Workshop on Hybrid Online/Offline Toastmasters Meetings: Replay

As Toastmasters clubs driven online by COVID-19 resume in person meetings, many will be thinking about how to continue to invite online participation. There are many good reasons for operating in a hybrid format, but club leaders need to be aware of the pitfalls and the investment in equipment that may be necessary.

This video is from a July 25, 2020 workshop on running meetings with both online and offline attendance — the technical and leadership challenges of doing it right. Below, we’ve also shared some specific equipment recommendations related to improving the audio quality for these meetings, which is one of the tricky parts.

Presenters and panel participants included:

  • Lois Margolin
  • Graham Cairns
  • Birgit Starmanns
  • Michael Alexander
  • Moira O’Brien

Host: Nik Lakhani, President, Online Presenters

Panel Moderator: David F. Carr

General Recommendations

From a leadership standpoint, think about how you will include local and remote participants equally.

For technology setup, the most important thing is ensuring audio quality. Even if the video quality is wonderful, not being able to hear a speaker undermines the whole point of a Toastmasters meeting.

Sample hybrid room setup from Moira’s slides

For video, best practice is to have feeds from 2 different cameras in the room, one pointed toward the speaking area and the other toward the audience. The image above (which you can see better by downloading Moira’s slides) will give you an idea of how that works.

To make it all work, your club should have (or train) at least a couple of people who can cover the room setup and tech setup details for every meeting. Possibly “Zoom master” or “tech master” could be a rotating role, if you have a few people who can handle it.

Hardware Recommendations

Clubs may have to adjust this shopping list to what they can reasonably do within their budget. During the program, Graham Cairns suggested clubs might start out with whatever equipment individual members are willing to share and then phase in purchases of club-owned equivalents.

A couple of key purchases Moira O’Brien recommended are a compact wireless microphone and a webcam that can be mounded on a tripod. Here are Amazon links and prices for those items.

Rode Wireless Go Premium Pack with Lavalier Go and SC4 – $339 USD
https://www.amazon.com/Rode-Wireless-Premium-Pack-Lavalier/dp/B07Y2VV6YW/

Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920, Widescreen Video Calling and Recording, 1080p Camera, Desktop or Laptop Webcam $125.00 USD
https://www.amazon.com/Logitech-Widescreen-Calling-Recording-Desktop/dp/B006JH8T3S/

Other equipment that is required may vary depending on your meeting space, for example whether there is a speaker system you can tap into. If not, purchasing a wired or wireless speaker might also be necessary. Some spaces may have adequate lighting, while for others you might need to bring in additional lighting.

Less expensive options than those cited here may work for you, including tech based on smart phone apps.

During the discussion later in the meeting, one of our guests Sunny Fridge mentioned a different microphone that worked for one of her clubs:

HeyMic!
$88 currently backordered from https://loveheymic.com/checkouts/checkouts/

If you have other recommendations, write to david@wp4toastmasters.com and we’ll consider adding them here.

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
room).

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.

Shyam Pyarauk

Thank you for organizing the workshop. 

Well before Covid, I had two opportunities with hybrid meetings. [1] I recommended and supported one of the weaker clubs to start hybrid meetings, so that club meetings are lively and members/guests can participate from anywhere and it kind of worked. [2] A past member of my home club wanted to attend the meeting from overseas + VPE wanted to attend the club meeting remotely. Thanks to the District 76 team, well before Covid challenge, the district team has encouraged and supported online/hybrid meetings by sharing (upgrading) individual club Zoom accounts.

My home club Pioneer Toastmasters members are currently enjoying hybrid meetings, by both, members who are unable to travel and members who love to have onsite meetings.

All online is easy to moderate, except speakers are not comfortable, reasons include houses in Japan are small, lighting is not good (our meetings are in the evening), body language is not effective, and depending on the laptop and internet connectivity AV quality is erratic and not good.

Our current setup [Click the links to see the equipment we are using] – Panasonic G9 connected to MBP via Blackmagic mini recorder, a projector {Free rental projector provided by the Meeting place) to show the online audience on the wall.  Ipad as a second camera for online audience to see (a) the people physically present in the meeting room {specially it helps online TT master} (b) Timing signals  (i know we can use the online timer tool or virtual background, but our members are comfortable with displaying physical color cards).  A Bluetooth speaker and a USB 360 degree mic

I tried the built in mic of the Tronsmart Bluetooth speaker, but the online audience mentioned it was not good. 

If a speaker present in the room wants to use  the slides, we ask them to log on to the personal zoom account and share slides using zoom slide share so that both online and onsite audience can view slides. It is very important that people who log on to their Zoom account and are physically present should mute the mic and turn off speaker, otherwise there will be issues like echo. 

Few points: I prefered DSLR camera, as it produced good video quality but I am not sure if the DSLR + BlackMagic Mini Recorder consumes high wifi bandwidth .  Canon, FujiFilm and Panasonic have released updates to support the webcam function. I am yet to try Panasonic Tethering mode on Zoom, which might avoid the BlackMagic Mini recorder.

In Japan people are wearing masks, even while giving prepared speech, which is not comfortable for the speaker & audience are unable to catch up adding to the language and pronunciation barriers .

As already pointed by others, Mic and internet connection is a big challenge. I have used a handheld mic, pin mic, 360 degree mic, etc., 360 degree mic worked better, but it seems to be capturing noises from the room. With zoom there is always an audio time lag, i am not exactly sure if it is because of zoom or wifi connection., this means we have to scale down the meeting agenda to accommodate buffer time.

I used Pin mic for the contest, and it worked fine. I have to try pin mic during the real meeting, but Pin mic is an issue because of Covid social distancing.

Carrying equipment every time to the meeting place seems to be a hard work, but I enjoy it.

I have to do more trials to have perfect hybrid meetings and want to learn and adopt good points from other clubs.

Full online or Hybrid meetings are important so that the club gets going. Yes, online/hybrid meetings gives an opportunity for Toastmasters to upgrade both communication and leadership skills, let’s embrace, learn, share and enjoy.

If the speaker is giving a speech remotely, he has to use additional skills to impress the audience. I am hoping film maker O’Brian might throw some light.

Articles from Elsewhere

CIO Review: Effective Management of Online/Offline Meetings

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.

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:

https://youtu.be/nUWro9dw9CA

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

https://youtu.be/N75v9wGNcAA

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
Visual15
Voice10
Manner5
Appropriateness/Correctness10
  
  
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.

Replay: How to Hold Online Meetings, a Webinar for District 47

Online Presenters members presented this workshop for District 47 (South Florida and the Bahamas), where many clubs are having to learn in a hurry how to conduct meetings online.

This workshop was led by club President Lois Margolin, DTM, a District 47 leader. The program included participation from other Online Presenters members from District 47 and throughout the world, giving a mini-meeting demonstration. David Carr, who led Online Presenters to charter in 2017, shared technical how-to tips.

https://youtu.be/n_X9rCSKLY0
Louis Magolin leads the webinar

100 people crowded into the Zoom video conference used for the event, while more watched on Facebook Live.

The webinar was simulcast on Facebook Live