In the spring of 2020, Parliament passed a temporary law that enables e.g. holding meetings of the association remotely, even if it is not stated in the association's rules. The Provisional Act, for this part, will be in force until the summer of 2021. Many associations have to discuss carefully if meetings should be organised physically in compliance with safety and hygiene recommendations or whether it would be better to hold meetings remotely.
This page contains brief tips for remote meetings. In general, it should be noted that organising a remote meeting requires much more preparation from the meeting organisers than a regular physical meeting. It also requires patience and more effort from the participants. It should be remembered that even in remote meetings, the physical location and address of the meeting must be stated if any participants want to arrive in the meeting, but participants can still be encouraged to participate remotely.
Before the remote meeting
- Pre-registration: when convening the meeting, the board may ask the participants to register for the meeting in advance. It is worth doing this so that the meeting organiser has in advance the list of participants and can easily check the membership information. However, take care of the GDPR requirements!
- The tools: for the meeting to run smoothly, it is a good idea to inform the participants in advance what programmes and other tools will be used in the remote meeting. For example, do all participants need to use a camera and microphone with a stable internet connection or are they required to download a Zoom programme on their device, for example. You can ask everyone to present themselves with their first and last name in the programme.
- The importance of the invitation to the meeting is emphasised: if there are important and more complex items on the agenda than usual, it is even more important to prepare and lay the groundwork. If the issue to be decided in the meeting is, for example, an action plan for the coming period, it may be a good idea to gather the participants' opinions in written form in advance. Participants should sign in to the remote programme well in advance before the actual start of the meeting.
During the meeting
- Identification of participants: the identity of the participants must be known to the organisers in the same way as in a physical meeting. The easiest way to do this in small meetings is to have all participants have a camera and microphone on, allowing them to introduce themselves to the organisers of the meeting. Registrations are then compared to a list of participants. Any unknown participants or those participants without a pre-registration should be contacted directly and their membership confirmed.
- If only students of the University of Turku are members, pre-registration can be sent from the person's own UTU address. For a university’s UTU ID, a person must have proven their identity, so the use of personal utu email serves as sufficient proof of identity.
- If the use of the camera is excluded for one reason or another, authentication can also be performed using UTU e-mail. For example, according to the list of participants, each participant is sent some sort of ID (such as a random number sequence) to his or her secured e-mail, which the participant then sends to the secretary at the beginning via private messaging. The possibility of abuse does exist here, of course, but it cannot be completely avoided, even in physical meetings.
- A stable connection is important: Perhaps the most important part of a successful remote meeting is a functioning Internet connection. The functioning shall be ensured and if necessary, a vice-chair, vice vote tellers and vice-scrutinisers may be elected for the meeting, who will assist if the actual organiser member loses contact.
- Rules: it is a good idea to announce at the beginning how the speaking turns will be distributed or how voting is done. The voting procedure should still be approved separately by the participants of the meeting. A good way to handle speeches is to use the chat function built into the programme and ask that anyone who wants to speak express it in the chat, for example, simply by typing "comment" etc. Chat should be reserved for this purpose only. Informal discussion can happen at the same time on another platform.
- Voting: Traditional hand voting can be done on the programme's chat platform, with the chairperson listing the voting options and displaying them on the shared screen, after which each participant writes their options for the chat. Alternatively, you can vote by e-mail, for example. Completely anonymous, i.e. closed ballots, are almost impossible remotely, or at least so troublesome to organise, that it is better to consider whether it is necessary. Here, however, are a few suggestions for methods that should be sufficient for most.
- If it is enough for only the vote tellers to know what and how each voted, you can even use Zoom's private messaging feature or ask participants to email their answers to the vote tellers within a certain time.
- If you want even the tellers not to know what each voted, you can use Webropol, for example. Webropol is primarily a survey platform to which every student at the University of Turku has free access. This requires a little effort to create a survey and send it to participants. From the survey settings, you can specify whether the survey is anonymous and the answers are random. Also, the survey link can be made personalised, in which case it should be sent to all participants in person.
- Paid voting system: https://www.opavote.com/
After the meeting
- Minutes: the minutes can be signed either by sending them by post to all signatories in turn or by using electronic signature services, such as https://vismasign.fi/sahkoinenallekirjoitus/