The importance of online meetings and live voting in maintaining democracy during pandemic restrictions

 

Exploring the benefits of online meetings and making stakeholders feel involved in decisions

The coronavirus pandemic has led organisations across the globe to administer online meetings where face-to-face meetings were formally the norm.  In some cases, where stakeholders (be it members, shareholders, employees, or tenants), have decision-making rights, the platform used to conduct online meetings is hugely important to the transparency and validity of voting decisions.

If your organisation has obligations to keep your stakeholders involved, it is important during these uncertain times, that you find a way to keep everyone able to participate in decisions via live online meetings, but how do you know if you are using the correct platform?

There are lots of ‘off-the-shelf’ meeting, survey and poll platforms available to organisations, which are easily accessible, especially following pandemic and social distancing restrictions.   However, where voting is included, most of these platforms do not have the proper security or reporting functions required to run truly impartial and transparent live voting.

UK Engage, a leading independent scrutineer and provider of online live voting technology, offers its insight into what makes a good online meeting platform, especially where voting is also required.

Participation:

First, you will want a platform that offers as many functional benefits as possible. For example, if you are running an online meeting whereby you want to invite attendee to join, present the required information and get them to vote on questions and candidates, it is easier if these functions are in one single platform.

Next you will want invited attendees to be able to access your meeting easily, wherever they are and on whatever device they have access to, be it a PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone – device compatibility is essential!

Once in the meeting you want your attendees to have the ability to ask questions at any time during the meeting, whether that is posing a question or remark to the group or raising their hand to be heard. 

Finally, when it comes to participation you will want your attendees to have an experience that is tailored for them.  For example, some attendees may be eligible to vote live on questions or candidates that others are not.  In this scenario, it is necessary for the online meeting platform to have the ability to allow different voter groups to cast votes for different voting options.

Voting:

As previously mentioned, off-the-shelf ballot software or plugins do not have accredited voting technology at the heart of their functionality and are therefore unsuitable for running the secure voting part of your online meeting.  Often voting decisions can be seen by anyone who has access to the ‘back end’ system, who may have a vested interest in the outcome.

Your chosen online meeting platform should allow for encrypted communication during the voting process and complete separation of the voter ID and votes cast when generating results.

Prior to the meeting, attendees should receive an election code-protected link to access the online meeting, ideally sent via the all-in-one system so that information is not duplicated across multiple systems, further enhancing security and reducing risk.

Your online meeting platform should have other live voting functionalities, such as ‘For’, ‘Against’ and ‘Abstain’ voting as well as candidate voting. In order for the timeliest voting possible, it should come with a on/off ballot ‘on command’ function and an adjustable timing window to allow attendees to vote (or re-vote if necessary) before the voting period elapses.

For some types of online meeting voting, it is important that live voting is not anonymous (such as assembly voting, for accountability).  Therefore, opting for a system that offers both anonymous and open voting is preferable for some types of meetings.

Finally, at the end of the voting part of your online meeting, you may want to immediately publicise the voting results or withhold them to announce later.  With an online meeting platform that has a special ‘announcement’ function, this is possible.

Flexibility:

There are some online meetings (which include live voting) that organisations want to run in-house.  Often, the voting element means that meetings have to happen in conjunction with a voting services provider, but this is not always the case.  With a self-service platform, complete with built-in secure voting technology, organisations can build both presentation and voting slides and self-manage all aspects of their online meetings, independently in a secure and transparent manner.  However, for meetings where organisations require expert help a managed-service option should be available.

Also, some of the more advanced online meeting platforms also integrate online democratic services, such as a candidate nomination management system.

Usability:

Whichever online meeting platform you opt for it has to be user-friendly, for both the presenter and the meeting attendee (if opting for a self-service) and the meeting attendee.  A self-explanatory back-end system with slide options (presentation and voting slides) helps the meeting operator build appropriate content for the audience, whereas multi-device compatibility and simple navigation can assist the user.

Also, to resonate with your attendees, it is helpful if the online meeting platform has elements of your brand identity i.e. colour scheme, logo and images and supports content such as text, video, and documents.

All-in-all, to achieve the most professional, impartial, transparent and inclusive live online meeting possible, it is important that you consider all of the benefits and options a system can offer.  UK Engage is a specialist in online voting technology and throughout the coronavirus pandemic has been helping and advising organisations across the country on the best way to hold meetings during lockdown restrictions.  As an expert in this field, we have administered hundreds of online voting processes.

Understanding the future requirement for organisations to hold more online meetings, we have developed Conference Voting, an all-in-one platform that has all of the features and benefits mentioned in this blog. Conference Voting can be used as a self-service platform or a managed service and is suitable for all types of meetings including conferences, meetings, training, workshops, consultations, and AGMs / EGMs / SGMs (does not include proxy voting).

Click here to reach our Conference Voting page, call us to discuss, or send a message via our enquiry form or email us at democracy@uk-engage.org to find out more about our all-in-one online meeting and voting platform.

If you have an AGM, EGM or other meeting which requires proxy voting, please contact us as we also have a solution for this type of remote voting requirement.

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