Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, we were being asked by our clients about virtual annual general meetings. When I started looking for content on the topic, I found this informative blog post from CANARIE, one of our clients, and reached out to them about hosting a webinar on the topic.
Hosting a virtual AGM is a great way to increase attendance, create a better experience for attendees and lower costs. Instead of investing what can be a large sum of money into an expensive venue, a virtual AGM allows you to engage your attendees with content that they can access from anywhere, so the need to travel can be eliminated.
As we blogged about recently, people are likely to be reducing their travel once the pandemic is over, so hosting an AGM that is entirely virtual or partially virtual (this is called a hybrid AGM) is likely a good idea to start seriously considering.
We hosted that webinar yesterday and here's the recording of it:
I was joined on the webinar by Nancy Carter, the CFO for CANARIE and their IT Manager, Malcolm Bartlett. CANARIE has been hosting a virtual AGM for over four years. We were also joined by Scott Murray and Cameron Watson from Clear Picture, as they provide a secure, customizable eVote solution that is cloud-based.
One important point that we started with is the issue of governance. The key point being that you need to verify your by-laws and/or governing legislation and make sure you can hold a virtual AGM. At the same time, check your rules on quorum and make sure you think about how you'll track it.
Here is a summary of what we discussed.
Tip #1: Focus on Attendee Experience
Start your planning by thinking about everything from the attendee perspective. Think about what they want to see and how they'll see it. If you're broadcasting presentations, think about what the speakers are wearing and what the backdrop looks like. Make sure your presentation and slides are reviewed thoroughly and planned out in advance.
Then, you need to think about how you'll communicate important details like the date/time, any technical information like how they access the AGM virtually and how to connect with other members. The key here is to make sure that every effort is made to create a seamless experience.
If you need to hold any votes during your virtual AGM, you can use the polling feature that is common in most platforms like Zoom, but a mixture of voting and non-voting members might require you to run another solution in tandem. The team at Clear Picture shared a some insights on how to do this as contentious motions will require extra security and analytics.
Tip #2: Get the Tech Straight
When choosing a platform, you'll need to consider the number of attendees, what content you are going to be sharing and what level of security you need. Sound will be important, so make sure you have good microphones to capture any presentations and think about how you will deal with any questions. Most platforms have a chat function so think about if and how you might use it.
In the end, the best thing you can do is choose a platform and test it thoroughly.
Tip #3: Plan for Issues
Once you have a platform chosen, the next important thing to do is to plan for a whole range of technical issues. CANARIE thought of everything that could go wrong and went about having a plan in place to address as much as they could.
For CANARIE's virtual AGMs, almost every element has a backup. CANARIE had an audio-only backup in case the webinar software wasn't working, secondary laptops for presentations and even a secondary internet connection in case it was needed.
Tip #4: Getting the Room Ready
Your virtual or hybrid AGM will likely have a dedicated room for presentations. It's important to make sure that room (or your home offices) are quiet and away from high traffic areas. This can be challenge for people like me who have a small house with inadequate insulation between floors and two kids who like to run around.
CANARIE recommends having two monitors for presenters. One for the presentation and one for them to see the presentation as the attendees see it.
Tip #5: Rehearse, Rehearse & Rehearse
CANARIE shared a lot of detailed, practical advice and the key point being that you should rehearse everything before your virtual AGM. They created a plan that spelled out the timing for everything, provided notes to the speakers and rehearsed close to twenty times to make sure they had everything down.
Be sure to do a full technical run through one hour before the AGM, and test the sound/video with external users outside of your internal network so that you can avoid any last minute issues. When I was preparing for the webinar, I learned that I had to run my deck off PowerPoint instead of Google Slides as it made it easier for me to control. Feel free to do what is comfortable for you, just make sure you rehearse a few times to get things straight.
Tip #6: Follow Up
When your AGM is over, spend time with your team to figure out what went well and what can be improved. CANARIE created a detailed document after their first AGM to ensure they recorded everything they did and learned so future teams could build on it. Four years later, the document contains their detailed process for holding their virtual AGM.
As I mentioned on the webinar, CANARIE's blog post is really one of the few resources that I was able to find when planning this webinar. Just recently, the Ontario Nonprofit Network published a comprehensive guide on hosting virtual AGMs, and it has some additional, detailed, information on many of the items discussed during the webinar. Their section on governance is particularly useful.
If you want to reach out to CANARIE and find out more about their experience, you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you wanted to learn more about online voting, you can reach out to Clear Picture.
As always, if you think you need any support with your virtual AGM, our marketing consultants are happy to set up a call. We have experience creating content, videos and almost anything else you might need.