Top 5 Hints for a Successful Online AGM

At Orchestras Canada, we have been hosting Annual General Meetings online for the past 7 years and we’re never looking back! Have you been considering hosting your own online this year with, you know, COVID and all? We have put together a guide for you. On October 16, we presented a webinar entitled “How to Plan an Online Annual General Meeting” for orchestra people from coast to coast, and here’s a quick recap of what we shared.

Note: at OC, we use the Zoom Meetings app, with a “Pro” level paid account. We are cost-conscious, and so we have taken advantage of TechSoup Canada’s Zoom offers.

1- Organization is key!

This is really no secret in the world of events, concerts and orchestras: any successful event starts with thorough organization, and in the case of AGMs, there’s a lot to keep in mind.  We recommend starting with your by-law or other governing documents and determine the following: 

    • Who can participate? Who can vote?
    • How many voting participants do you need to achieve quorum?
    • Will you allow non-voting guests, and how will you control voting?
    • Do you allow proxy or advanced voting? 
    • How far in advance do you need to issue your first official notice of meeting?
    • How will you share agenda and supporting materials and how far in advance of the meeting do you need to do that?
    • Communicate early and plan several follow-ups to achieve the quorum you need. Anticipate some no-shows, so get more than the minimum registrations.
    • What kind of post-AGM records will you need? Attendance list? Voting record? Requiring participants to register will help to capture some of this information. 

Once you’ve figured these things out, you’ll need to set up the meeting in Zoom! Here is a short video to show you how:

2- Script it all!

We all like to be spontaneous, but an Annual General Meeting is already stressful enough (and there’s an audience)!  So why risk it? Everything should be scripted to help ease nerves and ensure that you accomplish what you need to.  This includes who will introduce motions, and the exact wording of the motions. Create an annotated agenda, indicating who speaks when, who handles continuity between speakers, who asks for seconders, timing of polls.  To help you out, here’s an annotated agenda from OC’s last AGM

3- Practice makes perfect

As in music, the more practice you do, the better you get at it! We highly recommend scheduling a practice session a day or two before your AGM with all of your speakers. You can trouble shoot for technical issues, and check for unstable internet connections, slides that don’t make sense, and polls that don’t want to work. This does not need to be a long rehearsal: ours was only 15 minutes long, but it was really useful in confirming our plan for the day of the meeting.

4- Make it look good!

Create a single PowerPoint presentation for the entire meeting and assign one person to advance the slides. This will eliminate awkward pauses as speakers attempt to share their own screens. 

Set up a welcome slide that members will see when they join: it should include the event title and some technical tips for participating. 

Other tips:

  • Include the name and role (e.g. president) of individual speaking in the footer of each slide
  • Apply usual principles for slide presentations: not too much content per slide, attractive design, uniform font size, and strategic use of images
  • The 5/5/5 rule may be a good guideline: no more than five words per line of text, five lines of text per slide, or five text-heavy slides in a row.

Your PowerPoint presentation is essential to the success of your online AGM, so make it look good! It should please both the eyes and the brain. Make sure the font is big enough, make the slides colourful, make it informative! Include where the Polls will happen, who is speaking at the moment, and why not a couple of photos? Here is an example of the PowerPoint presentation that we put together for our last AGM.

5- The ultimate task list

You’ve been waiting for it, so here it is: our compilation of mostly-background tasks that need to be thought-through and assigned to ensure a smooth meeting.  You could think of them as the jobs that need to be done by the meeting secretary, the meeting host, and the meeting technician:

Meeting secretary:

  • Starting and pausing recording if needed
  • Taking attendance (for the record and quorum) 
  • Reporting to the host at the start of the meeting when the first AGM notice was issued 
  • Launching Polls
  • Reporting to the host on votes received by advance ballot, if you have that option
  • Sharing poll results and confirming a motion is passed
  • Taking minutes (recording will be a helpful back-up)

Meeting host (can be one of the presenters)

  • Welcoming participants
  • Ensuring meeting continuity 
  • Identifying seconder for motions (from raised hands)
  • Confirming results of polls
  • Monitoring and managing the chat: posting any relevant links and bringing any questions to the attention of the chair

Meeting technician

  • Serving as contact person (email and/or cellphone) for members needing a reminder of meeting coordinates, or trouble shooting technical issues before and during the meeting
  • Letting participants into the meeting room, both before and during the meeting
  • Sharing and advancing the slide presentation (host will pass screen share to this individual)
  • Making motions (presenters can do this and motions should be in the annotated script)
  • Starting and pausing recording if needed

Bonus: Post AGM tips and tricks

Recordings and Reports

  • Download any Zoom reports within 30 days of the meeting – they are deleted after that
  • You’ll want to keep some information for your records:
    • Registration report
    • Polling report (can also serve as a back-up attendance list)

Here is a video showing where to find those reports:

  • Help with Minutes:
    • If you’ve set it up to do so, Zoom with notify you when the meeting recording is available – typically 3 files are generated: video, audio, and the text file of the chat log
  • Follow-up Communications:
    • Report on AGM activities and updates, and thank participants in a post-AGM newsletter or other communication

Still curious and want to learn more? Here are some useful links:

Recording of the Webinar

Slides of the Webinar