This is a bit of a technology geek-out article, however the ability to run a room with simultaneous local participants and remote Zoom participants has been a game-changer for me personally, and the participants LOVE the option to join via Zoom. The technology works perfectly and, from my perspective, this scheme combines the best of both worlds: the personal interaction of local meetings (“belly to belly”) with the power and convenience of video conference. Basically you can run a program that gives people a choice of local or Zoom participation. If they are local they can decide at every meeting how they want to attend, and maybe save the drive. There are a lot of possibilities here. For large meetings you could breakout the remote participants into their own room, led by your remote co-lead(s). And so forth.
There is roughly $250 technology cost for this. See the image below and read the notes for how it’s done.
Notes: how it’s done
1. You will need a webcam capable of HD aspect ratio (16:9). I use a Logitech C920 webcam, which is excellent and cheap (~$50). The C920 has a field of view of about 80 degrees in HD mode. You will need to adjust your Zoom video options to enable HD. Depending on your setup, you may want to go for a wide-angle webcam (~ 120 degrees) such as the Genius 120, but the Logitech will give you better image quality. In my 13×13 room I can comfortably fit 6-7 participants (I have 3 chairs laid out, but you can see there is room for more). The remote view looks like this below. It would be even nicer in an office or professional space, of course, the bed is a bit in the way:
2. You will need a good quality Cardioid mic with USB interface, and the ability to adjust the gain. I have an Audio-Technica AT-2020 (~ $100), a microphone stand, a long XLR cable, and a Behringer Xenyx 302USB Mixer (~$60) that provides so-called “phantom power” to the mic as well. It’s about a $200 investment altogether. You may be able to get away with a Cardioid mic that goes directly to USB (rather than through a mixer), I don’t know. The point is, you can’t use the webcam mic.
3. The projector is optional. If I am in a hurry or for a small event I will just point the big monitor on the desk towards the room. It would be nice to be able to put the monitor on the table, but it won’t work as it will obscure the remote view. The projector does give about a 40″ display and looks cool 🙂 .
4. The table is some kind of Walmart or Target thing. It’s 21 inches high which is perfect. A low round table would probably be even better.
5. And finally: a lot of cables and power cords. But once they are in place, it’s a 5 minute setup.
Let me know if you try this out!