As the country hunkers down in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, I'm getting tons of questions about voting member meetings and board meetings and how to hold a virtual board meeting. Here are my best tips and Zoom settings cheat sheet…
Voting member organizations are asking these questions a lot right now…
- Do we still need to meet?
- How can we get a quorum?
- Is it legal to meet remotely?
- How do we conduct a virtual member meeting?
If you're a voting member org, then you should ideally still hold your meetings. Sometimes member-based organizations have a grant-required or self-imposed public meeting format too (ugh!).
But during a national pandemic, or during a State shelter in place order, we have to limit our in-person social contact. What's a member org to do?
I use Zoom video conferencing a lot already, so I put together some tips and tricks for how you can use Zoom for your next nonprofit virtual board meeting or member meeting. ?
Using Zoom For Virtual Board Meetings
Zoom is a video conference platform. First-time users will need to download it, but after that, they can just click the link you provide. Or, if you'd like to make the video part out of it, participants can call into the Zoom meeting without downloading anything.
For a large member meeting, I'd recommend the org signs up with a Pro plan or higher. The free account will kick everyone out of the meeting after 40 minutes. While we wish our meetings would only last half an hour, you know that's probably not realistic. LOL You can learn more about the options here: https://zoom.us/pricing.
Getting the Settings Right
In order for the meeting to work well for large groups, and to avoid “Zoombombers” crashing into your meeting room, make sure you have the settings done correctly. Here's what I recommend, broken out by each tab in the Zoom program:
- Audio type – telephone and computer audio
- Join before host – OFF
- Mute participants on entry – ON
In Meeting Basic
- Chat – ON (I recommend having one board member assigned to monitor the chat and pipe up as needed, it is too hard for the person running the meeting or speaking to try to also track what is happening in the chat)
- Private Chat – OFF
- Autosave chat – ON
- Play sound when joining – OFF
- Co-host – ON (make a couple of people co-host so it doesn’t get overwhelming and someone can help mute and unmute, etc.)
- Polling – ON (so you can vote and record the votes – please try it before during exec meeting so you see how it works) Host will see polls next to chat on the lower bar in the zoom meeting window.
In Meeting Advanced
- Waiting Room – OFF for public meetings (this feature is great for controlling admission to the meeting though) – ON for private meetings or where the board may have to go into a closed session – you can put people back out into the waiting area. This can also be accomplished by putting a user “on hold”
- Show Join from your browser link – ON (in case the app gives anybody trouble or they don't want to use the app, they can join from browser only).
- I would NOT record the meeting. Just too much possibility for things to get crazy, let’s let the minutes be the record as usual.
- Be sure to select “Mask phone number in participant list” as ON (protect people’s privacy please!)
Hosting Your Virtual Board Meeting on Zoom
When you start your virtual board meeting, give people a few minutes to join. Start with thanking everyone for making the time to join and talk about some stuff that doesn’t matter that much for a couple of minutes to allow stragglers to join and get settled.
Do a quick run-through of the technology for everyone –
“If you can’t hear you can test your audio by using the drop-down menu in the lower-left corner next to the mic symbol.”
“If you’re having trouble with your video you can check or turn off your video in the lower left corning using the video menu.”
“Your line will remain muted by the host to avoid feedback sounds and to be sure the person speaking can be heard by others.” (If you are having a large meeting where people will speak, call on them or have them raise their hand to talk. Small groups can usually handle taking turns okay. Your mileage may vary).
“You’ll see a chat button on the bottom of your screen. Click that to open the chat window – that is where you can pose questions. Tonight our chat monitor is _____, they will be monitoring the chat and ensure that we address questions along the way. Go ahead and keep your chat window open if you like, or minimize it at any time using the x in the top left corner of the chat window.”
“(If you’re giving people the ability to talk) Tonight there may be an opportunity to comment. If you want to speak, please let us know through the chat window. We will keep a list of those who raised their hand and call on you when it’s your turn. Each person will have the floor for 2 minutes, so please limit your comments to 2 minutes. When your time is up we will mute your mic and call on the next person.”
“(If you’re taking votes) Tonight there will be a chance for members to vote. When the time comes, the host will publish a poll. You can see the poll in the chat window and vote at that time. We will give a couple of minutes of time for voting and then close the poll and announce the results.”
Related link: 3 Secret Tips to be Better at Board Meetings
So, now what?
These are just some guidelines I've developed based on my experiences using Zoom. If you're thinking of hosting a board or member meeting on the platform, get an account, and familiarize yourself with it! Zoom is a very powerful tool? And with the right settings in place it is very secure (Zoom provides industry-standard encryption too).
If you're running into pandemic-related issues, I'm here to help! I've created a special reduced-cost consultation package just for you. Schedule now at https://birkenlaw.as.me/urgentcare.