Facilitating Association Meetings in the Age of Zoom

Facilitating Association Meetings in the Age of Zoom

With social distancing and remote work looking like it will be with us through at least 2021, holding online meetings is required for most associations. This comes with its challenges, though, especially if you’re a meeting facilitator. Here are some pro tips to make your meetings a success.

Plan in Advance

As you would for an in-person meeting, plan your online meeting well in advance. Things to think about:

  • Which online platform or software to use
  • How long to schedule the meeting
  • Making sure everyone has the technology and skill to join in
  • The purpose of the meeting
  • The meeting agenda

If you’re using new technology, think about testing it out first prior to the meeting, to work out any bugs in advance.

Notify people about the meeting date with plenty of time to spare. Ask for RSVPs, so you know who will be in attendance. Send a reminder a day or two ahead of the meeting, usually easy to do with your meeting platform’s software.

Select a Facilitator

To help you move through the meeting, especially online where people may feel a bit disconnected, it’s essential to have a facilitator. You don’t want a free for all with people talking over each other, as your meeting can turn into chaos very quickly.

Perhaps your association has someone assigned to this role. If not, consider rotating the facilitator position, so everyone gets a turn to lead.

For some association members, leading a meeting online is less intimidating than moderating one in person. It’s a great opportunity for shyer participants to give leadership a try.

Facilitating online is different than in person, largely because you can’t “read the room.” Therefore, you want to check in more frequently to make sure you’re not missing things you would normally notice, such as body language indicating someone is upset.

Set Rules Just Like for In-Person Meetings

Another essential for online meetings is a set of meeting rules, whether you use formal parliamentary procedure or a more relaxed code your organization has developed. Your rules should include issues such as:

  • Starting and ending on time
  • Who has the floor
  • How objections should be raised
  • How voting is conducted
  • When to move onto the next item
  • Be aware that you may have to develop a few new rules specifically for meeting in cyberspace.

Minimize Side Chatter

While using a chat sidebar is helpful for online training and educational sessions, it’s usually too distracting for a meeting. Let people know the chat function will disabled and that you would like their full attention focused on the business at hand.

It helps to remind attendees that platforms like Zoom aren’t designed for everyone to speak at once like in a real conference room. If talking over other people is a problem for your group, consider muting participants when they do not have the floor.

Ask participants to silence their mobile phones. Members should not be texting each other during the meeting, as this is both distracting and rude to people not included in the conversation.

Try a Virtual Parking Lot

It can be tough to signal when you want to table a discussion. One technique some groups use is an ELMO card (Enough Let’s Move On). Either the facilitator can hold it up to get people back in focus, or every member of the group can use it to tell others they’re ready to go to the next item.

If some members feel they are leaving unfinished business on the table, put it in a virtual parking lot. This turns it into an action item for a later time, which can be addressed in followup.

Follow Up After Your Meeting

One advantage of online meetings is you may not need minutes per se. You can either create a transcript of the video session, or send people the link for review or catching up on missed meetings.

An email should go out after the meeting listing items for followup, just like after an in-person meeting. Include the items you parked for later consideration and what is being done about them. This is the ideal time to float dates for your next meeting.

Do you need help with meeting and event services? Jaffe Management specializes in working with associations on events, volunteer development, member communications, and much more. Reach out today to let us know how we can assist your group.