Scope have shifted their group sessions online by using Zoom video calls.
An example is Scope’s Parents Connect programme, a 6-week support programme for parents and carers of young disabled people in Leeds. Scope began by asking parents what their needs were in the new COVID-19 context. The service shifted from face to face to Zoom group sessions and launched nationally.
This new method reduced pressure on Scope’s overloaded phone service.
Communication tool for free calls, videos and chat
Free 'basic' account plan allows unlimited 1-1 meetings but has a 40 minute time limit on group sessions. Paid plans include Pro (£11.99/month/host), Business (£15.99/month/host) and Enterprise (£15.99/month/host). These contain all the basic features as well as increased participant quantities and removal of time restrictions.
Allows for recording of sessions - these videos are shared only with the client.
Allows for group video conferencing
Allows video functionality to see the client’s face
Allows for chat functionality should participant not be able to/ wish to speak verbally
Allows for management of participants; e.g. muting video functionality
You can create private meetings which require a password upon entry to sessions.
Test the platform to see how it works and whether it is suited to your needs. Many platforms offer a free trial, so it’s worth trying before you buy/subscribe.
Onboard and/ or train up your team so that they understand how to use the platform. You can find guides for various platforms here.
2. Preparation for the session
Identify what materials may need to be created for the session. Have these prepared and ready to use. E.g. handouts, presentations.
Consider shortening any existing sessions or splitting them into multiple sessions. This helps with focus levels and reducing fatigue.
For help on digitising your physical resources, check out this recipe.
Send out invitations for the group session via email. Think about who had access to your service before the COVID-19 situation. Add in a password requirement for the video conferencing session (if applicable) for safety measures.
Conduct a test session with staff and volunteers so that they get used to different devices and the platform itself.
Consider advertising the sessions on social media platforms (where appropriate) so that other local charities can share it, but don't share the link to the event publicly. Instead send it to those who sign up for the event.
3. Holding the group session
Introduce yourself as the host and the session format / agenda. Whenever possible, Scope recommends having a different member of staff present to help with any technical issues and/ or reply to questions whilst you are presenting. Having an extra member of staff (Scope suggests at least 2 members on each call) also allows for the use of breakout rooms in case there are participants who need more one-to-one time.
Lay out any ground rules for the session. For example, asking participants to mute themselves when they are not speaking, raising their hand if they have a contribution to make and using the chat function (if possible).
Explain to participants that the chat function should also be used to tell the staff if their internet connection is poor e.g. if their video and/ or audio drops in and out. One member of staff monitors the chat function whilst the other presents.
Most video conferencing platforms allow the host some or all control functionality for participants. This means that you can actively mute all participants, turn off their video cameras and much more. It is worth exploring what host privileges there are in each platform as this helps with management of the group session.
4. After the group session
Share any materials (if applicable) with your participants by email.
Follow up on anything raised in the session which may be of concern with the relevant people.
Be open to feedback and change. Scope has found that staying on the online session for an extra half hour after it has ended has been beneficial. It gives participants a chance to talk outside of a group setting, if needs be.
When contacting your clients, try talking to them on the platforms that they are most familiar with e.g Facebook, whatsapp etc.
Some platforms, such as Zoom, allow you to set a password requirement in order to access the meeting. This is particularly useful for ensuring that the people joining the meeting are authorised to do so. Keep passwords between you and your clients and ask them not to share it publicly/with anyone else.
When scheduling the group session, try and simplify the invitation as much as possible. Main things to include are the link to the online session and the password (if applicable). Any extra information can be removed as it can become confusing for users.
Make it clear to participants that it’s okay if they wish to turn off their camera, turn off their microphone and/or not enter their names into the video conference. Try and make your participants as comfortable as possible - the atmosphere may be very different compared to a co-located group session.
For further information and help, CAST have created a practical guide to remote meetings.
It can be more difficult to read body language or interpret social cues over video conferencing. It may also be harder to gauge how your participant is feeling as you rely solely on verbal cues.
Participants may not have the technology and/or skills to be able to use the video conferencing platform. Participants might also be less engaged as they could be easily distracted in their own environment.
Points of contact
For further information about this recipe, you can contact:
Many thanks to Scope for contributing this recipe.
Do you have thoughts on this recipe? We would love to hear from you.