New Technology Brings Meetings to You

By Laura Stone

Committee and section membership sign-up seasonis in full swing, and there’s never been a better time to get involved. Just last month you heard from Executive Director John Morris Williams and President-Elect Linda S. Thomas about the importance of member involvement.One of the biggest hurdles for members hasn’t been desire to get involved, but actually getting to the meetings. Taking time out of the day not just for the meeting itself but commuting to and from a meeting location can eat up precious office hours. For those in outlying nonmetro communities, the hurdle of commuting actually becomes a barrier. A hours-long round trip is unrealistic and isolates many members who would otherwise participate.To help alleviate these issues, the OBA has contracted a new service called BlueJeans, a distance meeting service. With BlueJeans, members can join a meeting from anywhere, moderate a meeting from anywhere and even share documents to everyone across all platforms, just like a face-to-face meeting.Because some members still prefer meeting face-to-face, meetings can also be hybrid. Members able to attend physically can do so, while as many or as few members who wish to join remotely can do so as well.

HOW IT WORKS

BlueJeans is an internet-based service that goes above and beyond traditional phone conferencing by incorporating video. Not only does it allow you to hear and be heard, but allows you to see others as if you were in a face-to-face meeting. This facilitates discussions and eliminates the awkward phone conference anonymity that can make conversations confusing and difficult. No more “Who said that?” or speaking over each other. Video feeds of users are displayed in a Brady Bunch-style arrangement.In the event of more people participating remotely than will fit on one screen, the BlueJeans platform will display the video feed from those speaking and switch the display as necessary.To attend a meeting remotely, participants simply log into the meeting with the ID code provided in their meeting notice email. Participants can join even before the moderator has joined, meaning your meetings can begin even if a few members are running late. For the moderator, there are very few tasks and simple instructions. Every participant who is engaged visually will be able to see others and receive any documents shared during the meeting. If a meeting is taking place at the bar center, every meeting room is equipped and ready to facilitate a hybrid BlueJeans meeting.

WHAT YOU NEED TO JOIN IN

BlueJeans works with smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers. Although it can work with voice-only phones, it is best used with a device with a camera and microphone to avoid those phone conference problems mentioned earlier. 

Smartphones and Tablets

For smartphones and tablets, just download the free BlueJeans app by searching "bluejeans" in your app store. This is by far the easiest way to use the service. The section or committee meeting notice will have the ID code you’ll need to join the meeting. The app will utilize your mobile device’s camera and microphone so you can be part of the conversation. (Be sure to give the app permission to use these features the first time you open it.) There is no extra equipment needed and joining is quick and simple.Testing your connection in advance is recommended. To do so in the mobile app, tap the question mark at the lower right of the screen and select “Join Test Call.”

Laptops and Desktops

To join the meeting with a computer, go to www.bluejeans.com/downloads and install the free computer app. Once installed, you’ll need to go to the link provided in the meeting notice and use the meeting ID code also included to join. Most laptops, even older models, are equipped with a webcam camera and microphone. Like other video chat programs, BlueJeans can use this built-in hardware.If you plan to use a desktop computer or your laptop doesn’t have a working camera, external microphone and camera options are available. A quick search on Amazon for “webcam with microphone” will pull up dozens of options ranging in price from $8 to $90, depending on quality and additional features. Be sure to check the reviews and product Q&A to ensure it will connect with your computer.Like with the mobile app, you should test your connection in advance. To do so on your computer, use the meeting code 111.

Voice-Only Options

Although it is not recommended, BlueJeans also supports traditional phone conferencing. To join through a land line or desk phone, simply call the number provided with your meeting notice and provide the meeting ID code.

Q&A

What if I don’t want to be seen? Some participants are camera shy but there’s no need to be. Remember, if you were physically present, wouldn’t they see you anyway? If you need to temporarily turn off your camera, BlueJeans provides a button to temporarily disable the camera until you decide to resume. The same for audio, you can mute your audio while you aren’t speaking to the group. (If there is substantial background noise where you are, muting yourself while not speaking can help avoid accidental disruptions.)

What does a moderator do? A moderator’s job is simple. They have very few controls, most notably the ability to mute or disconnect a participant if necessary. Moderators don’t have to be a section or committee chairperson. They can be anyone designated by the chair or group. A moderator can also moderate remotely, so if a meeting is taking place at the bar center, a moderator does not have to be physically present.

How does my group get started using this? To set up a meeting, contact Debra Jenkins at debraj@okbar.org or 405-416-7042. She will set up your meeting and send the meeting ID code with instructions when she sends your meeting notice. If you meet during regular business hours, OBA staff can assist with any questions you have. If you meet after hours or on weekends, BlueJeans tech support is available.

Ms. Stone is an OBA communications specialist.

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