Useful considerations for online hearings
Due to the significant volume of international work Sport Resolutions (SR) administers for international federations, we have conducted dozens of hearings by videoconference, and utilised e-filing processes to conduct hearings and proceedings for a number of years now. Thus, SR is no stranger to online hearings and proceedings, and utilises the latest technology and softwares to ensure smooth and secure proceedings. However, we understand the reluctance of some sporting bodies and legal professionals for whom virtual proceedings may still be relatively new.
As the world adapts to holding online meetings and hearings we have created a list containing a few useful tips below, whether you are the host or attendee.
First and foremost, security checks
SR is always the host of the online hearings, meetings or interviews it administers, and we only share details with the participants (eg. invites, links, and passwords).
Their conduct is private, and we are able to restrict those who wish to join, through various features such as a “waiting room”, a password, and the ability to lock the meeting room if no further attendees are expected. We also have the ability to control various features of the meetings and their attendees.
Participants are reminded of the confidentiality obligations contained within the procedural rules of their proceedings, which apply regardless of whether a hearing is conducted in-person or remotely.
Notification of practical issues
If attendees have any physical impairments and/or practical issues that may impact their ability to fully participate in a hearing via videoconference, the chair or arbitrator should be informed in advance so that the appropriate steps can be taken to assist.
Facilities for online hearing
Whilst it is possible to join online events using many devices including smartphones, it is more ideal for your posture (and eyes!) to use a laptop or a desktop with a camera and microphone. A stable internet connection is also essential. This may require you to utilise a wired connection if your wireless connection is not strong.
A quiet and private room is important. If you are not alone at home and there is a chance that there may be a surprise appearance by a household member, please remember to let everyone know that you are on a hearing. We also do not recommend trying camera filters, in order to avoid experiencing what this boss did when she accidentally turned herself into a potato due to a filter mishap, and could not undo it!
On the other hand, there are numerous features available through video-conferencing software which we use at SR, and may assist you in the conduct of the hearings, such as:
- The host’s ability to record the hearing
- The host’s ability to set-up virtual breakout rooms, or caucuses, where attendees can convene privately as one would during an in-person hearing or mediation
- The host’s ability to mute/unmute participants, and for each participant to mute/unmute themselves
- When participants are on mute, or when someone else is speaking, the ability to “raise one’s hand” virtually through a button, to indicate to the host that one would like to speak next, so as to avoid disruptions
- The ability to dial-in participants via phone, should that be preferable. Having witnesses’ phone numbers on hand should their connection drop is always useful
- The ability to screen share with participants, to show documents, images, or webpages, directly from one’s screen. Be aware and minimise any other items that may be open on your computer, as the totality of your screen will show when screen sharing
- The ability to chat with either all attendees or specific attendees through a chat side bar
- The ability to upload documents to the chat side bar
Most of the video conferencing facilities are user-friendly, however at SR we like to test the platform with the attendees and/or any particular features listed above which may be useful, before the actual hearing, especially if participants have not used them before.
Note that with the right platform it is also possible to hold multiple hearings concurrently as a host, which SR is able to do.
Given the current circumstances, we anticipate that electronic hearing bundles are the easiest way forward, for the time being. This will also help in our efforts to go green!
What to wear
Online hearings are similar to in-person hearings in terms of dress, or at least to the extent that your outfit can be seen on your screen!
A few bonus tips
- Your connection may get weaker and you may drop out. It is not pleasant but sometimes unavoidable. Having the attendees and witnesses’s phone numbers on hand is crucial, to enable them to re-join promptly. Encouraging your client or witnesses to make themselves available for a short videoconferencing test ahead of the hearing will also greatly facilitate matters, and make them more comfortable with the hearing conduct.
- Talking in an online hearing or meeting has a different energy to speaking to a live audience, therefore adding vocal emphasis where appropriate and being mindful of your speed assists in ensuring everything you wish to convey is understood.
- Think carefully about the background behind you. Having less objects on your shelves behind you helps people focus on you instead of your paintings or other belongings. Positioning your camera carefully is also essential. Avoid showing only the top of your forehead for instance!
If you have any questions on any of the above please do not hesitate to contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org
We wish you all and your families good health in these unique and difficult times.