Remote participants

I think we all prefer to have all the participants in the room for a support group meeting.However, we all know that traveling for the people in our community can also be a challenge. The problems can range from lack of reliable transportation to weather to last minute wheelchair issues and so many more issues.It can also be difficult for the family member care givers to leave the loved ones they care for or when they make the arrangements things pop-up (replacement bails).

We want ensure the value and impact of support groups can touch as many people as possible regardless of whether they can be there in person or not.Here are some things to consider when including remote participants.

Prior to the meeting

Email the meeting agenda, list of attendees and any other materials that can be sent electronically before the mtg.

Test whatever technology you will be using 15 minutes before the start of the meeting.
It will help if the remote participants can also be available to help test connectivity

  • Have contact information for each remote participant and make sure remote participants have appropriate contact information
  • Remind any guest speakers/ presenters that there are remote participants and where the device is located.

Remind any guest speakers/ presenters that there will be remote participants and have he/ her share materials prior to the meeting.

The room set-up should take into account what kind of technology/ device is being used and its placement in the room.

Leading a support group meeting with remote participants

Make sure the remote participants are “on-line” and ready to start.

Remind everyone to turn-off their cells phones and devices.Remind remote participants to mute their devices when they are not speaking to limit their own background noise

The support group leader should:

  • go around the room including remote participants and have everyone introduce themselves.Encourage all participants to use their names when they speak so remote participant can more easily follow along
  • engage with remote participant throughout the meeting
  • repeat questions so remote participants can better follow the meeting and conversations
  • make a point to make sure remote participants can share, ask questions by calling on them proactively

Location

Support groups can meet almost anywhere with the use of technology.However, popular places are hospital, rehab centers, churches, non-profit facilities and even people’s homes. Here are some things to consider:

Obviously, consider accessibility.

  • Ample parking for multiple wheelchair users
  • Location of parking to accessible entrance(s)
  • Temperature people living with paralysis are sensitive to heat and cold.Suggest people dress accordingly
  • Accessible bathrooms
  • Assistive animal friendly

Technology

The use of technology whether it is sophisticated like video conferencing in a hospital or non-sophisticated using face-time in a participant’s home. The level of sophistication will depend on where you hold your support group meetings and what technical you, participants or facility support there is available.

Video teleconferencing
The equipment is great but can be disruptive to meetings if it is not properly set-up and/ or used. To make sure the technology enhances the focus group here are some things to consider.

Make sure all network, meeting ID and/ or passwords have been sent in advance

Make sure you have all the set-up and shut down instructions.Test system preferably with remote participants 15 minutes before meeting.

Inquiry if facility tech person is available for support during the meeting if there are issues.

Ensure remote participants have all sign-in procedures and equipment is compatible with facility equipment.

Teleconference Equipment
Many facilities have advanced phone systems that can host multiple remote users. It tends to be easier to use then video conferencing.

Make sure the support group leader has all call- in information and passwords and knows how to use equipment.

Ensure remote participants have call-in information.

Test system preferably with remote participants 15 minutes before meeting with remote participants.

You may be able to record video and /or teleconference meetings.We encourage you to check with the host facility.

Laptop/tablet
A laptop provides a lot of flexibility because of its portability, its size and technical capability.

Make sure the support group leader has the network and password information and knows how to access and use a platform like Skype. The support group leader may need a mobile hot spot.

Ensure that remote participants have the appropriate instructions, access and passwords.

Test system preferably with remote participants 15 minutes before meeting with remote participants.

Consider where you place the laptop and check volume settings.