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Managing Q&A at your virtual or hybrid AGM

The Q&A session in any meeting is always challenging – an unscripted and occasionally contentious time where members can ask anything and everything of the Chair and your Board. Gathering member voice, and giving every member the right to have their voice heard, is vital to the success of any association, but if there isn’t a clear strategy on how Q&A should work at your meeting, there could be unwelcome consequences.

This situation can feel harder to control if some – or all – of your members are attending remotely, or if your board members are also separate from the attendees, or even each other. We know that many associations are preparing to make their next AGM hybrid – or in some cases, fully virtual – and so we have put together a guide to help you handle Q&A successfully.

Having a robust question management process in place to manage any Q&A session at your annual meeting is crucial – but arguably this is even more important when some or all of your members are attending online.

This guide will address some of the questions that we hear most frequently from working with member-based associations across the world.

Can my members ask questions in real-time if they are using the Lumi platform?

Absolutely. Any online attendees can submit their question by typing it into the messaging function within the platform, and this question can then be read out by the chair so that all attendees can hear it.

Questions that are submitted through the platform are also visible in the question feed, once they have been published.

What if we have so many questions submitted that we can’t get through them all?

Where time does not permit a response or an acknowledgment of every individual question put to the meeting, organizations should look to publish all the questions asked – together with the answer that would have been given – in an easily accessible location, for example, the website.

This full transparency will demonstrate that each individual member’s voice has been heard, and will encourage greater member engagement.

How can I prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing my meeting?

Each member will be supplied with their unique login credentials - which are often based on their membership ID number, or an email address – together with a password, to enable them to securely authenticate into your meeting.

If you are concerned about unauthorized access, the Lumi platform can restrict access to only one login per credential, to prevent multiple people using the same account to join the meeting.

How do I maintain trust if I moderate messages?

If a particularly vexatious topic is going to be discussed, that could result in a significant number of questions being put to the meeting, moderation is a good tool to help you manage this. But it could also disenfranchise your members, who may feel that not all questions are being answered, or that the board is only selecting certain individuals to respond to.

If you are going to have moderation turned on, it is important to let your members know in advance that this is happening, and your reasons for doing so. Building trust with your members, particularly when establishing confidence in a hybrid or virtual meeting environment, is key. Consider who will manage message moderation, and what your protocols are for moderation. Publishing a full list of questions asked at the end of the meeting could be considered best practice.

If I have members in-room and online, how does the chair decide which questions to answer?

Depending on the volume of questions from each group of attendees, many associations choose to alternate between taking one question from the floor, and one from the online group.

If you have a particularly hot topic, grouping questions around the same theme could be a good strategy to deal with a large volume of questions.

Can I moderate messages that are submitted online?

There are two settings within the Lumi platform. Moderation OFF will allow your audience to have their say freely, without censorship. Leaving the moderation off means as soon as a participant sends a message, it will appear straight away for all meeting attendees, the board, and the chair to see.

Moderation ON means messages can be reviewed by a Lumi technician or a member of your team before being published. This functionality often removes the fear around what questions might be received from online attendees, allowing inappropriate language or content, or questions that may have been addressed previously to be removed from the live question feed.

How can I prevent an agitated member from disrupting the meeting?

As with a live, in-room meeting, there is always the potential that a member, or a small group of members, feel strongly about a particular topic, and try to disrupt the meeting.

If the member is attending virtually, they could potentially send in tens or even hundreds of messages to disrupt the Q&A session. If that does happen, it is possible to block the member(s). They won’t be aware that they have been blocked, but it frees the messaging functionality up for members with genuine questions, to have their voices heard.