I’ve been watching a lot of multipoint VCs lately, and so I thought I’d write today about what seems to work well. Most of these tips I’ve learned from COSI Columbus with their surgery and expert interviews or from Arnie Comer’s ASK and LAPS programs at Macomb ISD.
- Make sure all sites are muted in the waiting time before the session.
- Have a splash screen with a logo or graphic representing the program.
- Greet each site as they enter.
- Connect all sites 15 min early with 3-4 sites; 20-30 minutes early with 5 or more sites.
These simple rules can tighten up a multipoint meeting and make it much more professional.
Sometimes issues and problems can happen, but there are ways to address them:
- If sites are unmuted, ask them to mute. If they don’t hear respond, the bridge operator can hard mute them on the bridge. Yes, I’m one of those control freak bridge operators! Silence at all costs! 🙂
- If sites are not connected, call them on the phone to figure out what is wrong and trouble shoot/solve before the program starts.
- If a participating (not presenting) site is late, start without them so that the other sites aren’t penalized.
- If facilitators are at more than one site, have the side conversations before the classes join and stop when the other sites join in. Think of it as talking in front of live audience with a podium and mic. You wouldn’t have a side conversation by a live mic in front of a waiting audience if you were in person.
- If there are any other problems, as the facilitator, unmute your microphone and address them as soon as possible.
What other tips would you add? Please comment!
I think it is really important to start the conference on time even if only one class is connected. Most of my multisite conferences are multiple sessions as well. Too much of a delay can threaten the start of the next conference.
Like Janine, I too don’t hesitate to hard mute a site if they don’t mute themselves. And I also jump in and remind sites to please keep theri microphones muted if it is not their turn to ask a question or present to the conference. Many times after students from a school ask their questions, present or respond the person at the school who is supposed to mute the microphone forgets. Then someone from that classroom will cough, or the school bell will ring and then that school pops up on everyone’s screen who is part of the conference.
Also with a number of sites you need to have a very clear overview of the programme, including etiquette (muting & side conversations) when you first come on. And have a run sheet of participating sites that the facilitator calls on in turn to respond rather than just opening discussion out to everyone at the same time. Having a run sheet and order of speaking also helps make sure that the quieter ones are invited into the conversation & not left out. This is all very structured but avoids the confusion of people trying to come into the conversation at once. The trick in facilitating this is trying to get the balance between structure and allowing a conversation to flow naturally.
These are great tips too, Rachel! Thanks for adding! All the school multi-point programs that I’ve seen and participated in have this order of interacting etc. Otherwise things get out of hand very quickly! 🙂