Let’s be honest, there are lots of things I like about Zoom meetings—like dropping links into the chat, visibly random breakout rooms, and having the system keep track of raised hands. There are lots of things I like about in-person meetings—like informal chats during breaks, the shared sense of purpose, and easy transitions for group work. Bringing remote attendance to an in-person meeting requires practice and planning.
MAA used an OWL, whose output you can see below. It is a 360 degree camera view, speaker, and microphone. You can see the entire boardroom in the top strip and I must have been talking since the lower portion was focused on me.
It was really neat. I had never heard of an OWL before walking into the boardroom on Friday morning. So it took me a while to understand how it worked.
Even with the OWL, it was sometimes difficult for the remote viewers to identify who was speaking. So I began spotlighting individual speakers for everyone. Here I have spotlighted James Sellers showing off his ring light and drive-through iced coffee during a break.
So how did we make the meeting work with some people attending in-person and others attending remotely?
It’s all about sound management.
- Everyone logged into the Zoom meeting. But those in the boardroom either had to (join with no audio) OR (mute their audio and turn their speakers off).
- Using the Zoom “raise your hand” function (whether in the room or remote) made it easy to spotlight the next speaker.
- When we broke into small work groups, each was given a remote participant. Group members would meet in an assigned location and join a zoom breakout room. Once in the breakout room, one of the in-person participants could unmute their microphone and turn up their speakers so the group members could interact.
- When returning to the main meeting, it was important to remember to mute and turn off the speakers again—or else there would be the awful feedback loop.
Sending remote attendees to a discussion in their own breakout room would have been more expedient, but I worried they might feel siloed. I wanted to be sure that they were integrated with the in-person aspects of the meeting. And that they had the opportunity to interact with senior staff as well as other board members. It was worth the extra effort.
For an in-person think-pair-share activity, I would normally have participants turn to a neighbor. Instead I asked remote folks to chose a partner. The rest of us in the room then turned to our neighbors. This time the transition to breakout rooms went much more smoothly. It felt a little like being chosen (or not chosen) for a team in elementary school but I believe it helped the distant attendees feel a more involved. There were two rounds of think-pair-share activities and just like in the classroom, I asked that the silent partner in round one became the spokesperson for round two, ensuring that every voice had an opportunity to be heard.
It’s a good thing I enjoy technology, problem solving, and active participation. Because all three were needed for this meeting. I think I pulled it off as well as anyone could have hoped for. Imagine what can be achieved with more practice!