Technology Help - Hybrid Meetings

Key Factors

This page highlights some of the key factors you need to consider initially. Other pages will then provide more detailed information and guidance. If you struggle with some of the terminology used please scroll down to the lower part of this page.

What Does Your u3a Need?
The first question that is invariably asked is “Isn’t this going to be expensive?”
Yes it could be, but not necessarily, it dependent on a number of factors. So initially we have to ask questions about what happened pre-Covid and what did the venue(s) and your own u3a have available by way of resources back then. Some venues, particularly churches, moved over to livestream services online during the pandemic, so they may now have a lot of the setup items needed to run an Alternative or Hybrid meeting which wasn’t available pre-Covid.
u3a Meetings Vary
This website tries to cover all forms of meeting. So think about what you are trying to achieve, what is the best form for you, what is the size of your intended room and attendance by members?
Then you can determine if your meeting will be in person, online, a mixture, indoors, outdoors, for a few, for many, own venue, public venue, etc.
What size of meeting will you be hosting?
This website has specific webpages for Home Meetings, Small Meetings, Medium Meetings and Large Meetings.
ADD DIRECT LINKS. Vivek's tables?
Your choice of Venue – does it already have the majority of what you need?
Revisit your options before finalising the venue you intend to use. In some small towns and villages there are often few alternative venues to the one you have traditionally used. In larger towns & cities there is often a choice, so find out if they have a setup closer to your revised needs, even if it works out to be marginally more expensive.

Large LCD High Definition TV Screens are replacing traditional projectors & screens at many venues. They may be fixed or even movable between rooms. Invariably they have both Visual & Sound connectivity by an HDMI cable from your laptop.
Have you taken an inventory of your existing AV equipment and other resources?
Start from where you are and what you have available. Clearly you don’t want to spend more than you need to in order to “Go Hybrid”, especially if you don’t know what the demand for such meetings might be in the future.

Most u3as who own equipment are likely to have the visual projection side of the equation already covered, and it is the audio/sound aspect that proves to be the most challenging.
Have you looked at what additional equipment you might need to operate a Hybrid meeting at your chosen venue(s)?
Hybrid meetings create unique challenges, from the additional equipment you might need and the expertise that needs developing to run them. The more sophisticated the setup, the more expense is involved. Some of your existing equipment might be adequate, and can be utilised with a bit of additional technical expertise, but it may be inadequate. If that is the case, then could you consider or justify an upgrade of your setup to a higher level of sophistication/specification anyway?
What level of financial resources does your u3a have?
This is a critical question. u3a trustees don’t like to sanction additional expenditure, and often don’t have the financial resources to do so. Some u3as with a low joining fee charge extra for each activity a member takes part in, so may not have the reserves/resources to invest in equipment.

In our “Examples of Typical Equipment” and in our guidance wherever possible we will categorise setups according to the following factors :-

A) Low and High Confidence - to reflect the level of technical expertise in the local u3a
B) Low and High Resources - to reflect the u3a’s ability to buy new equipment.
What are we trying to achieve with alternative or Hybrid Meetings?

1. Webcasting using Zoom (the simple one-way transmission of the Event to Zoom attendees)

a. Online Participants Hear what is said online & in the Room + Presentations & Videos
b. Online Participants only have the ability to Speak to those online with them (but see 'g' below)
c. Online Participants See what is happening online & in the Room
d. Room Participants Hear from Speakers in the Room
e. Room Participants & Speakers Speak in the Room and it is heard by others in the Room & Online Participants
f. Room Participants See the Presentations & Videos in the Room as do the Online Participants
g. Posted chat meesages from Online Participants can be read out to those in the Room by Zoom Host

2. Full “Hybrid” two way interactivity

a. Online Participants hear what is said online & in the Room
b. Online Participants speak to those online & in the Room
c. Online Participants see what is happening online & in the Room
d. Room Participants hear from Speakers in the Room and from Online Participants
e. Room Participants speak in the Room and it is heard by others in the Room & Online Participants
f. Room Participants see the Presentations & Videos in the Room as do the Online Participants

3. Blended Meetings & Interest Group Small Meetings

The following is an example of a blended meeting format pioneered by Islington u3a.

1) A Blended Group starts with an initial face to face meeting over a coffee.
2) The discussions are continued fortnightly on Zoom, at the same time as the initial meeting for a further 6-7 meetings.
3) The final face to face meeting, over a meal, is then arranged at a suitable date and time after the final Zoom meeting.
4) The Group Coordinator organises drinks after the discussion at the 1st meeting and lunch before the discussion on the 2nd meeting at a pub/restaurant location, for some in-person socialising in an all-weather garden to which all members are invited

Mixed Modes
This is where part of the meeting is held simultaneously on Zoom with those in a room, but they then break out separately in-person/online, or even have a series of meetings, maybe a virtual meeting, followed by a physical meeting, then come together at a later date either virtually or physically. See an example of a “Blended” mixed mode meeting in the section above.

A webcast is a (live) online broadcast of the audio and video feed from your physical meeting or event. A webcast is different from a webinar or online seminar in that a webinar is 100% online, whereas a webcast is the online broadcasting of an existing physical event. The difference between webcasting and a full Hybrid broadcast to Zoom is that there is no interactivity between the people on Zoom and the participants in the room, the Zoomers purely see what is being shared in the room.

How Webcasting Works
When hosting a webcast using Zoom, it is pretty much the same process as hosting other online Zoom meetings. The host invites attendees to the presentation using the email invite available through Zoom. Once the physical meeting starts, the Presenter can talk to both the Room & Zoom attendees using a microphone linked to the laptop, either directly, or through a roving microphone connected to an audio mixer, which then links the analogue audio feed through a USB soundcard connector to the laptop as a digital signal, and can be combined with visual streaming images of the speaker & event from smartphones used as webcams.

An added benefit of Zoom meetings is the ability to use the screen sharing tool to allow all of the attendees, both physically & virtually, the ability to see the presenter’s screen. This makes it particularly easy to show PowerPoint presentations, videos, or other details to everyone participating.

Co-located – linked meetings within the same venue
If room capacity is an issue in a physical location, then a virtual Hybrid setup can link two or more rooms of people at the same time in the same venue, with two-way dialogue.

Synchronous / Asynchronous Communication
Synchronous meetings happen at the same time, either in the same place or simultaneously in person & online.
Asynchronous meetings can happen when a meeting takes place at a point in time and is recorded, (very easy with Zoom) and then the recording is played subsequently in a separate meeting at a different time or place to discuss the same topic.