How to manage Zoom meetings so everybody can hear

Jim Youens, Sheffield Vulcan RC. July 2020

The pandemic is teaching us so much about our need to communicate.   Jim explains how his club of 35 members explored using Zoom and WhatsApp to keep members in touch with one another, and in the process, they found that with a little hand-holding all members were able to take part regardless of their hearing ability.  They even get more attendees now than ever before.

Just a day after lockdown (24 March), the Council of Sheffield Vulcan Rotary Club met over Zoom to consider what the Club might do during the period when face to face weekly meetings and other assemblies would not be possible.

This was the first time that most of the Council members had used Zoom (or even heard of it), but the meeting lasted just over an hour and all members contributed without any issues.

Our first action was to set up a WhatsApp Group to allow members to easily keep in touch. All but a couple of our members are using the facility. Some are more active contributors than others, but most have valued the ease with which we can keep in touch. Usage was mostly social, but as more formal business increased, we established a second Group, keeping one for entertainment and one for club business. Now in mid-July, these groups continue to be the prime communication vehicle. Business is also communicated via email, for the benefit of those who prefer not to engage with WhatsApp.

Council also recognised the potential for holding presentations over Zoom but initially held back from implementing these.

As many clubs, we started with several quizzes – we are fortunate to have one member who enjoys setting these and they are of high quality and audience relevance. They were popular with members and partners and of our 44 members, we regularly had 25 participating in each quiz. Understandably, several of our members were nervous of using the technology but the President and a couple of others provided support to the point where all but two members are now able to participate in Zoom meetings. One other prefers not to participate.

We thought it might be a challenge to find speakers who were willing to deliver presentations over Zoom, but these fears were misplaced and we have now had several successful sessions with both external speakers and Club members presenting.

It’s telling that the number of participants regularly hits around 35, way ahead of normal attendance levels. This is a screen shot from a typical Zoom meeting…

We share the Zoom hosting duties between three club members who subscribe to the Pro version of Zoom, as our meetings last longer than the limit of 40 minutes which applies to the free version. Don’t forget that a 20% discount on the Professional Zoom subscription is available to Rotarians.

Our expertise in hosting the meetings has grown and we have learned to apply more structure. We allow chaos as people join the meeting and share greetings, but once everyone has settled, the host mutes all participants.

The President opens the meeting, then someone introduces the speaker, who then delivers the presentation. Afterwards, the Zoom host selectively unmutes individuals who raise a hand (real or digital) to ask their question. We have the usual vote of thanks, at which point chaos returns as everyone is unmuted to deliver a round of applause.

Weekly club business takes place after the speaker has departed. Although there is not normally much of this, we have successfully run both our AGM and Club Assembly using Zoom. We did not attempt our usual handover barbecue though!

On two occasions we have used the Zoom Poll facility. This allows members to express their preference or answer, without the chaos of people shouting out. The host can even share the result.

This has been really successful and we wonder what other gems we have yet to discover in Zoom.

Although we long for the return of more normal times and our weekly face to face meetings, we really feel that Zoom has helped to hold the Club together during these difficult times. I suspect that we might need to continue Zooming for some while yet!

For more information on how you can make the most of Video Conferencing, as a host or as a participant, see our Insider Stories in the Videos section.


Rosie’s Story

Do you know how it feels to hear half of a conversation? To never have the full story? How are you supposed to join in, share your ideas and make yourself heard?

Rosie and MikeMy name is Rosie and I have been a Rotarian since early 2018, when I joined with my husband Robert.

In general, most people would agree that I am an outgoing and confident person. However, each Monday lunchtime at our Rotary meetings, I insisted that Robert sat beside me. Why? I felt embarrassed because I knew I would not hear most of what was being said at our table, or at the meeting itself. Therefore, it was difficult for me to take part in conversations with confidence. I needed Robert there to repeat or discreetly let me know what was being discussed. Because of this, 3 months in, I really did not think that Rotary was going to be for me. However, we had booked and paid to go to the District Conference at Scarborough in October 2018, so I decided to ‘stick it out’!

At the conference, I met Gill and Andrew Campbell at their Hearing Ambassador stand, and I found it emotional to meet someone who understood the challenges I had been facing. Their commitment to expanding Hearing Ambassadors inspired me, and I was encouraged to be part of their efforts to promote hearing awareness on a much larger scale.

Following our conversation, I invited Gill and Andrew to come to a Club meeting as Guest Speakers. I will always remember this day because they enabled me to stand up with confidence and make my Fellow Rotarians aware of how my hearing loss had often made it a struggle for me to join in. I asked my fellow members for their support in introducing measures to make our club more hearing-friendly.

I became Hearing Ambassador for our Rotary Club, and we all worked together to make the necessary changes to our room setting, sound system and our actions. We now ensure that everyone at our meetings can hear and be heard. I am very proud of my fellow Rotarians, who never let these small changes slide, and whose involvement and on-going support is to be highly commended.

Now, as a Member of the Hearing Ambassador Steering Group, I produce and present training workshops, which enable others to become Hearing Ambassadors. Our workshops create empathy and give participants the knowledge and tools that they need to implement changes in their Rotary Clubs, thereby promoting Hearing Awareness.

Sucess for a Rotary Club

Hearing Ambassadors - microphoneSince our Rotary Club had a meeting with the Hearing Ambassadors, we have invested in a quality PA system, similar to that recommended by Buxton RC in the Hearing Ambassadors May 2019 Newsletter. This enables the Club President, or whoever is taking the meeting, to wear a lapel microphone and another is available for guest speakers.  A hand held microphone is circulated to any club member who wishes to address the meeting and this ensures that all members are able to hear and take part in proceedings.  All members are encouraged to position themselves so that they are facing the whole room before speaking.   The PA system was also used successfully at this year’s Charter in February at which 120 people attended.


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