Organizing and conducting a general meeting online as a club? Doesn't sound like classic club life. Nevertheless, online meetings can be a good way - especially in times of Covid19 - to hold general meetings and thus bring a bit more momentum into the club's life. But with online meetings there are certain guidelines that should be followed so that you don't get into trouble afterwards.
In Germany, clubs were allowed to hold general meetings online without prior registration in the articles of association until the end of 2021 "to mitigate the consequences of the pandemic in civil, insolvency and criminal procedure law".
But even after the expiration of this law, online meetings have many advantages and are still used by a lot of associations.
To make sure that your club is well equipped to conduct general meetings online, we have compiled an overview for you:
Jitsi Meet is an open-source tool that does not require downloading any software or anything similar. A new video conference (for up to 100 people) can be started for free and without registration.
The participants receive a URL and then can easily enter the conference. If required, a password can also be set. Since Jitsi Meet works without creating an account, no personal data is collected and everything is end-to-end encrypted.
Zoom is a video conferencing tool that can be used to hold a meeting for up to 40 minutes with a maximum of 100 participants free of charge. Those who need more time or participants have to switch to paid models.
Zoom also offers the option of setting passwords and creating waiting rooms, among other things. Zoom is often criticized for its poor data protection, so if you want to be on the safe side, you should take a closer look at Zoom.
MS Teams is part of the Office package from Microsoft.
Here you can claim 60 minutes with 100 participants for free. In addition, there is 5 GB of cloud storage. Before using MS Teams, you should also find out more about the compliance of the application with the GDPR.
Bbb server, which is based on the BigBlueButton open source software, offers a GDPR compliant video conferencing tool.
In the free trial version, only two connections are allowed. Those who need more have to pay monthly for the service. bbb server hosts in Europe and offers a privacy-compliant platform.
Important: All necessary information should be communicated to all club members in advance: What tools will be used? How does the login work? How does the whole thing work in general? All questions from your members should be clarified so that there is no confusion on the day of the event.
Don't forget to think about whether and how you want to conduct discussions, for example. Will members be connected via video? Is there a live chat that will be regularly involved in the discussion? Who will moderate the meeting and make sure all members feel heard? Among other things, the right to speak and the right to information also apply to online meetings.
Of course, it's best to rely on your experience. If your club has held every general meeting on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. up to now, this should not deviate too much online.
It is important that as many members as possible also have time, because depending on the statutes even a certain proportion of members must be present at a meeting, otherwise decisions are void. Since there is no need to travel to an online meeting, this can even be easier.
If a new date is needed, your club can let your members vote for a suitable date themselves. This way everyone feels involved in the decision and it is ensured that the members really do have time.
The following list describes a few voting or survey tools are available to help make voting online easy and organized:
Doodle is probably the most popular tool for online polls or voting.
Your club can create online polls for free and without registration. If you want to use features like automatic reminders, you’ll need to use a paid plan.
As Doodle was often criticized for lack of data protection, it’s better to check yourself if your Doodle plan is GDPR compliant or not.
A tool with a similar name is Dudle. Dudle was developed by the Technical University of Dresden in Germany and the collected data is processed for research purposes only.
In addition, all surveys that have not been processed for 2 months are automatically deleted.
Nuudel is a product of Digitalcourage, an organization which is highly committed to data protection in general. Nuudel does not track users, you don't need your own email address, and you don't have to enter your real last name.
Google also offers a survey tool: Google Forms. Again, check the data protection. As a rule, a business account must be used for Google services in order to ensure data protection-compliant use.
In general, the following applies: since the ECJ declared the EU-US Privacy Shield Agreement invalid in 2020, the use of US services is problematic.
If a well-known date is used, a voting tool is still practical. Your club, for example, can use the tool to confirm an already determined date. This way, your club can see directly how many members cancel and can then look for a new date.
Not only finding an appointment requires votes. Even the all-familiar elections can take place online, as long as the legal regulations for elections are observed.
The advantages of an online election are clear: anyone can vote from anywhere, he or she just needs to have access to an Internet-enabled device.
In addition, voter turnout can increase because absent members can more easily participate in the election. In addition, counting is no longer necessary, as most tools provide election results in real time.
There are online tools that can help you to conduct your election in an online general meeting:
Voteme.app offers online voting and especially for general meetings integrated live streams, proof of identity and more. Voters need to download the VoteMeApp that is available for both Android and iOS for free.
Polyas enables you to run your online election for a base price of $59,59. There is a price calculator on the website where you can check how much an election would cost you if you decide to choose Polyas.
ElectionBuddy lets you set up an election for up to 20 voters. If your club has more voters, you can choose one of the paid plans. You can also create an account for free and test until you’re ready to start your election and once you’re ready to start, pay for it.
Any falsification of the results must be avoided, even online. Before an election that is to be conducted online, you should always check whether the selected tool may also be used in compliance with all regulations and laws.
Even in online events or meetings there still needs to be a recorder present. He or she must still take notes of the entire meeting and document what was decided on.
As a rule, meeting invitations are sent by mail to ensure that they are received correctly. If your club now wants to send them by email, this must also be stated in the club’s statue.
The reason for it is that it’s only permitted if the statue of the club stipulates that invitations can also be sent by email. In addition, the invitation deadline must also be observed for email invitations.
In addition, your club must ensure that only club members have access rights to the online session. Ideally, each club member should be given a password to log in to the session.
It must also be ensured during online meetings that voting or elections take place under suffrage.
Of course, data protection must also be taken into account for online events. Your club should therefore make sure that everything is done in compliance with the GDPR.
It's best to always test beforehand so that everything runs smoothly. Nothing is more annoying than finding out during the event that you have to change some things again.
No need for traveling
If your general meeting is conducted online, you don't have to worry about members being late. No one can be stuck in traffic. Only the W-LAN has to work, of course.
Accessible for more members
No more crowded meeting rooms, no more space issues with online meetings. Everyone can participate from the comfort of their own home or on the go.
No additional effort
If there is still a call for a get-together after meetings, this also requires more effort. Food should also be provided. Even if normally, for example, the club members themselves bring food to share, there is no such effort online.
Lack of face-to-face interaction
Online events are no substitute for face-to-face conversations. The personal interaction that simply makes up club life is missing.
More difficult communication
Misunderstandings can occur more quickly. Facial expressions and gestures are difficult to interpret over video. In addition, it’s very difficult to keep track of who wants to say something, especially when in a large group.
A good Internet connection must also be guaranteed at all times. The vast majority of club members will have Internet access at home, but what if someone's Internet goes down? What happens if, for example, the connection to the recorder breaks down?
Lack of Internet access
In order for all members to be able to participate, it must be ensured that everyone has Internet access. A solution must be found for members who have neither a smartphone nor a computer.
Many video conferencing tool providers offer the option of joining in by phone, but this also needs to be clarified beforehand.
Club members can become distracted more quickly during an online event and often only listen with one ear. Being on the cell phone at the same time is a common occurrence. 100% attention is easier achieved during a face-to-face event.
Members have to be on board
Getting all your club members excited about new technologies will not be easy. Especially older members may have problems or objections regarding online meetings.
The Covid19 pandemic taught us that meetings can be easily held online. However, just as with face-to-face meetings, some rules have to be observed. You can also use useful tools that facilitate your planning and execution, even if you have to familiarize yourself with some of them first.
If you not only want to hold your general meeting online, but also your general club communication, then take a look at the club app comparison.
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