Annette Green, Modi’in, Israel
Annette describes a form of online conferencing that she used successfully for a Series Meeting when one of her children was sick.
When my daughter was running a fever, I knew I would have to cancel the monthly LLL meeting I host and run as a lone Leader in my home. I was sure there would be disappointed mothers as I had had several enquiries about the meeting. Although my daughter was sick, she did not need my constant attention and she was happy for me to run a meeting online while she was at home. At the time she was about five and a half and still had fond memories of meetings she had attended in our home before she started kindergarten.
I was already familiar with the online video conferencing program called Zoom as I use it professionally. Zoom allows you to see and hear participants in online meetings. You can share your computer screen with participants and record the meetings to be watched later if you want. Participants can connect from a smartphone, landline telephone (audio connection only), tablet or computer and they can choose whether to be “seen” on other people’s screens during the meeting and whether to mute the sound, too. This is especially useful when participants have background noise (or their baby is crying). The meeting host also has full control over muting participants.
The main part of the screen shows whoever is speaking at the time, so even with multiple participants, it is easy to see who is talking. Unlike an in-person meeting where nonverbal cues often indicate who wants to say something, there can be a little bit of interrupting each other at first when you meet online and more than one person tries to talk at once. When participants sign in to the meeting, they choose a name that will be displayed with their photo. This makes it easy for the host to call on participants to contribute.
I sent a message to the list of past and potential attendees via WhatsApp (a form of texting through an app) about the meeting with a link to sign in to the meeting. Two mothers attended and we had a great discussion. My daughter was awake and played quietly at the table next to me and occasionally said hello to the babies if they appeared on the screen.
The meeting was conducted in a very similar way to a regular Series meeting. I gave some background about the history of LLL, a mention of the special mother-to-mother model of support in LLL and the usual meeting announcements. We did a round of introductions and then mothers had a chance to ask questions. We shared information and supported each other just as we would at a meeting in my home. At one point, one mother disappeared off screen when her baby woke up and came back to nurse on screen, just as would be expected during an actual meeting.
After I shared my experience hosting this virtual meeting, a Leader who lives in a remote area of our country decided to start hosting regular virtual meetings as another way to offer support to mothers in Israel. She advertised in our active LLL Israel Facebook group and on LLL Israel’s Facebook page and started meetings in January this year. Mothers have joined from around the country along with some Israelis living abroad.
At the moment, the meetings are general LLL meetings. We have discussed future meetings with particular themes or topics as a way of making the meetings even more relevant to mothers.
Advantages of online meetings
- You don’t need to leave your house!
- You don’t even need to get dressed!
- No travel time. This is especially significant for Leaders who live in remote locations.
- No meeting location to arrange
- No snacks to buy/prepare
- No geographical boundaries. Hebrew speaking mothers who don’t currently reside in Israel have joined our online meetings.
- A great solution for potential Leader Applicants who can’t attend meetings including isolated Applicants.
- You can easily solicit donations by sending a link to an online donation page for your Group.
- Online conferencing has become a popular way for Area Coordinators (ACs) and District Coordinators (DCs) in Israel to hold meetings as we are very geographically spread out.
- They don’t need to leave the house!
- They don’t need to even get dressed!
- No travel time. Especially relevant for mothers in remote areas or areas without a local meeting.
- No need to wake a baby to go out to a meeting.
- Mothers who have just given birth can attend an online meeting when they might not feel ready to leave home with baby, or even while they are still in hospital.
Challenges of online meetings
- Have a back-up plan! Online meetings are dependent on fast internet speeds. Having a back-up plan in place if you develop internet connection problems helps you postpone or cancel a meeting last minute—or even once you have started.
- Plan ahead. Decide in advance how you will manage communication with mothers/potential mothers just like for real life meetings.
- Allow setting up time. Extra time may be needed at the beginning of the meeting for mothers using the software for the first time to connect and resolve any technical issues like connecting microphones, or turning on sound or video.
- Advertising an online meeting, keeping track of past participants and other logistics that surround any meeting are still challenges to be met. When you are planning an online meeting take this into account and where possible try to have more than one Leader involved so you can share responsibilities.
Zoom is one choice for web conferencing. It offers a free plan (with certain restrictions eg meeting length) or has paid plans starting from $14.99 per month.
Efrat Burman, An Online LLL Meeting via Facebook, Leader Today, July 2018
Annette Green was born and raised in Australia but moved to Israel 20 years ago. She has two daughters and has been a Leader since 2004. Currently, she is a lone Leader of a Group in Modi’in, Israel. She is a contributing editor for Leader Today. Annette has her own holistic health clinic helping women with fertility, pregnancy and menopause challenges.