Due to the evolving COVID-19 situation, we’re expecting that the vast majority of town and ward committee meetings will be conducted via phone or video conferencing. A more detailed guide can be found here, but here’s what you need to know when it comes to scheduling, planning, and running your meeting:
Step 1. Give members plenty of notice.
Let folks know about your meeting at least 7 days in advance and post the details of the meeting publicly. Email your membership and don’t be afraid to follow up with a phone call the day before the meeting. You can find an example of a public notice here.
Step 2. Choose your conferencing tool.
From Zoom.us to UberConference, there are many different tools you can use to host your meetings. The most important things? Make sure the tool allows for phone participation and allows the organizer to mute and unmute participants. If you do use an option that allows computer/visual participation, choose one that allows the participant to register by name.
Zoom is one of MassDems’ go-to tools:
- Free for up to 100 participants but limited to 40 minutes at a time
- Paid accounts are $14.99/ month
- Administered on computer through the Zoom app
- Participants can dial in or join through the computer
- Register participants ahead of time through email or Google calendar invite.
A list of more options can be found here.
Step 3. Ask for help.
Most importantly: test, test, test. Make sure you know how the tool works before you start your meeting. Take time to familiarize yourself with the functions, and try to troubleshoot any difficulties ahead of time. Set up a trial conference with your family or friends beforehand or invite members to a pre-call to work out the kinks and give people information about how the meeting will work.
It’s difficult to manage participants and run the meeting at the same time. We recommend that you recruit two volunteers to help with the technical aspects of the call. These volunteers should be in charge of muting and unmuting speakers, communicating with members who are having technical difficulties, and maintaining your roll and tracking votes during balloting. Share a separate phone number that invited members can call or text if they are having problems logging/dialing in.
Step 4. Set the rules and agenda.
In advance of your meeting, send members the meeting agenda and the rules for the call. Additionally, you should:
- Let them know how virtual participation tools will work, including how to mute and unmute themselves, and ask questions.
- Inform them that you’ll be taking a roll call vote, so it’s important that they register using their full name, and that their vote will be public.
- Provide the contact information of your volunteers, and instruct members to call them if they have any technical difficulties registering, joining the call, or during the meeting.
Step 5. Start your call!
Here are our pro-tips for hosting an online meeting:
- Start your call 10-15 minutes before your scheduled start time to greet folks as they hop on and give yourself time to sort out technical difficulties.
- Begin the meeting by muting all participants, or instructing them to mute themselves.
- Explain the process of the call, the agenda, how you’ll take votes, and how participants can unmute themselves and ask questions.
- Offer the phone number of your volunteers in case there are technical difficulties.
- Make sure you speak slowly, clearly, and repeat any important information. Votes should be repeated back fully with the voters name and vote:
Chair: Erin Smith, you may vote for 3 attendees: 1 male, 1 female and one of any gender. How do you vote?
Erin: I vote for Mike, Sally and Jessica
Chair: Erin Smith votes for Mike Rushing, Sally Murphy and Jessica Simons. Is that correct?
Chair: Thank you. Phil Smith, you may vote for 3 attendees: 1 male, 1 female and one of any gender. How do you vote?
- Call on voters in an expected and regular way, we recommend alphabetically.
- End your call by reiterating the phone numbers of your tech volunteer so people can report any technical issues they may have had.
Step 6. Follow up.
Don’t forget to follow up with members after the call! Email or call people and reconfirm the results, repeat any important information, and ask for feedback!