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The Chronical of a New Experience

The first video conference IFA AGM – born in a crisis as a possible instrument for the future?

Due to the covid-19 crisis the physical IFA AGM on 9th May 2020 at the Horniman Museum and Gardens in London had to be cancelled. This decision was made on 17th March, when all Museums in the UK closed until June.

The same evening the committee started to discuss the option of a video conference AGM with Zoom technology, which was new to us.

On 19th March all delegates were informed of the cancelled AGM in London.

On 26th March the IFA chairperson and vice chairperson had the first Zoom meeting together and decided to propose to the committee that we hold a video conference AGM by Zoom on 9th May (as we are legally obliged to hold an AGM by a set time) and worked out a possible concept.

On 29th March the concept with deadlines was sent to the committee and agreed. All members would be sent out a special Mail Chimp letter with 250-word reports by the President and every committee member, the agenda and the full AGM information. The number of participants had to be limited in the same way as the physical meeting. This first video conference AGM was conceived as a test with the chance for members from abroad to participate.

On 4th April the committee held a first test Zoom meeting, with an agenda focused on the AGM. More such Zoom meetings had been held previously and we discovered the Zoom method of voting.

On 26th April the Mail Chimp letter to all members had been sent out with the request to send all questions regarding the agenda, reports, accounts, elections and change of Articles of Association and requests to participate by 4th May. We also asked for proposers and seconders for the motions.

On 2nd May a test meeting was held with a larger group, including the regional coordinators.

On 8th May the Zoom invitation for the AGM on 9th May was sent to the delegates.

Mandy, vice chairperson, was the host of all these meetings and quickly increased her Zoom knowledge, testing this technology and sending out all the Mail Chimp information.

Johanna, chairperson, created a to do list and a detailed script for the AGM with an extra point by point agenda description, which was discussed by the committee. Importantly, similar to a role in the theatre, every video role had an “understudy”, just in case there were any technical problems or a breakdown of a video connection.

We decided that, apart from the committee, all the delegates would turn off the video camera, to mute the sound and to use the chat option. We decided that only a few committee members would speak during the meeting to avoid connection problems. We decided that no discussion from the floor would be possible. Delegates had to ask their important questions in advance.

The host opened the Zoom meeting in good time before the start of the AGM with the membership secretary checking the names of the delegates, explaining how the meeting would run and organise a test vote, before the chairperson started to lead through the agenda. The host counted the votes, delegates used the Zoom instruction “hands up” if available on their device, otherwise they could use the chat facility. The delegates used the chat facility, which was overviewed by a committee member as chat master, who then raised the delegate’s questions to the committee.

Finally, 41 delegates from Australia, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK joined this virtual meeting. It was a success to meet each other in this way. After the formal part, everyone joined with video and sound for a joint discussion. Although there was no physical contact, it was nice to meet up in this way with the membership.

We can say, that this first video conference AGM was a great success and the committee received some good feedback.

Written by Johanna Rösti, IFA Chair | Edited by Mandy Nash, IFA Vice-chair