As we move towards the post-COVID normal, it seems clear that some degree of remote working will remain. This poses a problem for local authorities: how to accommodate both local and remote attendees in the same meeting.
The difficulties of managing these so-called hybrid meetings are well known. It is a challenge to ensure everyone, remote and present, has an equal chance to participate. All attendees need to see and hear each other clearly. Everyone needs to be able to present and watch presentations.
Local Authority meetings also need to meet statutory requirements for voting and impartiality, as well as standards around transparency and accessibility.
Public-i have developed two solutions to meet the need for robust hybrid meeting systems. Both integrate fully with Connect Webcasting: enabling hybrid meetings to be streamed live to audiences.
Option one: AV solution
AV is our recommended solution for most clients. By using a small amount of additional hardware and cabling, this solution provides a secure, robust and versatile system for hybrid meetings. This option puts the least strain on the webcast encoder and also allows a mixed view in any breakout rooms.
The AV hybrid is the robust alternative that requires added hardware on the rack
This solution works with any video conferencing software, including Connect Remote. It also allows seamless integration with Connect Webcasting – which means viewers can watch all participants on one stream. Camera automation in the Chamber allows viewers and remote participants to see a focused view of the chamber-based speakers with speaker names, too.
Installation of this option is straightforward. Generally speaking, our engineers will need one day for a site survey: this is to determine cable routes and to check that adequate space exists in your existing rack for new hardware. This will then be followed by one day on-site for installation (assuming that cable routes and existing audio set up are not too complex).
Option two: IP solution
This option is quicker to install and doesn’t require any hardware for installation. A purely software-based solution, this allows for quick set-up although it requires some changes to be made on Council-owned laptops. With this option, the backup device can only record the chamber view.
The IP hybrid is the quick alternative that requires extra software installed on a laptop
The IP solution works with analogue systems, so that it may be a preferred option for clients running such systems. Like the AV solution, this solution works with any video conferencing platform and also integrates fully with webcasting. Camera automation in the Chamber works as normal: spotlighting the speaker and displaying it to remote participants and viewers.
Installation of the IP solution usually takes a day. However, there will be requirements that need to be met in advance of installation. For example, we will need the Council’s IT department to make some changes to allow network access on the chosen laptop.
Running a mixed meeting
We have designed both of these systems to be as simple as possible for operators to use. Regardless of which option is chosen, the Chamber participants can always see the video conference on repeater screens (we can provide these, if they’re not already in situ).
Operators can easily manage local cameras and remote view from Connect Webcaster
The webcast operator can decide which view the public can see on the webcast: the chamber speaker, the video-conference or a mixture of both. The operator has full control of the speaker profiles and agenda points, just as they do with a normal webcast.
The hybrid meeting solutions are being developed continuously with new features regularly. In the immediate term, our vision is to integrate the microphone management and voting in the room with Connect Remote so that everyone’s vote and microphones are controlled by the operator seamlessly. The operator will be able to start a vote, turn off mics and manage the speaker queue from one place. Our SpaceManager software already offers these features for the local room, we will soon focus on integrating it with Connect Remote.