As state governments and businesses across the country continued to battle COVID-19 with lockdowns and closures into the winter, many association executives shifted association meeting to a virtual space.
Recent changes to the National Association of REALTORS®’ Core Standards include a requirement that associations have a way to offer virtual meetings to their members. This will look different to each of us, depending on our association’s size and available resources. But working with virtual meeting platforms can deliver great value to members.
Where to Start
There are several virtual meeting platforms you can use; the most common is Zoom. Others include Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, WebEx, and Google Hangouts. Each comes with its own functionalities, limitations, and workarounds, but most will provide a great experience at an affordable price.
Associations with limited budgets should consider partnering with a neighboring association to offset the cost of a videoconferencing platform license. The California Association of REALTORS®, for example, purchased a block of Zoom licenses for its associations to use. This represents a huge cost savings, and expanded licenses often come with advanced features.
Beyond the platform, you need only a few basic tools for a successful meeting: a computer, a camera, and a working audio input. Keep in mind, too, that your tech can malfunction. “I always have a backup computer ready with all of the documents loaded onto it, just in case,” says Jan Marie Ennenga, AE with the Yuma Area Association of REALTORS® in Arizona.
Don’t Go Viral
By now, you might have participated in a video conference call that has gone a bit haywire, or maybe you witnessed something cringeworthy. Members might have checked in while driving, lounging in bed, or talking about something inappropriate on a hot mic. The No. 1 rule of virtual meetings is, “Don’t be that guy.”
Pay attention to what attendees will see and hear. As the host or administrator for your meetings, you will want to watch attendees closely for any unusual behavior. If you see any, you should send a private chat message to let the person know. You may also wish to address the group as a whole at the start of each meeting to outline the rules of proper videoconferencing etiquette.
Offer Tips for Success
Your willingness to help members overcome technology hurdles means a lot to them. Any time you can offer a helping hand instead of criticism, you should do it. “Start out with your housekeeping rules,” says Elizabeth Breen, AE with the Santa Ynez Valley Association of REALTORS® in California. “If members are having issues, call them after the meeting and offer to run a test Zoom with them to troubleshoot sound, video, etc., for future meetings.”
Many associations have produced short videos that offer tips and tricks for virtual meetings. One video produced by Eric Schwartz and the Sprouthouse Agency for the California Association of REALTORS® uses humor to drive its points home, taking members on a “CAR Airways” flight to “Zoomland.” If producing a video isn’t in your budget, a simple tips page that you can screen-share can help.
Sharing responsibilities can keep things running smoothly. Many associations have found that having two hosts on an online meeting is helpful, especially if something goes awry. “Always have a co-host—either staff or a member,” says Kaaren Winkler, CEO of the Tacoma-Pierce County Association of REALTORS® in Washington state. “It is helpful to have another set of eyes on the waiting room, chat box, etc.”