Adapting to the Hybrid Meeting

By Matt Danda, DTM, President of the Leawood Toastmasters Club

Change is upon us. I recently celebrated a milestone birthday–a big round number–and I’ve become obsessed with change. Or, more precisely, the ability to adapt to change. Can I adapt to my new age? To this changing world? I’m giving myself a test. Can I adapt to the hybrid approach to meetings? The business world appears to be. Can I? Can my club? Challenge accepted.

I set up a hybrid meeting for the Leawood Toastmasters club, and our first experience went well. In this blog post, I’ll describe the technology and configuration that we used. Please note that I work in software development, and many of my hobbies incorporate computers and technology, so I happen to have a lot of gear. But not that much. I think this setup is achievable for even “normal” people.

To configure the room, we use two laptops. One laptop simply provides a wide-angle view of the room. Find a safe place for it, log into Zoom, mute the microphone, and let it capture the big picture. The second laptop is a bit more involved. It’s for the Toastmaster or Speaker, so place it on the lectern. This laptop essentially drives the meeting, and it’s used by whomever is speaking.

You could stop there, but most laptops have two significant weaknesses: the microphone and the speaker. Neither are powerful enough for the room. So I connected a Logitech Webcam to the laptop on the lectern, mounted the webcam to a tripod, and placed the tripod in the middle of the room. This places the microphone in a more central location, and its camera provides an excellent view of the designated speaking area. I also connected a run-of-the-mill Bluetooth speaker to the laptop, because most laptop speakers are terrible. That’s it!

Ideally, I would also connect a projector to either of the laptops, but I don’t have one handy. Because of this, everyone who attends in person should still bring a laptop or other device and log in. They MUST mute their microphones and speakers. Everyone will speak to the microphone on the webcam, and they’ll hear through the speaker connected to the laptop on the lectern.

Our first meeting with this setup went well! There is definitely room for refinements, but it was enough to get started with the hybrid format. If you’d like to see this setup in action, please stop by one of our meetings. The Leawood Toastmaster’s club meets at the Leawood Pioneer library from 11:35AM to 12:35PM on the first and third Thursday of the month. I’d be happy to discuss technology and various options with you. You could also (wink wink) be a guest at our club meeting!

1 thought on “Adapting to the Hybrid Meeting”

  1. Some Alternatives:
    1. Instead of a second laptop for audience view, use a cell phone camera. Mount it on a tripod, set on a table for a good view. Do not enable its audio. Connect usb cable to laptop for power.
    2. Discourage individual devices and associated needs/clutter and electronic issues.
    3. Have a lectern (table) with remote cam and remote mic on tripod at head level, plugged into laptop.
    4. The best library or other conference rooms will have a big screen to show the whole Zoom audience.

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