One of the greatest challenges for social and civic clubs intending on meeting in-person again will be when and how to host in-person meetings while keeping your attendees safe. Introducing hybrid meetings: an in-person meeting with an integrated virtual component, to allow for attendees to either join virtually or in-person depending on their preference.
Before we can explore how to engage our virtual and in-person audiences, there are technical logistics that need to be considered.
- Is the WIFI fast enough? For a hybrid meeting to succeed, a high-speed wireless internet connection is going to be critical. If your venue does not have fast WIFI available, your remote audience will have a subpar experience at best. You can test the internet speed at your venue by going to your venue, connecting to their WIFI, and visiting an internet speed website such as speedtest.net with your browser. Zoom’s recommended minimum downstream (download speed) for video calls is 3.8Mbps (megabytes per second), with a minimum upstream (upload speed)of 3.0Mbps. To ensure a smooth connection for multiple devices simultaneously connected, I recommend a minimum downstream of 40Mbps and a minimum upstream of 10Mbps. The higher these numbers are, the faster the internet connection is.
- Is the venue’s atmosphere quiet enough? While some in-person meetings can be held at a cafe or a restaurant, a hybrid meeting requires a room with little to no background noise. Just think about all of those Zoom video calls you have been on where you have heard the background noise of someone driving, a television on, or a phone conversation overheard — we want to make sure to avoid that, as you will need to leave the meeting room’s microphone unmuted during the meeting. Make sure your meeting’s venue offers a quiet, private space for you to conduct your meeting.
- What about power and lighting? There are a few other items to think about such as making sure the meeting room has available power outlets and appropriate lighting to use. Fortunately, there is usually some flexibility in augmenting this, as you can bring your own power surge and extension cable, as well as your own lights if needed. Work with your venue’s team to make sure plugging in your devices will be appropriate for fire code, and that it will not cause the power breaker to flip. When in doubt, it is always good to test out your setup in advance, and making sure you are plugging in and turning on as many devices as you will need during a meeting.
- How many devices do you need? The answer to this question will depend on several factors including your meeting room’s layout, how many people will be physically present, and how the meeting is structured. We will come back to this particular question throughout this guide. For now, consider how many devices you think you need to capture the main stage, and whether or not you need additional devices throughout the meeting room.
Choosing the Right Platform
Zoom, Twitch, Microsoft Teams, Facebook Live, Youtube Live? There are so many incredible platforms you can use for your virtual component of your hybrid meeting. Choosing the right one will depend heavily on the structure of your meeting, and how many attendees you expect. Here are some high-level guiding recommendations:
- Zoom and Microsoft Teams: Both Zoom and Microsoft Teams are two of the leading video conferencing tools available. There is a small recurring cost for an account, but both have similar features. If you want the ability to have a private virtual session, manage virtual breakout rooms, then these two are most likely your preferred platforms. Zoom and Teams are both great platforms if you want to allow your virtual audience to have their webcams on and for the opportunity to be able to interact with one and another. Choosing between the two platforms is mostly a personal preference, as they have been directly competing against each other to match features.
- Twitch: Made popular by gamers, Twitch is a streaming platform that allows you to stream your video feed to the platform for other people to watch. Unlike Zoom and Microsoft Teams, there are not breakout rooms available in Twitch, and the ability for the virtual audience to directly engage is limited to the text-based chat room. Twitch does have some incredible extensions that allow you to add useful tools to your stream such as a donation tracker or announcement bar. This allows your virtual audience to make donations, and be automatically recognized on your video feed. Think of Twitch as the option to go with if you are treating your meeting as more of a TV show being broadcast to a virtual audience. Any engagement with the virtual audience would need to be directly facilitated by the host. Since you can broadcast your own computer screen, it is also possible to use Zoom or Microsoft Teams for your meeting, while broadcasting your Zoom or Teams meeting through Twitch.
- Facebook Live and Youtube Live: Both are great additional options for streaming. Similar to Twitch, Facebook Live and Youtube Live do not have the ability for your virtual audience members to directly join your stream with their video feeds. Instead, it is a great medium to stream your video feed directly to large audiences. This can be a great option if you have a special event or meeting that you want to have hundreds or thousands of people watch online. As audience members generally only engage via text comments in this environment, it is going to be important for the host to be reading the comments to engage with the virtual audience. Just like Twitch, it is possible for you to stream your Zoom or Teams meeting to Facebook Live and Youtube Live. Zoom has integrations to do this automatically.
- Other Options: There are so many platforms, it is not possible to cover them all here. You may find that your needs can be fulfilled with other tools such as Google Hangouts, Discord, Gather, or some other platform. If you are using a different platform, I would love to hear it in the comments.
For the purposes of the remaining parts of this guide, we will be using Zoom as the platform.