I’m secretary to Stretton on Dunsmore History Society. We had a meeting booked for March 17th so when lockdown happened, I rushed round sticking ‘CANCELLED’ signs on all the posters in our village and put an apologetic note on the hall door. We cancelled our meeting in April, the AGM in June and outings in May and July. I did produce and distribute our society’s annual ‘Chronicle’ in May with a record of the previous year and a request for photos of the effect of the pandemic.
We had hoped to restart meetings in the village hall in September, once the village hall re-opened, with a Zoom option for those not willing to come in person. However, the rules for using the hall are fierce, and numbers restricted to 20, so we decided to try a purely Zoom meeting instead.
Our committee discussed various options by e-mail and consulted our autumn speakers. Zoom seemed the best option because I’ve not found Microsoft Teams user friendly and I have a paid Zoom account, used for various purposes, so can host a meeting for as long as needed. The disadvantages of a Zoom meeting are obvious: it excludes those without digital access or the confidence to try Zoom, though I did offer to help anyone set it up if needed. Also, there is no social meeting over drinks and biscuits at the end of the talk. The advantages are that it enables people to hear the speaker, and to feel part of the local society again. We intend to continue delivering talks by Zoom for the next few meetings, and hope to get more than the 15 who joined us in September.
From a speaker’s perspective
I give talks myself, and delivered a short presentation via Zoom to a research group in June, and once I worked out how to share my PowerPoint slides with the other participants it went well. This gave me the confidence to offer my talks to larger groups and I did the first of these recently to a history group in Cropredy. Some people were in their village hall, and they could see me and my slides on a large screen – others were at home. There were initial problems with the host at their end, but then it worked well, though I found it difficult to judge how things were going without feedback from the audience, who were muted during the talk. I did ask for questions at the end, but only got one – less than normal.
If you are going to try Zoom meetings here are some thoughts:
- Find someone with a paid Zoom account to host it
- Have a practice with the speaker beforehand
- Allow multiple people to share screens
- Explain to the audience briefly how things work at the start (and ask them to mute till the end of the talk)
- Questions can be asked either in person or using the ‘chat’ function.