Hybrid Meetings – Case Study
Once Upon a Time at Holborn Speakers
Hello fellow Toastmasters! As you have had a Toastmaster journey, we have had a hybrid journey and this is the Holborn Speakers tale.
We started our hybrid journey in May this year. The first thing we did was the questionnaire for the club members sent by the Executive Committee. And the results showed there was an appetite for hybrid meetings. The second thing was to have the right attitude. We wanted to be realistic and knew that transition to hybrid was going to be challenging but worth it. Yes, we expected the transition from online to hybrid to be much harder than when we went from in-person to online. But we had the foundation of efficient online meetings and now had to add what we already knew a lot about – in-person meetings. With the right mindset we moved on.
From there we formed a Hybrid Committee and started a group chat. The Hybrid Committee is different than the Executive Committee in that they were committed to be present at our venue for the in-person portion of the hybrid meeting. It was important that hybrid committee members could arrive early (up to an 1 hour in the beginning but it was subsequently reduced) to figure out how to set up the room.
We started simple. Our philosophy was to begin with the equipment that we already had and grow incrementally. In other words, we would have one meeting, assess it, and see if we need more equipment, then repeat this process after each meeting.
For the first meeting we set up the computer (with Zoom) on a stand and that was the “stage view” that online people would see remotely. We were fortunate whereby our venue (The Rugby Tavern in Holborn) had a projector and a screen. The stage computer was then connected to the projector via a HDMi cable thus mirroring what was on the Zoom app on the computer. The projection showed the online participants for the in-person audience. That was the basic bare minimum.
There was a plan for the worst scenario – if the one and only person had showed up in person for a hybrid meeting than that person would participate from the room as if it was a fully online meeting.
From there?.. I’m not going to go into the nuts and bolts of the additional set up, as this is not the forum for such detail. Each club is different and their hybrid will be different. Each club is unique – in membership, function room, budget and hybrid appetite. So access your club and proceed accordingly.
Thus far we have invested minimal money towards the hybrid meetings. For the larger outlays we have relied on donations of audio-visual equipment from the club members. We didn’t want to get ahead of ourselves and invest money until we know that the hybrid has staying power and would be worth additional club investment.
The first meeting was over and it went well! We were exhilarated and drained. It was great to see old friends and for the first time meet the members who we have been seeing online for a year.
After the meeting we convened as we used to do, down in the pub for our traditional complimentary nibbles. There was a mixture of soft drinks and adult beverages being consumed and then the analysis started. What could we do to improve the experience? We not only took the feedback from the in-person audience but also asked the online people to stay on for a few minutes and share their experience and recommendations for improvement. Things we added were:
- A sound bar/speaker so the in-person audience could hear the online people better;
- A computer clip-on light so the onliners could see the speakers better.
The Hybrid Committee then set out on a goal of creating an online pamphlet “Setting up a hybrid meeting for beginners”. The idea was that anyone in the club had to be able to set up the room. We thought of it as if we were ordering from IKEA and then had to assemble some furniture.
We documented our Equipment List and included everything we used at the meeting – from stands to audio-visual equipment. Then we made step-by-step instructions on how to set up the room and connect the audio-visual equipment. Lastly, we put together a schematic of the all the equipment with locations in the room. This three steps approach was detailed enough for an absolute novice to follow.
We also found it important to have someone online to arrive early to advise on camera angles and lighting.
Now we are at the point where anyone from the club can set up the room if someone from the hybrid committee couldn’t make it to a meeting.
With the new wrinkles to running a hybrid meeting involving some of the roles and procedures, we had to make addendum to virtual educational folders that we use as a resource for instructions on how to perform each role. For each role there are now two sets of instructions. We documented them to advise the functionaries of the hybrid alterations if they are performing the role in person or online.
Despite the current success, we have some future goals for the hybrid committee, for example, to make our supply room self-sustaining. It means we would like to have all the necessary equipment on site at our function room. We don’t want to rely on anyone having to bring equipment to the meeting as last minute absence of a member expected to bring vital equipment could scupper the whole meeting.
We have created an “AV Wishlist” of equipment for future improvements. Also we plan to get our own computer and tablets. The tablets will be used as the cameras as we have found that there can be a reluctance for people to give up their phones for the duration of the meeting.
Happily Ever After
It was a lot of hard work and lot of communication, but the results are paying off. Our members love the options of attendance and it’s great to connect with members in the flesh.
We had two members who joined after being in-person guests at our club. One said that one of the reasons they joined was because it was in person, the other one joined because we had an online option. We knew then that we had met one of our goals to be “all things to all members” and truly be the “Best of both worlds”. I admit there was a few hiccups and there is a learning curve, but if hybrid is the right thing for your club… persevere!
In closing, I’d like to thank all the members of Holborn Speakers for their enthusiasm, patience and participation in the hybrid transition process, especially our Hybrid Committee whose hard work, dedication and commitment made our hybrid success possible.
——— Chris Soprano
——— Immediate Past President Holborn Speakers
——— Assistant Area Director – Area C2
PS: If you would like more detail on our room set up and hybrid meeting procedures please email us and we will send over our Equipment List, schematics and instructions to you.