Since the Covid-19 crisis hit us in March, most of our members are working from home and already have months of experience with online meetings.
The first virtual Full Council meeting ever of our association took place on a sunny Saturday in June 2020. The virtual conference in May proved to be a big success, so why not go ahead with a virtual FC meeting as well?
One of the advantages of a virtual meeting is that you are more efficient because there are less distractions from outside versus face to face meetings, such as people walking in and out of the meeting room, mobile phones ringing, technical issues with the beamer for the slides, etc. It is easier to remain focused on what matters!
Allow me to share some tips when you are planning to join a virtual meeting.
Be prepared: First of all, check if the tool which is used for the meeting is downloaded on your desktop or mobile device, and working properly. Don't wait till 5 minutes before the start of the meeting to do this.
As a minutes taker, I also prepared a template according to the agenda, so I could focus on what was being said and decided for every item. I made sure I knew what the agenda items were about, I did my homework. I knew where to expect a lot of questions or discussions from the members. I also went through the minutes of the previous meeting, so I was familiar with its content.
Be professional: Log into the meeting a few times before and switch on the camera and the sound to see if everything is functioning. Check the camera image, how will the other participants of the meeting see you on their screen? Remember there is a difference between a formal meeting and just a social chat with your friends.
Be proactive: Choose a location where you will not be disturbed by your family members, and take into account you will need to remain in front of your screen for a few hours.... Have everything at hand, your earphones, your notes, a notepad and pencil, a hot or cold beverage etc.
Be respectful: Once you are logged into the meeting, listen carefully to the meeting practicalities and protocol. Mute yourself unless you are given the floor. There is nothing more disturbing than hearing people talk in the background, or sneeze, or cough, or the dog barking, or music, or other household noises! It also has an impact on the overall quality of the sound...
Apart from these learning points, I also would like to share some observations about our first virtual Full Council meeting:
It was sometimes difficult to clearly understand what was being said, especially with the comments in the live chat going on a the same time. Having a dedicated person to monitor this live chat was a very good idea! I also had the impression that for some members it is easier to type in a question in the chat box than having to stand up in a meeting room, ask for the microphone and address the audience live.
Our first virtual FC meeting was very well prepared, organized and managed by the Executive Committee, and very well perceived by the members. It was a very good rehearsal for the upcoming virtual AGM as well, we now better understand what works and what doesn't, and what we can improve. Finally, although it was heartwarming to see each other on the screen, it will never be the same as meeting in person. Please join me in congratulating the EC for a job well done, and I look forward to seeing all of you again soon, in the virtual and the real world!
IMA member since 2004, former NC IMA Belgium