In recent years, appetite for digital innovation to increase member engagement has grown. And this is especially true at the annual meeting or congress – a key forum for members to engage with those associations they are part of. Since 2019, the number of organizations transitioning to a hybrid or virtual meeting has risen by 500%. At Lumi, we have run more hybrid or virtual meetings than any other provider globally, conducting over 4000 meetings in 2020. That number is set to increase this year.
Whilst there is the impetus for change, businesses and membership organizations are having a tough time identifying how to best fulfil their obligations under their Articles of Association, and to demonstrate good governance. and comply with governance directives such as SRD II. This is most notably evidenced in the extensive variety of Annual Meetings taking place: from behind-closed-doors meetings and closed-meetings with a pre-recorded broadcast, to Hybrid models which allow for written Q&A but not spoken questions, to fully hybrid or virtual meetings which allow for spoken questions and full debate – organizations are still grappling with how to make the voices of their membership heard.
Detractors of the digital annual meeting pin their misgivings on the old-fashioned idea that a member must be able to look leadership in the eyes, and have their issues answered. Whilst that is certainly a critical consideration for all organizations— the digital format allows the same opportunities for circumspection, despite the remoteness of the medium.
For privately held organizations and membership associations, allowing for verbal debate is at the heart of this conversation. A foundational aspect of these organizations is the free-flowing discourse that runs between boards and their stakeholders. Unlike listed companies which have more rigid structures for interaction, here, delegates must be able to ‘put themselves in line’ to speak, without the difficulty of being stifled through a chat function.
This is where Robert’s rules come into play. As with democratic governmental bodies, at a meeting of stakeholders, in accordance with Robert’s Rules: a member of a deliberative assembly has the right to attend meetings, make motions, speak in debate, and vote. Put simply, attendees of an online annual meeting must be heard.
How can organizations ensure member’s voices are heard?
Thanks to Lumi’s integration with Zoom and our sophisticated messaging and speaker queuing functionality, our platform is built to power full debate and interaction. Members can put themselves in line to speak, indicating whether For or Against a motion, or indicate a Point of Order for example. The Presider is then able to quickly identify and call upon speakers from the floor to make their points. This can be coupled with the speaker’s webcam if required. Voting and Elections too are seamlessly managed within the platform allowing for business to be conducted effortlessly as if members were in the same room.
With these tools in place, all the traditional benefits of a physical Annual Meeting can be achieved within the parameters of a hybrid or virtual meeting. Whilst the tenants of a well-run Annual Meeting or House of Delegates assembly will remain steadfast, the ways in which organizations provide opportunities for interaction will evolve. Innovation is, happily, inevitable. So, if you’re looking for new ways to interact with your membership and delegates, contact a member of our expert team to learn how Lumi can help bring those goals to life.