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Usually, there is a large conference held annually. This year, we are having a virtual conference instead, but this comes with its own challenges. We are all based remotely, dialling in from home. Our directors are all volunteers, so working for IFEAT is essentially a hobby for them! Things are different at the moment, and we haven’t seen each other since February. All our committee meetings are online, our AGM is now online, so there are a lot of big changes.
We are just grateful to be able to keep going minus the physical in-person events we are normally used to holding. We are hoping to be able to go back to that next year even if it’s with fewer people. Normally we do go to a different country every year, but we have been unable to host anything while the travel restrictions are in place, especially considering each different country’s individual travel rules. Despite this, our industry has done well overall.
What is interesting is that many organisations have had to evolve into the current model of remote working, so it’s a new landscape for so many of them. This is something IFEAT have been used to for at least five years now since our members are all in different countries, so distance and remote collaboration go hand in hand for us. But we are losing the in-person part of our operations which is a shame, and we are anxious to change this even if it means we have to introduce a range of policies and procedures to enable this to take place.
We usually hold our AGM as part of our in-person conference held in September/October time. We were supposed to be in Berlin next week, however, it was postponed to April. We were faced with the challenge of how to conduct our AGM if we were not able to hold our conference.
We held off for a couple of months and then considered doing something in London. Our president is based in the UK, I am in Europe, and a couple of other staff members are in the UK, so we thought of getting a small team together and then have other people joining via Zoom or another remote meeting tool. We then realised that this would not work so we began looking at alternatives.
I started researching different platforms and at the same time I contacted our lawyer because according to our articles, we have to hold our AGM this year. Our lawyer informed us that if we held it by the end of September, it would mean we would have to do less in terms of special requests for holding meetings virtually that we would be obliged to do from a legal standpoint. This is why we went for September because we knew we had to get it done. We had to take advice from our lawyers across a number of issues for example was it possible to vote via the platform plus several others.
We had to get it right since it was the first time we’d held a conference in this way and needed to be sure that the product chosen had experience and would meet our requirements. It was between Convene and one other company.
One of the things I immediately liked about Convene was the fact that Veronica would reply immediately with answers to questions. The other platforms were also good in terms of their sales process, however, what Convene was able to say they could do was to handle a tricky situation.
Our members are companies not people, so each company has one vote per resolution. Our membership system is that we have a main contact, a representative for that company’s membership, and we have person members. We want everyone to be able to view the AGM, but we only want the main representative from that company doing the voting. We were keen to avoid a situation where one representative from one company would vote, two from another or three from another, so we needed a system that would be able to control this really carefully.
Convene said that it would be more work for me but that anyone and everyone wishing to attend the AGM could have a link sent to them for them to create their own registration. Since I was sending links to a limited number of individuals it made it easy for me to see that if two members of company had registered, I could inform them that only one member was able to vote, so it gave us added confidence. We only had approximately 70 registrations in the end so the process was really easy to handle!
When I went back to the chairman and explained that Convene was the solution that afforded the most control, he was happy to proceed. And at the same time, Veronica gave us a discount so that of course cemented the agreement!
We spoke to two, one Netherlands based company Lumi, and another smaller solution provider in the UK called Attend2It
No, it was all fine. We set up a working group with myself and my colleague and the Convene team, and they all responded really quickly even though the majority of them were in Asia, with the inevitable time difference considerations. I received immediate responses to emails during the day, and for the ones I sent in the evening my time, I’d receive a response the next day. I had the impression that there would be a lot of work involved, but this turned out not to be the case, and it was much more straightforward than I thought it would be.
It is such an important event, and when we have an in-person conference it is an integral part of the Federations’ year, but actually we have only 50 members physically coming to vote, so it was a similar process to the virtual one where we did exactly the same thing!
The voting process was completed in about 8 minutes. A lot of pre-conference preparation went on to make this happen, and even though the conclusion was so rapid, it was essential that all the necessary steps were taken prior to votes being cast. It went very smoothly.
If there were situations when I had not received any information I requested, these was resolved immediately by return of email. Everyone we dealt with was very friendly and patient. Our president is not very technically oriented so it was good to have helpful suggestions put forward by Convene. I also asked if they could be online about 20 minutes prior to going live and they were online 2 hours prior to the meeting answering any questions which was an added bonus.
The fact that we could actually get this done in the first place! It was the whole convenience of being able to do this from home. It was really straightforward.
If we have to do the same thing next year, then definitely. Especially if it were possible to work with the same team.
Because we are a large international federation, it’s never a problem for us to deal with someone in Singapore or the Philippines. I would definitely recommend Convene Assembly to any organisation unless they are looking to work with an entirely UK based company. Convene Assembly as an AGM product it worked really well for us.
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