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Video Conferencing

Is someone in BSA Considering getting a video conferencing subscription so we can have den meetings and pack meetings, and for that matter troop meetings via video conferencing. I know in PA the school district trade group got a group zoom plan so all school districts can use it for board meetings and such. It would be nice if BSA could make similar arrangements.

I know you can use zoom and other services for free but they have time limits. We used Skype and it went ok but some parents had trouble with it

We did a virtual Troop meeting last night with Zoom, and as the meeting organizer, I got a prompt telling me that the time was extended until the stay-home orders have expired.

ok great and that was the free version? I will try and make an account then.

Yep, with the free version. Only frustrating bit was they didn’t tell me that until the tail-end of our meeting. We had finished up the planned program, but the boys ending up hanging out together online for another half hour, which I was really happy to see.

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@SteveCagigas You’re saying the free Zoom no longer has a 40-minute limit? Is it unlimited, or a higher limit?

Higher limit, but not unlimited. The pop-up I got was very light on details, so I’m not sure how much longer

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There are a few other options that are free:

Google Hangouts Meet
If your Pack/Troop/Crew already has a GSuite for Non-Profits account they can use Hangouts Meet for free. It includes video-conferencing, a dial-in number and screen-sharing, and works with almost anything without a download.

FreeConferenceCall.com
The free offering from the company behind StartMeeting, this service is completely free. It includes a dial-in number, the ability to mute individual or all participants, screen sharing and other features both free and for a small add-on per month.

I have a small subscription on Citrix GoToMeeting - but I got a free one for Webex that hosts 100 for this time period

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Same here. We did a WebEx last like with about 15 parents and scouts. Not huge, but it worked out well. The other advantage of WebEx is that the free version has a phone only option. Zoom has a banner that says their free accounts may not have phone access due to the extra load on the system during these virus times.

I signed our pack up for the lowest tier of paid service of Zoom before I found out that the limit had been extended. We had our first virtual pack meeting last night and it was… not a disaster. Better turnout than I expected. We had about 25 families; about half the pack. Still learning how to do this. One lesson is that it’s helpful to have the person delivering the content not be the same person facilitating the meeting.

This week, we’re going to try using the breakout rooms to have den meetings. I’ll be arranging all this with the goal of leaving the den leaders free to focus on their program.

One complication is that some families have multiple scouts in different dens. And they may not have three devices to allow concurrent den meetings (some may not even have one). I haven’t heard from anyone yet that this will be a hardship, but we may need to stagger our den meetings.

Another concern is YPT. Do we need two leaders in each breakout room for two-deep leadership? Or is one leader plus parents in each room, plus floating hosts adequate for that? One-on-one contact is easy enough to avoid.

8x8.vc has worked well for my pack - we had a pack meeting and a parent meeting over it already.
I recommend having some paper and markers on hand during calls. Remind participants to mute their mic when not talking to eliminate background noises.

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For Zoom, ask your pack family members if one owns a Zoom Business Account. Before asking check out availbility and functionality you need to host meetings greater than 40 minutes.

The pro version of Skype is unlimited and only $15 a month so I went ahead and personally bought it for my troop. I plan to shut it down when we can meet face-to-face again. If you don’t want to personally pay for it, you could also have a conversation with your pack/troop committee so see if they would fund it.

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Cisco webex free version has no time limit and up to 100 participants

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We just did our first leader meeting on Zoom seemed to work better than the free skype did. Went about 1 1/2 hours and did not get kicked off. We are going to try and do one as a pack meeting with parents and see how it goes.

Thanks for all the input. if Zoom starts blocking we will try the Cisco Webex.

I’d suggest you contact your District Executve to see if the council is considering such a purchase. I’d guess national won’t be doing that but its certainly reasonable that a Council or District could make that purchase and share it as far as they think they can. I know that my council has purchased GoToMeeting license that is being used for district meetings. But if enough units expressed a desire and perhaps a social media committee could manage the requests for meetings, its certainly doable. Bring it up at your next roundtable or talk to your unit commissioner.

The consensus in our District has been to use Zoom. We held Roundtable using Zoom last week that went very well. Some units have been having virtual campouts w/Zoom including campfire programs. Whichever platform you choose should probably be decided on the unit level. Also, $15/month seems to be a small price to pay from a Pack/Troop budget to facilitate virtual scouting for a few months. Some safety suggestions: do not post the meeting link publicly, consider using password, and use the waiting room feature to vet attendees. It may be difficult to host a large Pack meeting, but it’s probably best for den/patrol sized meetings. Also note, there are breakout room features that may be helpful, too.

I’d also highly suggest that you have a different person running the technical side of the meeting than the one doing the majority of the talking or leading the activities.

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Just ran my first Zoom pack meeting as a Cubmaster. I wanted to set up another adult as the usher to let people into the room from the lobby, but it wouldn’t let me add a co-host. I paid for the $15 per month deal, and it said I couldn’t have someone else as a user.

It was less a big deal than I feared. I kept Zoom in less than full-screen mode, so I could see the lobby the entire time. I let in anyone I recognized. Maybe I have nimble fingers. If I had it in full-screen mode, it would have been a trainwreck.

The meeting went well. We had 10 of our 20 Cub Scouts participate. I was worried the noise level might be high, but it was ok. We really wanted to get our feet wet and use it as a launching point for den meetings.

@PeterHopkins Yes, there does seem to be a difference between the host and the co-host. Someone else set mine up (for last Friday), and she was the host. At one point as we were getting started she accidentally made me the host and lost all ability to see the lobby. I mentioned there were nine people waiting to get in and she quickly figured out she needed to take the host back and make me a co-host instead. I’m not positive, but I think that allowed her to mute all without muting me every time.

We have about 23 scouts on, and the only times we opened up all the mice at once were a minute at the beginning, the pledge, a song, and a minute at the end. I thought it went well, and all the scouts said they had fun (even if it was in an “I’m too cool for this” 4th grader voice).

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