Running YPAG meetings online

    Key points

  • Plan Plan Plan!
  • Support members on how to use the online software of choice
  • Have plenty of breaks
  • Make it fun! - Plenty of icebreakers, energisers and online games

A zoom meeting

There have been many opportunities and challenges for patient and public involvement during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. YPAG meetings have adapted to moving online as a result with groups all having different experiences. At a GenerationR Alliance meeting in November 2020, these experiences were discussed and the input from YPAG Leads has been used to give advice, tips, and useful resources and links to help you when thinking about running online meetings.

What’s the most popular online platform and why?

YPAG’s have predominantly used Zoom as a preferred online meeting tool although some NHS Trusts do not allow this so some have had to use Microsoft Teams. Many YPAG facilitators use Kahoot, Jamboard  Slack, Miro  and many other online technologies to make the meetings more interactive and interesting.

Key positives of holding meetings online:

  • You can arrange meetings quickly and respond to researchers with speed (particularly important for COVID studies)
  • Chat function is great to get the young people talking as many have been at home and not seen their peers for many weeks/months and this helps quieter members have their voices heard
  • Better flexibility with the length of meetings  – these can be shorter and kept on task
  • Good to be able to offer varied times including weekends and evenings
  • Large groups can attend
  • Cheaper to run than usual as no refreshments needed or room and travel costs incurred
  • Shy young people can be more comfortable
  • Support workers can easily join meetings
  • Break out rooms are working well for some people with older members acting as mentors and use of Whiteboard when saved with Chat is useful for recording feedback
  • Meeting transcripts tool such as Otter is pretty good (paid subscription). For free subscriptions, you are limited to 40 minute recordings with transcriptions. After that, you need to make a new recording.

Key challenges of holding meetings online:

  • Can be difficult to find an online forum that is allowed by your organisation that works for you, many reported that they are not allowed to use Zoom
  • Some young people are quiet and do not enjoy speaking online
  • Some groups have lost members as they have not responded to emails
  • Payments have been tricky, organising vouchers can be difficult (interesting conversation on Twitter about payments)
  • Some young people didn’t want to discuss COVID studies as they were very anxious about the situation
  • It can sometimes be hard to be creative online
  • It has been extremely challenging for newly established groups and to recruit new members
  • Groups who need to recruit have found it difficult to reach out and engage with young people
  • Some groups have found that not all online systems are accessible for all
  • It can be hard to use the new technology and then work with it at meetings if facilitators are not comfortable
  • Technical issues can be problematic at times
  • Some facilitators have other roles (i.e. research nurse) so have been overwhelmed with COVID work and unable to run YPAG’s
  • Parents have struggled to join meetings due to work and family constraints
  • Don’t assume everyone is already using Zoom.
  • Lots of research has ended so planning agendas can be hard, one YPAG had created some Q&A videos from which members really enjoyed making, these include: Biggest challenge Why is some advice apparently contradictoryFlu vs Coronavirus –  How might coronavirus affect education?

Helpful Tips and Hints when preparing for online meetings:

Plan Plan Plan!

  • How to Zoom

    Download a PDF of the GOSH Zoom manual

    Delegate the Zoom technology role to a colleague who understands Zoom technology

  • YPAG Lead and Zoom tech person can be meeting Host and Co-host.
  • Think about the maximum time you can run for online, and allow for a break at least every 1-1.5 hours.
  • Think about using the different options on Zoom to make the meeting work well for everyone, not just because they look fun. For example plan 3 breakout sessions, one poll and one use of the whiteboard for a meeting that would have lasted 4 hours face-to-face.
  • Develop an annotated agenda with clear notes about what will happen
  • Make sure you clearly mark when you are going to move people to breakout rooms, have a poll etc.
  • Give clear instructions about how to join a Zoom meeting and stress that it’s free to join.
  • Encourage YPAG members to join via their computer (not their phone) if at all possible.This means that you can see who is in the meeting (if people join by phone you seem to only see their phone number, not their name). But don’t exclude people who can only join by phone.
  • Send out the agenda in plenty of time, along with joining instructions, so that people have time to ask questions. Make the Zoom link live as soon as you post the agenda so that everyone can try it out beforehand if they want, and tell people they can do that. If you can also send out any slides in advance so that people who need to join by phone can still follow presentations.
  • Brief speakers and explain to them about sharing their screens. Ask them to send their slides in advance so that you can share your screens instead if there were problems.
  • Start meetings with games such as scavenger hunts, or bring your favourite thing to a meeting (i.e. pets etc.). Make sure and run an icebreaker

YPAG Blogs

Some YPAGs have written blogs about the positives and challenges of online meetings:

Blog image

University of Hertforshire YPAG blog.

Generation R blog

Exploring virtual co-production with Generation R YPAGs.

NIHR blog

NIHR information for YPAGs in lockdown.