Preliminary Thoughts on Running Online/Offline Meetings

This is information we’ve pulled together in advance of our July 25 workshop on running mixed online / offline meetings (a.k.a. hybrid or “meetings with online attendance”).

We’ll continue to add to this information in advance of the event and publish our best recommendations afterward.

Roger Fung

Hybrid requires lots of commitment.  Most meeting rooms are not set up or conducive to a mix format.  If the club has only one online member; the SAA set up all the gears; but said member was no-show for 2-3 weeks; is the club going to continue with the hybrid format?

Most clubs will be better off alternating 100% in-person & 100% online meetings.

Attached are two files I’ve used in prior presentations.  Feel free to edit & use them however you please.

A few words of caution:

1—as more locales reopen, HQ will have to issue new rules.  New directives from HQ will alter or nullify some parts of this discussion.

2—“hybrid” can mean whatever your club wants it to mean.  Mixed audience every week; alternating online/in-person meeting; meet online 3x & in-person once per month; meet in-person 3x & online once per month, etc…

3—if there is a will, there is a way to set up a room for hybrid meetings.  Given enough time & resources, trials & errors, a “perfect” setup can be found.  But the physical setup is the easy part.  It’s the social, relational part that is the most difficult to manage.  You may have the will & commitment, but does the rest of the club have it, too?

Michael Alexander

My other club (A.C.T.S., of which Carl Walsh is also a member, so I am
cc:ing him so that he can add his insights), has been holding hybrid
meetings for a while now.  For the most part, they have been brick and
mortar meetings, with on-line attendance for one or two people who are
distant, rather than a “balance” of virtual and physical attendance,
but I believe some insights can be gained from our experience.

A.C.T.S. is an advanced club (in fact the “A.C.” stands for “Advanced
Communication” – the “T.S.” stands for “Training and Speakers
Bureau”), and it generates a fair amount of loyalty, so even when two
of our members moved away from the area, they wanted to attend.  We
have made that possible.  But, our first experiences as a mixed club
came from the speech clinics we run for the local TMs.  One of our
evaluator/coaches moved from the Los Angeles Area to the east coast,
but we wanted to have him continue to help coach at the workshops.

The basic set-up has been to have a camera set-up to cover the
speaking area (the front of the room) and a projector to show the
images of our virtual attendees, on the screen behind them.  In order
to avoid stealing the stage, virtual attendees are encouraged to turn
off their mics and cameras when they are not speaking, so that they do
not distract the audience from the speaker on stage.  (Note that ZOOM
has an option to “hide non-video participants” GoToMeeting has a
similar option.  Not sure about all of the others, but if the option
is available, the person using the projector could use it, it may
result in a large screen version of the presenter on stage, although
turning off the projector during the actual speech might be a viable
option, depending upon the size of the stage and preference of the
speakers.)  Personally, I prefer that the computer running the
projector be turned so it is visible to the person in the speaking
area.  That lets the speaker see the virtual presenter, if he is
presenting, and the “moderator” of each section to see if a virtual
hand is raised.

All persons physically presenting, therefore, should be encouraged to
stand in the speaking area, whether they are speakers, evaluators,
table topics, or functionaries, although some roles (like “ah
counter”) may nor merit full attention, and the timer needs special
handling.  That makes them more easily available to the virtual
attendees.  Virtual attendees should turn on their mics when they are
speaking, and will need to turn on their cameras when they are
speaking, or when they are trying to raise their hand to speak.
Turning the virtual attendees’ cameras off for evaluations by others,
etc. is probably not as important (and may not be practical), but
these cameras should probably be off during speeches.

The timer has to be seen by both the in person and virtual attendee.
In person is easy enough.  But, to make them available to the virtual
attendee I recommend considering putting a camera on the presenter, so
that they can show the time both on the big screen or to the in person
presenter, at the same time.  (Even when in person, I have joined the
meeting on my phone on some occasions, and a club might want to have
someone monitoring, and even directing the mics and cameras in the

The main problem is sound.  You need to make sure that you have
adequate speakers, so that the virtual attendees can be heard in the
room (they should mute their own speakers to avoid feedback), and that
your microphones are capable of picking up whoever is talking from the
speaking area.  This means that the computer’s microphone is probably
not adequate (when speaking a lavalier mic might be a good idea, or a
decent directional mic).  This is not an issue to be casual about.

That’s the bulk of what I have concluded from my experience.  If you
have any questions please feel free to ask.

Birgit Starmanns

Birgit will be sharing experiences from her work for the enterprise software company SAP

Actually, the [format of] one (or two) people sitting in remote locations is actually pretty common in my company, especially since we are global, so while there were similar hiccups at the beginning (and we have a “coffee corner culture” at HQ in Germany), everyone has gotten used to the remote way of working over the past decade.

There’s also the matter of roles. If it’s an analyst who is remote, he/she has no trouble getting airtime. But we have found a few strategies to help; which yes, includes having everyone on their laptop to see a presentation (plus projecting the screen at the same time), that helps remind everyone that there are other people as part of the meeting. And it is also the responsibility of the primary facilitator at a meeting to ensure that no one is left out.

Moira O’Brien

My experience comes from being a filmmaker and applying my knowledge to toastmasters. My first hybrid meeting was in 2018 with the first meeting of an advanced club when we had 18 onsite and 7 online attendees. Following that meeting I have simplified my ideas for hybrid and I conducted a club workshop with online attendance in January (before Covid shutdown). Since then I have included a segment on The Talk Show for Talkers podcast – no 4 on this page and a list of suggested additional hardware needed for an ideal solution here.

Larry J. Miller

Larry Miller is one of the Toastmasters we queried to find out more after he registered for our event saying he had a lot of experience with the mixed online/offline format.

* What does “a lot” mean in your case?

In 2012, I joined a group of Toastmasters who were working on an HPL project sanction by Toastmasters International to see if we could have a viable Toastmaster club totally online. We tested many of the video platforms and tested various ways to run a Toastmaster club online. We chartered the first totally online club called Netizens on March 25, 2016. Since about 2013, I had been running a “Speakers Workshop” where we workshoped each speakers speech in a round robin evaluation plus a written evaluation.  About 2015, I added virtual speakers to the mix.

* How is running one of these meetings different from an all-online meeting?

The main difference is your setup time.  You have to make sure you have someplace with a good Internet connection and you have to set up a projector and screen and at least two cameras. One for the audience and one for the speaker.

* What are the additional challenges?

Looking for both tech challenges and leadership / organizational ones.    An additional challenge is having a good Internet connection. I don’t have any leadership/organizational challenges, because I am not associated with any other group.

* What are the additional benefits?    

I think the main additional benefit is having more speakers.

* Do you prefer the mixed/hybrid format over online-only or in-person-only meetings? Under what circumstances does it makes sense?    

It takes more planning and setup time for a mixed/hybrid meeting. I’m not a big fan of regular Toastmaster meetings being mixed/hybrid meetings. There is a certain bond that an all in person meeting attains and there is a certain bond that an all online club attains. But I don’t feel the mixed/hybrid clubs really bond like the other two types.

* What would be your advice to leaders at clubs who had never conducted meetings online before the COVID crisis and may not have a lot technical expertise within their clubs?

Connect with an all online club like Netizens which has always been an online club and see if you can get someone to mentor your club for a couple of meetings. We would be willing to help the clubs get started.

Articles from Elsewhere

CIO Review: Effective Management of Online/Offline Meetings

Join Us for a Workshop on Mixed Online/Offline Meetings, Saturday July 25 @ 2pm EDT

Online Presenters is organizing a workshop on how to run a productive meeting that mixes online and offline attendance, and we hope to share the best practices that we gather on this website. Fill out the form below to register to attend.

Saturday July 25, 2020 2:00 PM EDT

Online Presenters is sponsoring a workshop to gather best practice recommendations on how to conduct a meeting that mixes online participation with having other members gathered together in a meeting room. We will be sharing ideas on everything from camera, microphone, and screen placement to the leadership necessary to allow members to participate on a level playing field, whether they are in the room or not.


Table Topics with some members remote

We expect many more clubs who were forced online because their meeting space closed due to COVID-19 will try this format in the coming months, if they aren’t already. Some will do it to accommodate members who hesitate to attend in person because of age or health concerns, while others who will want to preserve the option for members who are not local to attend via video conference.

The reason we want to talk about “doing it right” is that several of us have found from experience that doing it wrong is much easier. We want to share what we know about the pitfalls and the potential upsides. We’ll also talk about alternatives, such as alternating between online and offline meetings.

Confirmed presenters and panel participants include:

  • Nik Lakhani, President, Online Presenters
  • Roger Fung
  • Graham Cairns
  • Lois Baron Margolin
  • Birgit Starmanns
  • Michael Alexander
  • Moira O’Brien

Moderator: David F. Carr

For some preliminary notes on the subject matter, see this blog post.


This event is limited to 500 participants. Please fill out the form below to register.

Your Answer: Yes No

none a little a lot


I consent to the privacy policy site of this site for purposes of follow up to this registration.

Videos: Chris Guld, Antoinette Trim, Lieceng Zhu – July 6, 2020

Chris Guld: I don’t know, Project: Focus on the Positive July 6, 2020

Antoinette Trim: A model to Be, Project: Mentoring July 6, 2020

Lieceng Zhu: Blame the mosquitoes, Project: Ice Breaker July 6, 2020

July 6, 2020

Video policy: Online Presenters routinely records the video of its meetings. As announced at the beginning of each week’s meeting, by participating in our club as a member or guest, you acknowledge that we reserve the right to use these video recordings in our educational and public relations programs.

Roger Courville

Workshop Replay: Roger Courville on Boosting Engagement in an Online Presentation

Roger Courville, an expert on online presentations of all sorts, with an emphasis on online training and webinars, was our guest speaker for June 1, 2020.

Roger has been a friend of the club since its inception, having given an earlier workshop presentation on this topic when we were recruiting our charter members in 2017. He was one of the sources I consulted for my article that year on Improving Skills for Webinars, Online Meetings. Since then, he has also served as a celebrity guest judge for our webinar contests and helped in several other ways.

Some of the resources he shared:

About the Speaker

Roger Courville, CSP has been called “The Michael Jordan of Virtual Presentations.” He’s an award-winning speaker and author who brings evidence-based tactics to transforming boring webinars. His work includes working with organizations as diverse as Pfizer, FedEx, Australia Institute of Training and Development, American Management Association, US Bank and, of course, L-TEN. And he loves habaneros.

June 1 Workshop: Roger Courville, “Raise Your Virtual Presentation EQ (Engagement Quotient)”

See the replay, now available.

Raise Your Virtual Presentation EQ (Engagement Quotient)

Roger Courville

The world is noisier than it’s ever been. For speakers and educators, this means getting and keeping attention in virtual presentations and classes is challenging.

The good news: Learning to transform the best of in-person engagement for online presentations isn’t hard, it’s just different.

Join Roger Courville, CSP, author of The Virtual Presenter’s Playbook, for a lively session to learn:

  • 2 huge (but avoidable) mistakes nearly every presenter makes online
  • Science-based design tweaks for complex and data-heavy slides
  • A simple framework for adapting any in-person engagement for virtual classes and presentations
  • 4 tactics you can use immediately to capture and keep attention

About the Speaker

Roger Courville, CSP has been called “The Michael Jordan of Virtual Presentations.” He’s an award-winning speaker and author who brings evidence-based tactics to transforming boring webinars. His work includes working with organizations as diverse as Pfizer, FedEx, Australia Institute of Training and Development, American Management Association, US Bank and, of course, L-TEN. And he loves habaneros.

Replay: Webinar Contest 2020, Congratulations Krishn Ramchurn

The Online Presenters webinar contest tests the ability of our members to make maximum use of the tools available for an online presentation (background here).

Congratulations to our winners:

#1 Krishn Ramchurn
#2 Louis Brown
#3 Jim Barber

Winning speech, Krishn Ramchurn, “I am not sure if it’s for you, but maybe …”

Full event replay

Video Speech Contest 2020: Congratulations, John Callaghan

John Callaghan, Jim Barber, and Krishn Ramchurn were the winners in the Video Speech Contest held March 23, 2020 at Online Presenters. This official Toastmasters speech contest is a variant of the International Speech Contest for undistricted clubs, including online clubs. The video of John Callaghan’s has been forwarded to Toastmasters International, where judges will choose a worldwide winner.

Full Contest:

Winning speech: “Surviving the Storms of Life,” John Callaghan

Mimi Brown and Roger Courville Visit Online Presenters for its Webinar Contest on April 20

Professional speakers Mimi Brown and Roger Courville will visit Online Presenters as celebrity guest judges for our webinar contest on April 20. This event is not an official Toastmasters contest, and we’re bending the usual rules on anonymity of judges to give our speakers professional feedback on their online presentation skills. To attend as a guest, register here.

Mimi Brown

Mimi Brown works with individuals and organizations to amplify their communication and leadership so they can make an influential impact on the world.

With over 10 years of leadership and communication consulting and training experience, Mimi knows how to rock a platform, connect with a crowd, & have people laughing while learning.

She is the author of three books: AMP Up Your Success: 52 Tips Every Leader Should Know, AMP Up Sales: 71 Tips to Skyrocket Your Revenue and Be A Communication Rockstar: 52 Tips To Gain Connection, Skyrocket Confidence, Reduce Conflict.

Mimi’s personal highlights include being recognized as an  Elite 40 Under 40, media personality on WDIV’s show Live In the D and contestant on NBC’s, Biggest Loser.

Roger Courville

Roger Courville is the first speaker in the world to earn his CSP with a predominantly virtual business model.

Once dubbed “The Michael Jordan of Virtual Presentations,” Roger is a multi-book author, award winning writer, and multi-company entrepreneur.

His work includes working with organizations as diverse as FedEx, Australia Institute of Training and Development, American Management Association, US Bank and, of course, that little company down the street that you’ve never heard about but who does killer virtual presentations. And he loves habaneros.

Roger has been a friend of our club from its inception, when he led a free workshop (replay here) to help us attract our initial set of charter members in 2017.

To learn more about the webinar contest and how it will be conducted, read this blog post.

Webinar Contest April 20, 2020 — How it Works

Following up from our recent Video Speech contest, Online Presenters is preparing for its April 20 webinar contest (register to attend as a guest).

There are a couple of differences between the Webinar Contest and the Video Speech Contest:

  • The Video Speech Contest is an official contest covered by Toastmasters International rules. It’s essentially a version of the International Speech Contest for clubs that operate outside a district structure (as 100% online clubs do because they are not anchored to the geography of any one district).
  • The Webinar Contest (or Mini-Webinar Contest) is our own invention, designed to test skills specific to the online format.

I think of the International Speech Contest (and, by extension, the Video Speech Contest) as a 5-7 minute keynote speech. Winning speeches typically include a mix of humor, storytelling, and inspiration.

The Webinar Contest is a 6-8 minute webinar, which tests the speaker’s ability to use online presentation tools effectively, respond to questions submitted via chat, and close with a strong call to action. Think of it as a miniature webinar designed to sell the audience on a product, cause, or idea. We follow most of the usual Toastmasters contest rules and procedures, but for example have relaxed the traditional anonymity of judges to allow participation from Celebrity Guest Judges Mimi Brown and Roger Courville, who in addition to voting will give some professional feedback to contestants at the end of the event.

The rules, spelled out in a 2018 blog post, include a scoring scheme that starts with the categories from the International Speech Contest but inserts a couple of webinar-specific ones such as audience engagement and call to action.

Webinar Contest Scoring

 Max score
Speech Development15
Audience Engagement15
Speech Value15
Call to Action15
Total Possible Score100

To simulate a common webinar experience, each contestant is challenged to respond (briefly) to questions submitted via chat. Speakers have the option of monitoring the chat themselves or asking for help from the chat monitor, who will read or summarize a couple of questions submitted.

Snapshot of Sunny Fridge’s winning webinar speech from September 2018.

You can check out past webinar contests won by Sunny Fridge and Carol Prahinski for clues about what worked well in the past.

As an unofficial format, the webinar contest is “just for fun” — but perhaps something Toastmasters should consider refining and turning into an official contest format as the online environment becomes increasingly important.