8 steps to planning a virtual annual meeting
I’m sure you’ve seen a meme or two referencing how challenging this year has been – “if 2020 was a slide” accompanied by a photo of a slide ending as a cheese grater; “if 2020 were a person” depicting the Allstate® Insurance “Mayhem guy.” It’s been a rough ride. Now, on top of all the challenges you’ve already faced, you realize you still need to host your annual meeting.
Social distancing requirements mean that it’s likely going to be virtual – or at least a hybrid of virtual and in-person. Don’t let this hurdle turn into a “2020 meme” – as painful as some of it may be, you’ll likely realize a virtual annual meeting is exactly the shot in the arm your credit union needs to get out of the stale “we’ve always done it this way” routine. If that’s not enough to get you excited, a virtual annual meeting may also increase member attendance and engagement, reaching members who otherwise would not or could not attend.
Here’s a checklist of everything you need to think about as you plan your virtual annual meeting…
1 – Communicate like crazy
The advice I always give my clients about messaging is this: once you’re sick of talking about it, members are just starting to get the message. In addition to everything your state’s division requires you to communicate, make sure you over-communicate the fact that the meeting is virtual, and support that message with the images you use. Let members know they don’t need any special equipment to join (no camera or microphone – just a device with sound that connects to the Internet). Set up a calendar invite that members can add to their calendars (if your platform doesn’t already offer that – see #2), and email or text members a reminder one week, one day, and one hour prior to the meeting.
2 – Determine which virtual service you’re going to use
There are a variety of services to choose from, including GoToWebinar, Zoom Meetings, Zoom Webinar, Microsoft Teams, YouTube, and more. Each service offers a variety of unique options, many of which are based on how interactive you want your annual meeting to be. Do your homework and make sure you select the service that best fits your needs and the level of interaction you want to have with your members during the meeting.
3 – Prepare for technology challenges
The biggest concern of hosting a virtual meeting is that members won’t be able to login. Be sure to offer a “how to login” video prior to the annual meeting and setup a phone number members can call if they’re unable to get in. Host an online “social gathering” 10-15 minutes prior to the start of the meeting so members have a chance to work through any technology issues. During that pre-meeting gathering, have an emcee who welcomes members and introduces staff and board members. Alternatively, you can simply have a running video of credit union photos with background music and a message that says, “Thank you for attending! The business meeting will begin at [time].”
4 – Add-in some “brain breaks”
According to a study by Microsoft, the average human being now has an attention span of eight seconds. Eight! Therefore, it’s important to add a few “brain breaks” during your meeting. Pre-record a member testimonial to insert at a planned moment during the meeting, hold a prize drawing for members who login, or just ask the staff to introduce themselves or their branch in a fun way. Only cover the agenda items that are required and include any other reports in an electronic copy of your annual report. If your meeting is all business, you’ll lose your members’ attention.
5 – Being authentic is a good thing
If 2020 has given us anything positive, I believe it’s that people are generally more understanding when it comes to virtual meetings and videos. Most of your members will appreciate the fact that you’re making lemonade out of lemons. While you don’t want your annual meeting to come off like a bad viewing of someone’s home movies, don’t pressure yourself to make it perfectly professional, slick or polished, either. Your members are watching because they care about their credit union, and they miss you just as much as you miss them.
6 – Practice and be yourself
Hold a practice run for your annual meeting on the platform you’ve chosen. Scheduling a test meeting with all the necessary players and a few attendees – staff or board members, for example – to ensure things work and look the way you want. Have all of your live speakers run through their parts and transitions, practice making motions and voting, and confirm all of your equipment is up to snuff. Rehearse so you feel comfortable enough to allow your natural self to shine through.
7 – Have back-ups
No matter how much you plan and practice, things happen. Make sure you designate an “understudy” for each part of the meeting, have back-up equipment, extra batteries, another way to connect to the Internet, and so on. Save yourself a headache by anticipating potential hiccups ahead of time.
8 – Ask for feedback
After all the work that goes into planning an event and feeling relieved that it’s finally over, credit unions sometimes fail to develop an adequate follow-up strategy. Develop a short (3-4 question) survey you can email to attendees following the meeting. Ask them to rate the event overall. Find out if they had any technology issues, and if so, ask them to describe the problem so you can prevent similar issues in the future. Ask if they would like the option to attend virtually in the future, too. All of these things will be important to your future planning, and members will feel valued when you ask for their input.