Remote participants

Having all of a support group’s participants in the same room for a meeting is preferable.However, traveling for people in our community can be a challenge. The problems can range from lack of reliable transportation to weather to last minute wheelchair problems and so many more issues.It can also be difficult for family members and caregivers to leave the loved ones they care for to attend a meeting.

To ensure that 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 participants and any other materials that can be sent electronically a few days before the meeting.Include any materials that will be used by guest speakers/ presenters during the meeting.

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

Test whatever technology you will be using 15 minutes before the start of the meeting.Remote participants should log in early to test their connectivity.

Have contact information for each remote participant and make sure remote participants have the leader’s contact information as well.

Technology

The sophistication of the technology that you use to hold your support group will depend on where meetings are held.

Video conferencing
This is a great option for holding a support group meeting but the equipment can be disruptive if it is not properly set-up and/ or used. To make sure the technology enhances the support group, here are some things to consider:

Make sure all network information, meeting ID and/ or passwords as well as log-in procedures have been sent in advance to remote participants and that they have the necessary equipment to join the video conference.

Be certain to have all the set-up and shut down instructions.Test the system, preferably with remote participants, 15 minutes before the meeting starts.

Inquire if a facility’s tech person is available for support during the meeting if there are issues.

Teleconference Equipment
Many facilities have advanced phone systems that can host multiple remote users. These systems tend 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 the equipment.

Ensure remote participants have call-in information.

Test system, preferably with remote participants, 15 minutes before the meeting starts.

You may be able to record video and /or teleconference meetings; check with the host facility to determine if this is available.

Laptop/tablet for video chat
A laptop provides a lot of flexibility because of its portability, size and technical capability.However, there may be a limit on how many people can join.

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

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

Test the video chat system, preferably with remote participants, 15 minutes before the meeting starts.

Determine the best location for the laptop in the meeting room and check volume settings.

Leading a support group meeting with remote participants

Make sure the remote participants are logged in and ready to start.

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

The support group leader should ask everyone, including remote participants, to introduce themselves.Encourage all participants to use their names when they speak so that remote participants can easily follow along.

The support group leader should engage with remote participants throughout the meeting.He/she should ensure that remote participants can share and ask questions by calling on them proactively.

The support group leader should repeat any questions so that remote participants can better follow the meeting and conversations.

If you have any questions about the information on this page or support groups, please email us at [email protected].