strong enough to carry throughout the room. What we did was buy a wireless external speaker. The wireless speaker doesn’t have to be near the computer. It can be further down into the room. Just make sure you always have it charged before coming to a meeting.
Have a Good Meeting
To have a good hybrid meeting, the people in the room need to be able to see the people online. In the libraries we utilize, we use both a TV that’s available to us and a built-in projector on the ceiling, depending on our room. Both work flawlessly. We use an inexpensive computer or a Chromebook to plug into the TV or projector. This serves two purposes. It allows us to see the online folks and the online folks can see the audience view of the room. In both cases, the setup is very easy and takes about two minutes.
Our meeting places are in libraries. In the beginning, we were worried that the library Wi-Fi couldn’t support our computers. That was not an issue and never has been.
Now let’s talk about the meeting itself. It can be distracting for people online when the people in the room are talking to each other and the microphone is not muted. This usually happens just before the meeting starts. It behooves us to make sure the microphone is muted as we set things up.
Typically, in our meetings, our timer is our vote counter. If the timer is in the room, we have them collect the paper votes and have the people online message the timer with a private chat of their vote. If the timer is online, we have one person in the room collect the votes and privately chat the results to the timer.
Lastly, it is important to make sure that you have a balanced approach when calling on people online or in person. Let’s say you’re doing table topics, try to call on someone online, and then someone in the room. That is the balanced approach that we are talking about.
If you can pull off these basic efforts in putting together a hybrid meeting, we are quite confident that you will have a great hybrid meeting. One microphone, one speaker, and two cameras – one camera for the lectern and one camera for the audience view. You will have a great hybrid meeting that will allow your club to grow like the good old days.