As technology advances, associations continuously need to re-evaluate their processes in order to stay ahead of the curve and not seem outdated. AGMs are rarely known for being an exciting part of any association conference, and executives find themselves struggling to ensure quorum is met, often with bribes of food or additional professional development. Moving towards a virtual AGM offers more opportunities for participation, from the comfort of your office, and reduces participation barriers by opening the meeting up to those who can’t attend live events. And in light of COVID-19 prohibiting gatherings, there’s no better time than now to consider taking your AGM virtual.
Here are some key learnings we gained after Redstone conducted a virtual AGM for a client:
Determine Needs and Requirements
You’ll need a platform and a way for people to call in, as well as a way to allow people to track voting digitally, instead of the traditional method of members providing verbal consensus. Some platforms include polling already, allowing for a seamless integration.
Select the Tech
Make sure that whatever platform you choose, it includes the option to mute all participants, and unmute those who are speaking. You don’t want to run into an issue where there’s a lot of background noise or someone who doesn’t realize they’re unmuted, so control over the sound is important! Review your needs and requirements for the AGM, and make sure that whatever tech you select meets all of your requirements. While many can seem costly, there are other inexpensive options out there, and some with the potential for a one time use, so ensure you’ve allotted the time for sufficient research and demonstrations.
Communication is Key!
Communication is key! Devise a communication strategy that is frequent and concise in order to detail what everyone needs to know in order to participate. The goal is to reduce barriers to participation, not create more. Create a guide to make it easy for them, including topics such as how to utilize the system in place, if there’s any downloads to be completed in advance, how voting will operate, as well as usual items like where they can find the meeting materials and how to submit proxies. Request that members RSVP (you can do this through a Google form) so you know in advance if you’ll meet quorum, but keep in mind that about 30% may not show day of, even if they RSVP’d. Be mindful of time zones for those that are a National/International organization, and try to accommodate as many as is reasonable.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
Book a rehearsal with everyone set to speak at the AGM. Practice unmuting and taking control of the presentation, as well as the polling features. Practice makes perfect, and while almost nothing runs perfectly, it will help reduce the number of issues during the AGM. It also helps to set someone as the tech point person, in order to know who will be managing any and all troubleshooting needs that day. This should be separate from whoever is speaking, as well as whoever is taking minutes.
As with any event, do a post AGM survey! Find out how it went from the attendee’s perspective, what could be done better, what issues anyone might have had (if any). This will help you refine and plan future virtual events.
Postponing or applying for an extension of your 2020 AGM do not need to be the only solutions for not-for-profits dealing with the global pandemic. By running a virtual AGM, you can offer value to your members and stakeholders during a difficult time.
Originally published February 5, 2020, updated April 22, 2020
Natalie Wallace, CAE
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