University of Akron Post 808 has found a way to include all members in post meetings, regardless of their conflicting schedules or far-away locations.
The post, based on the University of Akron campus in Akron, Ohio, uses WebEx - a "slick" online meeting program - to host all-inclusive post meetings, welcoming members who attend physically and members who "dial in" to the meetings through their laptop computers.
The "virtual meeting" is ideal for the post's membership base, which includes student veterans, alumni and faculty - all of whom juggle class, work and other extracurricular obligations.
“It is very slick," said Jay Musson, Post 808 adjutant. “We can talk to anybody we want to. It is just an enhanced teleconference."
Post 808's monthly meetings still occur at a physical location on the school's campus - at the Musson Veterans Lounge located within the school's football stadium. The lounge is fitted with a webcam and microphones, and the WebEx software is installed on a computer in the room. A post member using that computer acts as the "operator" of the meeting, switching camera shots as different Legionnaires speak and including members who dial in remotely.
The setup has been a resounding success, Musson said, particularly as it allows alumni members who live in nearby Cleveland to still be able to participate in post meetings.
“We really enjoy the opportunity to get our recent alumni members involved who may have moved out of town or can’t get down to see us by six o’clock.," Musson said. "We have a number of people who come down out of Cleveland who have a rough time getting here on time. They can just get home, get on their laptops, and participate in the meetings. That’s a big plus for people who can’t necessarily make it physically down there.”
Post 808 has also used the WebEx software to expand meetings beyond the state of Ohio. In its meeting last month, the post welcomed virtual attendees from other Legion posts located on college campuses, including North Dakota State University and Hodges University in Fort Myers, Fla. Musson says the post hopes to soon include members who are on current active-duty assignments with a reserve group in Guantanamo Bay.
The post is also toying with the idea of bringing in presenters to address post meetings virtually throgh WebEx, Musson says. “As long as they have a laptop, they can call into us. They can do a presentation, say what they want to say, and that’s it," he said.
WebEx also proves beneficial in that it provides a downloadable, online copy of the meeting after it is over, accessible by anyone who has been given access. Musson says this is convenient not only for record-keeping purposes, but for members who were not able to tune in to the live stream."Anyone in the United States can go back, as long as they have the code, which we post in our minutes each meeting, and review the entire meeting," Musson said. "It has it all right there.”
The WebEx software is available for free for meetings of up to three people. For a monthly fee, the company offers support for meetings of up to eight participants, 25 participants and 100 participants - all increasing in price as the maximum number of participants expands.
Musson says the virtual meeting system is something any post - even one that isn't located on a college campus - should consider integrating because of the benefits it can provide to membership.
“It’s a very slick enhancement," he said. "And it will just get slicker as time goes by. That’s the nice thing, it’s very simple once you get used to how it works.”