To be brutally honest, some online AA meetings seem to work fine without a secretary at all! I’ve attended some of those myself recently. — Ron
So the demands on an online meeting secretary are not going to be all that burdensome. The conference calling works such that any two (or more) people who just ‘wander in’ can meet OK without a moderator or secretary. That’s why we say on the opening page that anyone who needs a meeting ‘right now’ can just email or text a few people and have a meeting… right now!
But we can all guess that many who have some fear around exploring an online meeting will feel reassured by the presence of someone who assumes the role of secretary. Especially a secretary who can make a meeting sound like the meeting they have been attending for years, so if you are putting your meeting on our schedule and want to make your meeting just like your ‘real meeting in a real room’ then please do so! We want the people in your meeting to feel at home and that’s a great way to make that happen.
So here’s the (easy) tech stuff:
Suggest that people leave themselves muted until they are ready to talk. Buttons disappear from all screens after a few seconds, so people have to tap their screens (or hover with a mouse) to bring their buttons back into view. Remind them of that occasionally during the meeting.
Open the chat window so you can see people who know a bit about good online meeting manners and who click to ‘raise their hands’ – call on them as you like and remind them to tap their screen to get the unmute button. These are the same people you might want to recruit later to help you in the meetings as a ‘producer’.
You may wish to note that phone numbers are obscured and not saved, that chat cannot be saved or exported, that all recordings have been disabled, even at the user end. Disclosing an email address is not required to join a meeting.
Biggest, Best Power Tip we can give you: Get a ‘producer’ to help you with the meeting (help for those folks is below). Even for power users, doing everything like talking and running the meeting, plus trying to watch the chat room for raised hands and muting people with barking dogs… well, it’s just too much for one person to try to accomplish. The meeting suffers and so does the meeting environment. Well-produced, orderly meetings have a ‘producer’ as well as a meeting secretary. This maybe does require that your producer have an upgraded Zoom.us account so she/he can join you in running the meeting. Alas, Zoom.us does not appear to allow 2 people to run a meeting as co-hosts without both being paid, upgraded members.
We’re trying to find a workaround, but we haven’t done so yet…
IMPORTANT NOTE: The phone companies and video-conference providers are getting hit real hard – in these challenging times, lots of business and orgs are trying video-conferencing for the very first time, and it’s a deluge for the providers. They are especially hard-hit that the top of each hour and at half-past each hour. So if it’s possible for you to start your meeting at X:15 or at X:45 please do so. We tech types get all the emails from all the video-conference companies with news about “what’s up” and they all told us their systems are swamped. They are all adding capacity as fast as they can — Ron
Still need help? Contact: AA@AA24x7.com or Ron R. 626.375.5472
Detailed Tech Hints for Producing Meetings
(info below is for ‘real’ tech people)
Above, see the 3-screen layout I commonly use for running meetings. You can do the same with a single screen on a notebook, and it’s only a tiny bit more difficult. What I feel is a pretty absolute requirement is a full-function mouse with left/right buttons, and a scroll wheel (to keep the correct portion of the current reading in view when screen-sharing). Touchscreens or trackpads probably won’t give you the control you actually need to acquit yourself well with helping the secretary present a good meeting.
What you see in the picture above:
Of course, you can arrange your screen(s) differently if you like.
1) Leftmost: a web browser like Chrome, Safari, Firefox (etc) with the AA24x7.com web site which will be the screen you will share with the various AA readings.
2) Rightmost: the Zoom software used to manage the meeting (you should be logged in to Zoom.us as a Host of the meeting). Zoom.us does allow more than 1 person to log in – at the same time – as the Host.
3) the small screen at upper right is a small tablet used as a ‘studio monitor’ to see/hear exactly what other participants are seeing/hearing and for the producer’s actual participation in the meeting (if required). This tablet is the only device in the arrangement with sound/video turned ON. On your big computer where you do all the meeting management, all outgoing sound and video should be turned OFF. I also suggest a headset or earbuds (with microphone) plugged into the tablet. As the meeting manager or producer, you do not want to be the one throwing noises and echos into the meeting if your device arrangement (and video/audio drivers) does not handle echo cancelling and other noises well.
As noted above, the leftmost screen is the AA24x7.com web site (this site) which has all the readings you need for a typical meeting linked near the top of the left menu. This is the screen you will be sharing at various points in the meeting. To get to these menu items, click the down-arrow button next to ‘AA Readings’ in the left menu.
The usual AA meeting readings are now available to you on the left menu.
Tip: to make things easy on yourself, I suggest that you exit all software on your computer except your browser (and the Zoom software when it comes up). This will make things easier on your when you click ‘Share Screen’ later and have to choose among all your open software to choose what you are about to share – it’s much easier if there is only one choice – the right choice – to choose among when Zoom is asking you which screen you want to share.
You will be under ‘performance’ pressure to make the right choice quickly, so set yourself up for success while you know you will be under pressure. This will help reduce ‘performance anxiety’ considerably.
The right-most monitor will get most of your attention as that’s where you place the Zoom meeting and hopefully, you are logged in as a host where you can mute other people, etc.
In our set-up, if you are not logged in as a Host, then you cannot share your screen. This is a security measure that keeps zoom-bombers from sharing unsavory images with our AA audience. Since we instituted a meeting password, we have not been zoom-bombed, but it’s only a matter of time before someone with the password shares it unknowingly with an intruder and we will have to change the password. So as a contingency, screen sharing by ordinary meeting attendees is disabled throughout in our Zoom account.
In the image above, note that in the bottom/center of the rightmost monitor, there is a green button – that’s the ‘Share Screen’ button – always easy to find quickly because it’s the only green button anywhere in the system. That’s what you click to share the readings (once you have the proper reading up in the browser on the other screen or a separate window on the same screen).
Starting the Meeting
Just like an ordinary meeting participant, a producer will start work by going to the AA24x7.com web site. Unlike an ordinary participant, the producer’s first click on the web site will be at the very bottom of the left menu on the Producers/Secretaries: Zoom.us link. This opens the Zoom.us web site where a producer can log in to run the meeting. Use the login credentials you were given separately from this document. In the opening screen, click ‘Meetings’ (second item down in the left menu) then click ‘Personal Meeting Room’ in the top/center menu.
(Important Note: to support fellowship before and after the meeting, and to allow secretaries to familiarize guest speakers at any time before a meeting, we do not ‘schedule’ or ‘start’ or ‘end’ meetings at all, ever, at AA24x7.com. In a very real sense, it’s our intent that the meeting room be available to everyone all the time. Thus, please do not seek buttons or links to schedule, start or end a meeting. Using these may interfere with our intent that the meeting room be available to everyone at all times…. 24×7.)
In the far right of the Zoom host screen, hover over ‘Host A Meeting’ and select ‘With Video Off’ from the drop-down. Wait a few seconds and you will find yourself in the meeting room (you may be ‘by yourself’ with no other participants yet, or you may find people already having fellowship in the Zoom room. Either is OK for now.
Now is probably a good time to join the meeting on your tablet so you have a good ‘studio monitor’ showing you what’s actually going on in the meeting without the distractions of the producer/show runner controls on your other computer.
In your browser, bring up the first AA meeting reading, then switch to the Zoom software and click the green ‘Share Screen’ meeting near the top (Mac) or bottom (Windows) center.
(Your screen will not actually be shared quite yet!)
You will see a pop-up like this:
In the image above, I obviously did not take my own advice and had other software running, causing me to have to slow down and be sure that I’m about to choose the AA Preamble Screen (the green border means that’s the window that will be shared when I click the blue Share button at lower right). So I slow way down now and check, and yes, the proper window is about to be shared and thrown up on everyone’s screen, so I go ahead an click the blue Share button at lower right.
The screen I chose is now being shown on everyone’s screen.
When the reading is finished, click the red ‘Stop Share’ button to restore the meeting to its previous Zoom meeting, ‘see everyone’ glory!
Note that you may have to look around for the red ‘Stop Share’ button… it may even be hidden behind another window. Get practiced at where to look for this button… if you drag it to where you can always see it (when displayed), it will usually stay in that place.
Navigate to the next reading in your browser and be ready to share that.
Continue as needed with the other readings, choosing the next reading required from the left menu of the AA24x7.com web site, then sharing it as needed.
Stay aware of where the reader is in sharing the reading and scroll down to keep the proper part of the reading in view.
Attending to Other Requirements During the Meeting
YMMV, but perhaps the best presentation of the meeting in the Zoom.us software for a producer is to click ‘Gallery View’ in the upper right of the meeting screen so you can see the largest number of people at once. In my own sessions, I also click the ‘Participants’ button and the ‘Chat’ button which opens the white area you see to the right of the right monitor in the top image at the beginning of this section.
Try to maintain an awareness of what’s being said in the Chat room.
Considerable instrumentation is available to you with icons showing who is muted and unmuted; a green border around the image tile of the person currently speaking (also helpful to quickly identify the person who is throwing unwanted noise into the meeting); and VU-meter like icon in the participants list and ‘raised hand’ icon in the participants list to help you manage the meeting.
On both the image tiles and the participants list, right clicking on an item will give you a fairly comprehensive menu of items you can use to help manage the meeting or that participant – such as the ability to mute that participant.
The most frequently used function used, of course, is the mute function to keep unwanted distractions such as barking dogs, device noise, noisy children, etc. out of the audio part of the feed. Just right click on the person and select the choice to mute them. Most participants who are throwing unwanted noises onto the call are not aware of the problem, and it’s disruptive to interrupt the meeting to speak to them about it, so just mute them unilaterally and remorselessly without discussion if they are not currently speaking.
Dealing with Other Problems
People who complain that they cannot hear: just advise them to find the volume control on their device and turn up their sound volume. Zoom provides no other remedy for this problem to us as meeting hosts!
Special Note: nobody likes to be talked down to, or to be told that they have a lame internet connection – so with the following problems, perhaps try to use a bit of discretion and diplomacy in helping the meeting participant have a better meeting experience.
Garbled Sound or Image: ALL video-conferencing solutions rely on very high speed internet connections to provide a quality experience. It’s streaming video (just like Netflix) with many participants, so it’s amazing that it works at all! The software and compression algorithms used to furnish video conferences are widely understood and deployed on many solutions by many vendors; many are even open source – so most conferencing solutions are ‘pretty good’.
One person complains that everyone else is garbled: that person has a slow internet link, so you might ask if someone else in the household is watching Netflix or is playing an online game – both or either can ‘compete’ for limited bandwidth needed to have a good experience with either, thus both perform poorly. There is nothing we can do to help the person in this instance if their internet link – for any reason – is too slow to support a good meeting experience.
Everyone (or many) complain that a single speaker is garbled: changing to a different headset/earbuds/mic for the speaker may help, or perhaps just use the webcam mic and speakers without a headset or earbuds. Or the speaker’s family might be watching Netflix in the next room… sometimes asking them to switch from the household wireless to their cell phone wireless hotspot might help (a lot), but this takes a few minutes and in the meantime, the meeting is disrupted… there may be no good choices here.
Advise your secretary to advise speakers beforehand that they should plan to have their household internet bandwidth to themselves (no Netflix or MMRP games playing in the house) at the time of the meeting.
Departing the Meeting
Important Note: Please note that we titled this section ‘Departing the Meeting’, not ‘Ending the Meeting’. You should not ‘end’ the meeting when you depart it. Please choose to ‘leave’ the meeting, not ‘end the meeting‘. Our participants rely on this because they like to have fellowship both before and after the meeting. If you end the meeting, you prevent this fellowship, and the meeting really ends for everyone (they get a ‘the meeting has ended’ screen and thus cannot visit with their friends). Please choose from your menu to simply leave the meeting so others can enjoy their fellowship before and after the meeting.