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Holding an online annual general meeting

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AGM

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant many co‑ops have had to decide whether to postpone their AGM or go ahead with a virtual AGM instead. We've put together some information on what consider when holding an AGM online. 

Things to consider

There are many things to consider when making the decision to hold an AGM, not least how to ensure the safety of members while ensuring their democratic rights can still be exercised.

For those holding an online AGM we offer the following guidance.

    Choose the right platform

    There are multiple platforms you can use to host an online AGM. Your co-operative may already have a preferred one or you could speak to other co-ops who have already held an online AGM to find out which platforms they used. Look for platforms that have the following features:

    • Polling, to allow members to vote on resolutions
    • A question and answer function to enable full  participation
    • If appropriate, a function that enables elections to be conducted
    • Waiting room, so you can ensure only those people entitled to attend do attend
    • Live streaming via YouTube or Facebook live if you’d like to increase reach
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    Learn how to hold an AGM at our webinar on 17 November

    Prepare

    All AGMs take a lot of planning and preparation and online AGMs are no different – especially if it is the first one you have held. You might want to consider the following when you’re starting to plan:

    • Check your governing document – Does it allow online AGMs? You might want to read our guidance, on how some rules around what you can do during the Covid-19 pandemic have been relaxed. Make sure you know how to provide the notice of the AGM and the methods you can use to invite your members and provide them with the information they need
    • Decide on roles – Managing an AGM whilst also presenting and making sure the technology is working can be challenging, so delegate responsibilities to others and make sure everyone knows what their roles are. For example, a teller might be responsible for launching online polls and relaying votes, someone else might be responsible for monitoring the waiting room and admitting members as they join, or you could have someone monitor the chat/question and answer function and relay questions to the panel
    • Rehearse – You can’t practice and rehearse enough! Try to run multiple rehearsals and make sure that you’re confident in the technology and how it works. You don’t want to be searching for a control in the middle of a meeting. If there is going to be online voting make sure you have practised this and ensured you can easily work out if a vote has been passed
    • Contingency – You should give thought to all of the things that could go wrong and how you will respond if they do and what the impact could be. Common issues are internet connection or quality problems; echo/feedback/sound problems; drop outs which mean that you don’t maintain a quorum

    Communicate

    If this is the first time that your co-op is holding an online AGM it is really important that you tell your members in good time and explain your reasons for doing so. You should set expectations clearly early on. There are some things that you can do to ensure they are kept informed and are comfortable:

    • Let members know as soon as you can that you’re doing things slightly differently – but highlight the benefits of having an online AGM (enables more members to participate; keeps members safe etc)
    • Provide papers in advance to ensure members have enough time to read them
    • Consider offering additional opportunities for members to get involved prior to the meeting. Examples could include: answering questions prior to the AGM; holding focused sessions before the AGM to provide additional information around certain business areas (e.g. the annual report and accounts)

    Secure the meeting

    It’s important to make sure only those eligible to take part are admitted. There have been instances of online meetings being hijacked (aka Zoombombed), to prevent this:

    • Check your settings. Turn off any options that are are not required, like participant screen sharing
    • Make participants pre-register and use waiting rooms to control who has entry to the meeting (in the same way you might control an in-person AGM)
    • If you want the general public to be able to watch the AGM, don’t give out the link directly. Stream via YouTube or Facebook live instead. Consider how or if you want people taking part in these ways to be able to interact with the AGM (can they ask questions and how will questions be filtered/communicated)

    Smooth running

    • Make sure all speakers are in a quiet location where they will not be disturbed
    • Check internet connections. If it isn’t great consider connecting via cable, rather than Wi-Fi; asking others to use the internet less during the meeting (e.g. no Netflix); or upgrading your connection
    • Think about your background when on video calls, make sure it’s appropriate and try to minimise other people entering into shot
    • To reduce the likelihood of echo and feedback, ask panel members to mute themselves when not speaking

    Our COVID-19 advice web pages are regularly reviewed and updated. Get updates via email Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

     

    Have a specific governance question?

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