This year’s AGM will be online
Phoenix Yacht Club’s financial year ends 31st December, so we usually hold our Annual General Meeting in February; to report the financial results from the previous year, appoint an Honorary Auditor, vote on any rule changes or other resolutions and elect a new Management Committee.
In normal years, in addition to the formal business above, the AGM provides an excellent opportunity for all members to meet face to face, learn about the sailing opportunities that are planned throughout the year and enjoy a few drinks and a meal together. Unfortunately the current Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdown has forced us, like many other organisations, to hold our AGM online. The aim of this article is to explain how we are planning to conduct the AGM to make it as similar to a physical meeting as possible, and cater for both the formal and social activities that we normally enjoy.
While there are many web based meeting platforms available, Zoom seems to have become everyone’s favourite during the pandemic and is widely used in business, for people having meetings from home, as well as by friends and families staying in contact with each other. At PYC we have been using it for the last year to host formal Management and Sailing Committee meetings, as well as ad-hoc discussions, and the two finance presentations last November, which were attended by around half of the Club. During these presentations we established that the Chat facility was a good way to capture questions from the audience and that the Survey feature was a good way to get immediate feedback from those present. In many ways the sessions were more interactive than a physical meeting.
Zoom meetings are free to attend and it is also free to set up your own Zoom account. Free accounts let you have as many calls as you wish, but are limited to 40 minutes duration. For the AGM we will be using a paid-for account so there are no limits on duration and although there is a 100-person limit, we can upgrade to allow up to 500 people to connect. We will be asking members to pre-register for the AGM so that we will be sure the meeting will be quorate and also know if it is necessary to upgrade to cope with a huge attendance.
The AGM will follow the usual format with the Treasurer’s Report and Auditor’s Report being presented, with a proposal, second and “show of hands” to accept the 2020 Accounts and Auditor’s Report. Given the financial challenges we have faced in the last year, there will be a further presentation from the Treasurer outlining the planning assumptions that have been made by the Management Committee and the resulting Membership and Sailing fees that will be charged in 2021-22.
The Rear Commodore – Sailing will then give his report with a review of the past year and an outline of the activities proposed in the coming year.
We have space on the agenda to discuss and vote on any resolutions, but the Management Committee are not proposing any rule changes or other resolutions this year, so this item is a placeholder in case any resolutions should be raised.
Next we move to Elections of Officers to the Management Committee. If any positions are contested then we will have to have an election, which in a physical meeting would be conducted by secret ballot. We describe below how we can conduct an online election, if necessary.
The final items are the appointment of the Honorary Auditor, who must be proposed and seconded, then confirmed by a show of hands, Any Other Business and the Chair’s closing remarks.
Voting and Elections
Voting to accept the Accounts and Auditor’s Report, as well as on any General Resolutions, is normally conducted by a show of hands with the Chair deciding the outcome. These items are rarely controversial and support is normally unanimous and recorded as such. It may be hard for the Chair to “scan the room” in an online format, so instead we will use the Zoom Poll function to capture responses. This will allow us to quickly “ask the audience” but does have the disadvantage that if two people are sharing one Zoom connection they will only get one vote. If you are part of a couple and concerned about this then we suggest each connecting independently, even if the second connection is a smartphone, so that you each get a vote.
For Special Resolutions (e.g. to change the Articles of Association of the Club, which need a 75% majority) and for Elections of Management Committee members we need to follow a more stringent process. In a physical meeting we would issue ballot papers to all members present, ensuring “one member, one vote” and appoint tellers to count and report the votes. Should it be necessary to hold an online election (and we don’t yet know that it will be) then we will use Election Buddy to manage the voting. This is a well established system used by thousands of organisations to conduct online elections.
Election Buddy will email a unique voting link to each member entitled to vote. The system ensures that each member can only vote once, but does not reveal how each member voted, it just reports the total votes cast for each candidate or option. Voting will be enabled in advance of the AGM and close after any Special Resolutions have been discussed. This will enable members unable to attend the AGM to vote in advance, avoiding the need for proxy votes, and for those who do attend the meeting to listen to any debate before casting their vote at the last minute.
Post Meeting Social
Usually, once the formal meeting is over we adjourn to the bar for a meal and a drink. There are normally poster displays with information about the summer cruise(s) and the opportunity to talk to the Training and Racing Officers about events they have planned. The upside to an online event is that no-one has to drive home, so we do suggest that you make sure you are well supplied with suitable provisions to see you through the meeting. It’s a good excuse to order a takeaway delivery and enjoy your favourite tipple!
It may be a bit chaotic if everyone is trying to chat in a single Zoom session so we are planning themed “breakout rooms”. You will be able to move between the main meeting room and the breakout rooms as you wish and we will keep all rooms open for as long as there are people in them. Suggestions for breakout rooms would be welcome – we are planning rooms for Summer Cruise discussion, Training and Racing but are open to other ideas – maybe a Quiz or Karaoke if anyone wants to organise it? Sea Shanties seem to be popular on TikTok at the moment!
There is no obligation to stay beyond the end of the formal meeting, but we hope you will take the opportunity to stay on and mingle with your friends at PYC. We’ve had little opportunity to meet up in the past year so it would be great to be able to catch up on each others’ news.
If you have any questions about all this please drop me an email and I will create a list of Frequently Asked Questions.
Steve Greenham, PYC Secretary