If local regulations and restrictions allow, you may wish to use a slightly adapted online meeting, whereby the candidates and the Chair are present in person (e.g. in a church building) and join the audience in an online meeting. Think of BBC’s Question Time with its virtual audience. As with option 1, questions from the audience can be submitted through the chat function. Candidates may be more comfortable with this format, and the conversation may be more fluid as candidates are addressed in person.
With these options it is worth considering the following:
- Numbers: How many people will attend? And does the online platform that you are using have a limit on the number of participants allowed in a given meeting?
- Subscriptions and time limits: Do you need a subscription or membership for your chosen online platform? For example, on Zoom Meetings, the host will require a paid account to run a meeting longer than 40 minutes, so consider if there is a paid church or community account you can use or purchase. If moving online allows you to collaborate across a bigger area, it may be possible to pool resources for a more professional or effective event.
- Streaming: With some added complexity, it is possible to stream online meetings to platforms such as Facebook and YouTube. This way, you could solely include the panel on your video conferencing call, and everyone else watches via these other platforms, and submits a question via the live comments on the platform, which is monitored by a moderator and reported back to the Chair.
- Facilities: If considering a hybrid approach, do you have a building set up with filming or live-streaming facilities and a reliable internet connection?
- Registration: How widely do you want your event to be shared? You may wish to create a registration page for your event, to allow people to register to receive the meeting details. This will allow greater security, as you can control the sharing of your meeting password. Registration pages can be made on Eventbrite or other websites can provide registration pages easily.
- Hosting: Appointing a coordinator or moderator to act as a technical host is essential. This person can manage the attendees, monitor a chat function, respond to any IT issues and keep on top of questions or comments. This allows the chair to focus on managing the meeting and engaging with the candidates.
- Time-keeping: Creating a schedule that the host and coordinator are aware of will help to ensure your event has pace, and that all candidates are given equal time to speak. Make sure that candidates are aware how long the meeting will be, and outline this for the attendees at the beginning. If you plan to take audience questions, make sure you outline how these will be submitted – through the chat feature, etc. – and when they will be addressed.
- Online etiquette: Though many of us are now entirely acclimatised to online life, it is worth agreeing ahead of time a set of house rules to share with attendees at the beginning of a meeting. This could take into account remaining muted or sending messages via the chat function.
- Accessibility: Some online platforms have captioning functions that can be used to improve the accessibility of meetings. If you choose to share recordings of your meeting, or produce a pre-recorded resource, consider subtitling it to ensure it can be used by as many members of your community as possible.
- Translation: You may also want to consider translating the husting into an additional language that is used by the intended audience or panel members.
In Wales, it is good practice to consider simultaneous spoken translation (available on Zoom and some other platforms). The translator should be competent and politically neutral. Unless a suitably qualified volunteer is available, this should be budgeted for. Translation will enable those candidates who wish to speak in Welsh to do so and still be immediately understood by everyone. Equally, the moderator needs to be able to field questions in both Welsh and English.
- Security: Depending on the circulation of your meeting’s details, you may have security issues with unexpected attendees or indecent messages. Ensuring you have a moderator who can respond quickly by removing people or posts if necessary will help to manage this. Alongside house rules, you may wish to agree an ‘action plan’ on how they will manage a security breach, to minimise disruption. A ‘waiting room’ setup means that each person can be vetted by a technical host before entering the main video conferencing area.
- Recording and permission: You may choose to record your meeting and upload it for sharing with people who were not able to attend If you are intending to share recordings of any meetings, ensure you make this clear, and allow people to turn off their camera and microphone if they are not comfortable being recorded.