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I Have worked remotely, via Teams now for almost 9 years. There is nothing I want to do less than sit on another virtual call. while it was fine to accomplish necessary business I get little joy other than seeing my fellows and checking on their needs. . We wrote a white paper for our grand lodge on Virtual Meetings. Can send it to you.

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Meaning I hope to the powers that be that we never return to a day that these are more than a necessary tool for accomplishing some business. If you must do it informally, Keep it short, don't pretend you're in a temple. IMHO.

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You need one person speaking, one person operating the room, muting people and on the phone with the brothers who cant join, getting them joined. Tight agenda. Keep it short and direct.

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May 20, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

My addition is to holistically fine tune and codify what Brother Robert stated. Then send it out to all our Lodges to consistently use, hence being on the same page.

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I agree with fine tuning a format and a plan. I think that they are best when people can know what to expect. I'm not sure I agree though that the Grand Lodge should send that out to the Lodges.

While I understand the benefits of standardization, I guess I don't quite trust the Grand Lodge to set the standards correctly. I am for example extremely disappointed with the Alternate Proficiency or New Candidate Education program the GL of Washington sends out, and the agenda in the Lodge Officers Handbook concerns me badly too.

I think that we might be better off if Lodges that are really good at it fine tune the plan, and then help other Lodges do the same, as opposed to the GL doing it.

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Thank you Brother. My own employment never really embraced much in the way of technology, still doing most things the same way that they were done two hundred years ago, talking face to face. So, all of this was quite new to me.

I think that the virtual meetings I've most enjoyed have been short. Have been informal too, but not so informal that there is no direction.

The ones I've really disliked have gone on way too long, or been so without direction that there was no form to the conversation.

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I feel in the future, zoom is a good way to hold quick impromptu meetings of brothers to decide something outside of official lodge business. But as Robert said, I definitely am pretty zoomed out. Working from home has been a blessing for me, considering my commute to and from work is about 5 hours, but it does leave me a bit mentally drained to sit in zoom meetings all day.

I also refuse to put on a suit and tie to sit in front of my computer, I find that silly. I don't even bother to get dressed for work, shorts and a t-shirt is just fine. Showers optional if I'm not going anywhere.

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I agree, we should be able to utilize Zoom to take care of quick and easy business type decisions. For example, our Temple Board has to respond to problems quite quickly sometimes because we have commercial tenants. It would sure be a lot easier to pull an emergency meeting together over Zoom then in person.

I also agree re: clothing. I think it a little nuts to put on a tie and jacket for a zoom call. Alas though, I do what is expected. But I can't stand up. Can't stand up because for example a couple of days ago, I was wearing the dress shirt, tie, jacket bit on top, swimming trunks on bottom.

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Zoom meetings are really good for the outside of Lodge, committee items. They can be less formal and it also makes scheduling them a lot easier as they become location independent and timing is much more flexible.

That being said I think they are also useful for actual Stated Communications - open the Zoom call after the ritual opening and close it before you do the ritual closing. You would need to verify members coming in, but it would give a chance for your older members and those that live beyond a reasonable drive to attend the business and educational portions of a meeting. Please take note, NO ritual work would be done while the Zoom call is open.

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I really like the idea of hybrid meetings. Our Lodges are filled with members who have moved away, and a lot of them have members who can no longer attend due to health issues. A hybrid meeting allows all of these folks to attend. A couple nights ago I was on a zoom meeting of one of our Seattle Lodges, we were joined by a Lodge member who at that moment was in a shopping mall in the Philippines. That is wholly positive for our Fraternity.

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May 20, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

I think the future of Zoom/Skype open to however you can incorporate into your regular meeting. From including brothers from afar, to brothers that may be hospitalized, to having guest speakers that can give educational presentations. I think Zoom has actually saved Freemasonry. At first it was great just to see and speak with the other brothers. The formal meetings were a little weird at first, but I set the dress code as business casual, asking the brothers to wear a shirt with a collar. Living in AZ and being the Master of my lodge in WA, it was the only way I could participate. I’m very thankful for the technology.

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Yeah, being able to bring in excellent Masonic speakers from far away is a huge advantage that Zoom has given us.

I've also found it a superb way to partially reconnect with my home Lodge. It is just too far for me to travel too, but Zoom gets me right in.

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The need to use Zoom was great over the past year. The platform is amazing and has allowed me to attend educational events all over the country.

The idea that we could have a guest speaker at our Stated meeting from somewhere else on earth makes this a concept to keep.

Formal or casual should depend on the event. I attended the installation of officers for Rainbow via Zoom. Made sure I had a shirt and tie on. A special communication, why not casual. Committee or Lodge Officers meeting, causal sounds like the right move.

I say keep them short. No more than an hour unless reasons known beforehand will take it beyond.

And its been great reconnecting with Brothers that moved.

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We actually held our Grand Lodge Installation virtually last year, it was a bit odd to see so many tuxedos on a single call.

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We held ours in person, sort of. We did it in a Lodge Room, with each of us going in to be installed one at a time. We sent it out for anyone to watch via Zoom and Facebook Live. It worked, but certainly wasn't anything close to normal.

Our upcoming will be closer to normal, but still quite limited, so we will again be sending it out over Facebook Live.

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Last year we broadcasted live on YouTube (you can still see it https://youtu.be/h2T1Dh0Y9Xo) this year we did in person, however the guest list was limited.

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RW..... just thinking, if the Installation at GL continues to be streamed, might make a nice evening for those not there to come to a Lodge to watch. We have a large screen TV and internet. Another reason for Brothers to get together, with good food and drink.

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That could be cool!

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Very early in the pandemic I slid on into a Lodge meeting on the east coast. That's when I think I figured out the real power of the platform.

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May 20, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

Ah, yes. Teleconferencing.

Before Zoom got big, the York Rite, and later the Long-Range Planning Committee, was using SoCoCo. I got used to how it worked, and actually liked it. We even used SoCoCo for a couple of Temple Board meetings in Centralia. I first got a try on Zoom when the LRP committee switched to it a couple of years ago, well before the shutdown. It was much simpler, and also much cheaper. Now I don't know anyone who's using SoCoCo anymore.

Before the Pandemic, I actually thought the Teleconference idea was pretty good. But that's because I was only using it a couple times a month. But since the shutdown, it's turned the other way around. Now I think I'm NOT on zoom a couple times a month!

And that's where the problem lies. Now that we don't have to travel hours to attend a meeting in person, and we can now attend without traveling at all, there's more opportunity to attend events and meetings you normally wouldn't have been able to attend. But the dark side of that is the additional meetings you're expected to attend. Now because of the availability, there are groups, organizations and companies that now can hold meeting after meeting for things they wouldn't have tried to schedule meetings for. This has certainly contributed to the Zoom burnout. I'm actually busier now than I was before the pandemic, and it's not just Freemasonry!

My fear is that even when our society returns to doing things in-person, that we'll still be trying to do a ton of teleconferencing in between the in-person events and meetings. I hope we can find a nice balance over the next couple of years as the pandemic subsides. As stated in the above paragraph, it can be easy to make new bad habits with this updated technology.

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I don't think that Zoom will ever truly be able to replace the joy of gathering together as Brothers, so perhaps that will serve as a kind of natural limitation. Keeping things from getting too far out of balance as you mention.

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May 21, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

As Lodges start to reopen, I am hearing that people want to keep Zoom available for Lodge meetings. That's a great idea for brothers who are unable or physically restricted from attending in person. Let me share some thoughts. I was on a recent Zoom where there was one laptop aimed on the East. Other people speaking could not be heard or seen, until someone decided to twist the camera to the direction of the speaker, which gave me vertigo and I still could not hear. (Full Disclosure: I have a hearing disability, so that adds to it) You can do an expensive set-up with multiple cameras and a switcher along with a sophisticated sound system that gets tied to your Internet router. Or you can put laptops on the East, West, South and North. The East laptop will be the administrator. West and South for the Wardens and anybody in person must go to the North and speak into that laptop. Or you can do an expensive six/seven camera setup with camera operators and wireless microphones everyone must use and be mixed into an audio board that feeds into the router which ties up money and people. I choose the Easy button.

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I think that some Lodge rooms might be better suited to hybrid meetings than others. For example, at Centralia we have a balcony that isn't too high. I think that a wide angle camera could be placed there that would cover the entire room. Combine that with a couple big TV's in the NW and SW corners. This would pretty closely replicate how the Legislature does it for Committee meetings, and that is fully automated.

I talked with Rico who posted above, and knows a great deal about these things, he indicated that the cost wouldn't be too awfully steep. It's also fairly similar to how the large conference room at the Grand Lodge office works.

But yes, I have experienced the same thing you talk about with a single laptop facing East, trying to run a hybrid meeting. It wasn't good. I think in order to actually pull hybrid meetings off Lodges will have to invest some money.

I've also now seen the 'directional laptops' method you mention. That worked, as long as three of the laptops were always muted. Otherwise the reverb was crazy. That isn't bad though, just takes some practice.

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May 21, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

I want to add my two cents, although many have already touched on it. I feel we need to keep Zoom as we open because there are many Brothers who for whatever reason, can not physically attend Lodge.

Being able to have Brothers who have moved but are still members or pluraled up because a Father or Grandfather were members at that Lodge have been attending our Zoom meetings. For those and many other reasons, I feel it is important to remember them and make use of Zoom for educational purposes.

Zoom portion could be informal, relaxed and still be worthy of the time spent. Focus should be on what is being delivered, not if the Brothers are clothed like those in actual attendance at Lodge.

what should NEVER be included?? previously recorded message unless they can be delivered to the audience CLEARLY!! Nothing is worse than having to try & concentrate of what is a poor recording (delivered monotonal) where is fades in and out....either dfeliver it yourself or find a better way to deliver it, our educational deliveries should have at least a spark of interest from the educator otherwise those who you are trying to educate lose interest very fast!!

Ideal length for a Zoom meeting is 60-90 minutes. We should be able to deliver upon a excellent educational program in a hour or less leaving us 30 minutes to discuss.....just my humble opinions

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I agree. Zoom is a perfect tool for a Lodge to remain connected with Brothers who have moved, or who can't attend for whatever reason. I also agree, 60 minutes seems about great, I could live with 90, but longer than that don't work I don't think. I've been on a handful that have gone like three hours, that is painful!

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