Providing both options in the same meeting is proving a challenge.
Now that things are opening up a bit, area organizations are offering live meetings alongside of the popular Zoom connectivity that have served so many during the pandemic. Providing both options in the same meeting is proving a challenge.
Ann McNiff, Executive Director of the Chestnut Hill Community Association (CHCA) envisions a hybrid of in-person and Zoom meeting for the foreseeable future.
“Zoom meetings have somewhat become a way of life, but as we transition to in- person meetings people are being very careful and slowly getting back to them,” said McNiff. “It’s been nice seeing people again in person, but on the other hand I don’t mind that 8 a.m. meeting being conducted through Zoom.”
CHCA used the large hospital conference room at Chestnut Hill Hospital for larger meetings, but the conference room is still closed to the public. The CHCA is shelling out $750 a year for the Zoom account.
“It’s an unexpected expense but it was the only way to keep connected with our members and board members during the pandemic,” McNiff added.
Over in Springfield Township, Assistant Township Manager Brandon J. Ford said that during their June workshop the Commissioners opted to spend the extra money on Zoom Rooms, which is an add on for larger public meetings.
“You’re talking a few thousand dollars between buying a camera, computer and the subscription which is $500 a year,” said Ford. “I subscribe to the philosophy you have to spend a little to get a little. Our facility is two years old and very modern. Other townships aren’t in the same boat and lack the infrastructure.”
Ford said the township already ordered the necessary equipment and is hopeful to have it functional for the August Commissioners Meeting as a tool to live stream and facilitate interactive discussion.
Ford says another factor in all of this is the complicated nature of managing
Zoom meetings and public comment, especially if there are several dozen people at the meeting.
“This complexity is compounded if one were to try and manage in-person and virtual accommodations for public comment while also trying to participate as an active member in the meeting itself. Most townships do not have a dedicated AV team or employee to manage the process,” Ford added.
Chestnut Hill Business Association (CHBA) Executive Director Phil Dawson said they fall into the hybrid model for varying reasons.
“Our Board of Directors have gone back to having in-person meetings, but it’s taken a little to get used to. Our membership meetings are still being conducted via Zoom as it’s a convenience to business owners,” said Dawson.
Earlier in the pandemic CHBA updated to a premium Zoom package for a reason.
“We were doing fashion shows so we needed to allow a larger number of guests to join in and we thought it was a valuable thing to offer. After that we fell back to a regular membership. We also bought two webcam video cameras for our desktop computers,” said Dawson, adding that post-Covid things are looking up on the Avenue.
“We’ve been able to use Smart phone data and saw a steep drop in business when the pandemic started, but as of June of this year we are back to what business has been in June of 2019 and June of 2018,” Dawson noted. “In general Zoom was really invaluable to keep everyone connected and to allow people to communicate.”
One of the creative offerings the CHBA did was put nine Zoom backgrounds of various sites in Chestnut Hill on their website at www.ChestnutHillPA.com.
Over at the Center on the Hill located in the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, Director Mariangela Saavedra has been busy getting the technology together to reach her core population of active older adults.
“We did a hybrid session for the fall, all Zoom in the winter and hybrid again in the spring. I’ve had so much positive response when people now walk through the door and I have a whole file of e-mails from people thanking me for the continued connection,” said Saavedra.
The Center shelled out $3500 in equipment and is paying $15 a month for the Zoom subscription.
“It’s been well worth it to keep our community together. We even had virtual luncheons to help people stay connected,” Saavedra added.
Flourtown resident and guest correspondent Barb Sherf can be reached at Barb@CommunicationsPro.com.