Can’t Attend Today

Science 081

Virtual Attendance

We have TM meetings that are co-opted by members’ needs to travel, support their kids’ soccer program, or just do household tasks. What if they could attend “virtually?”

That’s possible, and now it’s acceptable (to TI) as well. Sure there are roadblocks. Two of the biggest are hardware and software. Many clubs, though, have access to their sponsoring company’s hardware and software. In this case attending “virtually” is just a matter of setting up the equipment at the home meeting to communicate with the laptop – or even the tablet – of the absent member.

Other clubs aren’t so fortunate. But they, too, can enjoy the benefits of virtual attendance and participation. Most members will have a laptop, and someone surely has a projector. Software ranges from free — to cheap — to expensive; something is available regardless of the size of the club’s treasury. All that remains is the people – members have to be motivated to download and learn to use the platform that the club chooses.

Web conferencing is typically used for meetings, training and presentations. It is available in three models: hosting service, software and appliance. An appliance is purchased hardware and not likely to be within reach of a Toastmasters club.

Conferences through a hosting service or software offer features like slideshow presentations and video clips, which support visual aids used by club speakers, and live (or streaming) video of the meeting. Depending on the technology being used, participants may speak and listen to audio over standard telephone lines or via computer microphones and speakers.

Meetings can be recorded, though, which might raise questions of privacy. It would be best to adopt a recording policy as a club and document it as an addendum to the club constitution.

Maybe we will see Toastmasters Officers’ training via web conferencing in the future. And, virtual attendance may improve attendance at District meetings.

A list of platform providers, with brief descriptions of each, is available through Wikipedia at:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_conferencing#Software_and_service_providers

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