The Strauss Blog

Preparing for Meetings Held During an Association’s Annual Conference

Just as you might hold an annual backyard BBQ or a yearly food drive, an association will host its annual conference. This tends to be an association management team’s busiest time of the year. Not only does the event manager have to plan and prepare all that is involved in the conference itself, but other members of the team will also be busy organizing meetings taking place at the same time – because what better time to hold such meetings than when the majority of members are all together under one roof? This may prove to quite the juggling act, but if executed properly, all meetings should run without a hitch.

The meeting I would like to focus on for this article is the Annual General Meeting of members. How can a meeting of members occur while the conference is also taking place? Well, I’ll tell you how, and touch on other meetings and events that could also coincide with the conference, such as the board of directors meeting, committee meetings, and even an exam period.

Annual General Meetings of Members

An association is required to hold an Annual General Meeting (AGM) every year to accomplish a variety of objectives: present and approve the audited financial statements, appoint accountants (auditors), elect directors, and transact further and/or other business. This is a meeting for members only, and non-member conference delegates are not encouraged to attend. Scheduling the AGM during the conference can be tricky, but from my experience, it works well to host it during a mealtime break (i.e. early morning breakfast or lunchtime), as this will ensure that members do not miss any presentations or speeches.

Before the AGM can begin, you will need to provide the scrutineers with the membership sign-in sheets. A scrutineer is often a board member that will ensure that members are signed-in, seated and have all the required items for the meeting (e.g. voting ballots). They will set up at the entrance with clipboards or circulate the room after everyone has been seated. This is how voting members will mark their attendance to ensure that quorum is met. Once the chair has called the meeting to order, the scrutineers will provide the attendance numbers to the chair, who will determine if the meeting can proceed.

Some members may be unable to attend the meeting. For this reason, you need to ensure that proxy forms are delivered to the members with the notice announcing the time and place of the AGM at least 21 days before the meeting so that they can vote on the motions of the meeting. Make sure to count all proxy forms received before the AGM as they will count towards quorum. More details on timing can be found in our blog article on timing milestones for non-profits.

The past year’s meeting minutes and audited (or externally reviewed) financial statements also need to be distributed to members. You can provide these at the entrance to members, or you can scatter them among the chairs in the room before the meeting starts. You could also ask the scrutineers to help with this.

Like at a board of directors meeting, you will also need to take the minutes for the AGM (see my past blog article on preparing for association board meetings for more information). These minutes are more technical but are usually shorter and easier to take. The most important notes to include are the meeting’s start and end times, who moved and seconded a motion (you can even contact members to move or second motions ahead of time), and any other business that may arise at the end of the meeting.

For minute-taking during the meeting, use a printed copy of the current chair’s script and jot down all the pertinent information on the script itself. As the chair reads through the script, you will be able to take notes with ease. It is once you get back to the office when you can formally prepare the minutes. As AGM formalities usually remain unchanged from year to year, you can use the minutes from the last year and update the information so that it is reflective of the current year’s information.

At the end of the meeting, remember to pick up any remaining documents that were left in the room as these are confidential and should be shredded and disposed of immediately.

As noted above, there are items and documents required for the AGM to be successful. Instead of packing these things in your personal suitcase, they could be sent via delivery to the conference site at least five days before:

  • Previous year’s meeting minutes
  • Previous year’s audited financial statements
  • Voting ballots
  • Member sign-in sheets with clipboards and pens
  • Copies of the chair’s script

If there are additional items you may need, don’t hesitate to add them to the shipment box. The less you need to bring with you, the better.

Once the draft minutes have been finalized, send them to the meeting chair for review. Save the reviewed version for next year’s AGM, where they can be formally approved by the membership.

Other Meetings & Events

While the meetings and events detailed in this section are not required to take place, they are still instrumental to an association’s success, which is why it is important that they are also held at least annually.

Board and committee meetings should be held the week of the conference. It is important to keep a schedule of the specific details and requirements of all meetings to not let anything fall through the cracks. Preparation for in-person meetings can be done ahead of time to ensure smooth sailing. For instance, give everyone enough notice of the meeting’s details, such as room name/number and start time.

Have copies of the agenda at the meeting table for members as they enter the room. The agenda should be finalized at least a week before the meeting, as explained in my previous blog article, Critical Paths Designed for Recurrent In-Person Board Meetings. It is also a good idea to bring pens and notepads to allow meeting attendees to take down their own notes. If the conference is in another city, plan to send meeting materials via a delivery service, along with the AGM items, so you don’t have to worry about taking anything with you.

Keep in mind that meeting notes tend to be lengthier for a board meeting than for an AGM, therefore it is a good idea to create an outline of the upcoming meeting using the items from the agenda. Remember not to write everything down verbatim, but rather only the key points of the discussion.

While you might not be directly involved in each of these meetings, you will be expected to know where all meetings are being held, who will be attending, and whether they require anything for the meeting (i.e. teleconference system, television, food and beverage). Add all this information to the schedule of meetings I have referenced earlier.

In addition to board and committee meetings, there may also be other events during an association’s annual conference, such as an examination period. This would likely be the case if the association also happens to be an accreditation body. For the exams, ensure that all examination materials are personalized, printed and shipped on time. Ask the association’s event manager to book a room for the exam(s) and ensure that proper signage is at the entrance of each room, so candidates know where to go. Provide the invigilators with everything they will need to conduct each exam via email a few days before, as well as in print on the day of. Communication between yourself, invigilators/proctors and exam candidates should be clear and concise.

To conclude, the next time your team plans an association’s annual conference, take advantage of the fact that many of the members will be present in the same space. Allow members to come together by organizing meetings and events to promote networking and growth.