Now that the country has transitioned to the ‘Post-COVID’ era we can look back and, even in the face of the devastating impact of the world-wide pandemic, find nuggets of positive changes and new, better and creative ways of doing things.
We have all become more careful; we wash our hands more frequently, we clean and sanitize the surfaces we touch, we sneeze into our elbows, we dine outdoors and more and more of us are getting vaccinated. As an annoyingly positive thinker, I am confident that these changes will continue well into the future and that everyone will be healthier as a result.
OK, we are dropping the use of masks and other restrictions both at work and at home. Some of us are more comfortable with the pace of our return to ‘normal’ or at least ‘the new normal’ and that is ok. I suspect everyone is very glad that things are finally moving in a better direction.
Out of Necessity
One of the changes many of us made during the pandemic was to move from in-person to virtual meetings. Until the pandemic forced everyone to think of ways to function without exposure to COVID, very few communities embraced the idea of holding so-called ‘virtual’ meetings. Almost overnight the terms Zoom, WEBEX and Microsoft Teams became a regular part of our daily conversations.
We have no way of knowing whether or not communities will prefer in-person or virtual meetings. It is reasonable to expect that demand for virtual meetings will remain stronger than it was before COVID came ashore. We have found that associations that held virtual or hybrid meetings generally experienced increased participation and, overall, an increase in satisfaction with the experience of attending meetings. We simply cannot ignore the fact that many unit owners were unable to attend in-person meetings but were able to attend virtual meetings.
I have a confession to make: I want my cake and eat to. Why not conduct Hybrid In-person / Virtual meetings? A Hybrid In-person/Virtual meeting provides the opportunity for people to be together in person in a room and at the same time connect with an audience that is attending virtually. All meeting participants – both in person and virtual – have access to the same information and the ability to communicate with everyone at the meeting.
Having conducted Hybrid In-person / Virtual Meetings for a couple of years now, we find that they are not only possible but most association board members and owners who have experienced well-run Hybrid In-person / Virtual Meetings find that they are actually more convenient and preferable to in-person meetings- this is especially so for board members and unit owners who are away or who find attending in-person meeting difficult or even impossible.
Best Practices for Conducting a Hybrid In-Person/Virtual Meeting
Here is a check list of what you need:
- A laptop computer with ample HDMI, USB and audio outlets.
- A high-quality full-size EPSON Video Projector.
- A large video screen, a suitably sized monitor or a large white wall surface.
- A Bose L1° Compact Line Array Public Address System. This is a great public address system that can easily accommodate a meeting of 200 or more people and pairs with a Shure BETA 58° Wired Microphone and 2 wireless microphones.
- 2 SHURE Model BLX4R Wireless Receivers.
- A Mackie Model 402VLZ4 4-Cannel Ultra Compact Mixer to transmit the signal between the Bose public Address System and the wireless microphones
- The all-in-one camera-microphone product designed and manufactured by OWL Labs. This product produces a clear 360° image, automatically locates and highlights the speaker, offers good to great sound quality and it is a truly amazing piece of technology.
- Zoom Video Conferencing, WEBEX, Microsoft Teams or an equivalent video conferencing platform. We have found that most of our clients are familiar with Zoom and Zoom offers convenient and useful features such a Waiting Room, Chat, Screen Sharing, Mute, Recording, etc. These feature help facilitate more effective meeting presentations.
- Plenty of HDMI, USB, 9-pin, audio, power and other cables to connect all of the a/v equipment.
- A reliable wifi connection.
- Extra batteries for the wireless microphones.
- An extension cord and power strip.
- Power Point to prepare agendas and exhibits.
- A suitable meeting room.
Another critical consideration for Hybrid In-person / Virtual Meeting is the preparation and presentation of agendas and exhibits. Creating Power Point Presentations allows a manager and board members to present agendas, exhibits, documents, photographs, etc. through screen-sharing features.
In a Zoom meeting, the host simply clicks on Zoom’s Screen-share feature and opens the Power Point Presentation – full-screen – and everyone attending the meeting in-person can see the presentation on-screen and everyone attending virtually via Zoom can see it on their computers, laptops or tablets.
Here are some other important tips.
- Set up and check to make sure that all a/v equipment is operating properly and that you have all of the equipment, cables, power cords, power strips, extra batteries, etc. the day before a meeting. There is nothing worse than getting to a meeting and encountering an equipment failure or a missing piece of equipment.
- Mute all attendees, except for board members and the management team. This helps keep the meeting focused and on track.
- Ask attendees to submit their questions and comments through the chat feature. This enables the host, board members and presenters to monitor and respond to questions and comments from unit owners.
- Arrange to have a separate member of the management team host the Zoom Conference. This enables the board members and the property manager to concentrate on the presentation without being distracted with operating the Zoom features.
- Activate Zoom’s Record feature and provide the link to all unit owners, so that those who were unable to attend can view the meeting. It is recommended that someone announce that the meeting is being recorded.
I want to leave everyone with the following thoughts.
Hybrid In-person / Virtual Meetings provide associations with an invaluable opportunity to accommodate unit owners who prefer to attend meetings in person as well as unit owners who are away or who are unable to attend in-person meetings. The end result is increased participation, which is a goal we share all share.
Setting up Hybrid In-person / Virtual Meetings may seem daunting. However, if I can do it, and I have, anyone can.
Finally, have some fun! For techno-geeks like me setting up Hybrid Meetings is like a kid in a candy store.
Douglas Thayer, CPM is President/Owner of Thayer & Associates, Inc., AMO