International Association of Facilitators
Annual General Meeting
The International Association of Facilitators (IAF), founded in 1994, quickly became truly international. The cost of travel made it difficult to reach a quorum at any of the conferences where the Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held. Over time, important decisions were left to the few people comprising the Board.
In 2012, IAF bylaws were changed to enable the organization to hold its AGM virtually and the Virtual Facilitation Collaborative (then known as the Sisters of Virtual Facilitation) was engaged to lead the initiative. We worked with a small team to determine the design and orientation needed to permit the organization’s 1200+ members to participate at times convenient for them. This led to a decision to offer 14 orientation sessions in September plus setup of an asynchronous site to introduce the Adobe Connect platform, preparing people for adequate audio and use of the Adobe participative tools.
The AGM itself was also offered at 14 different times, encouraging participation across multiple time zones. The Board spread themselves into all the meetings to both listen and report. The use of Adobe’s integrated VoIP allowed us to utilize breakout rooms for hot topics of choice, so members could more intimately encounter colleagues with whom they rarely have an opportunity to interact.
This was not a decision-making AGM, but a virtual pilot with information sharing from the Board and conversation among members. Participation was lively. Feedback included appreciation for the opportunity to meet with colleagues and discuss issues that mattered to the membership, as well as gratitude to the Board for their work. In the poll on whether to continue AGM meetings virtually, 100% of the responses were YES. In addition, a number of ideas were put forth on other ways to benefit the organization through virtual events. Appreciation for hearing and speaking with colleagues around the world was the most frequently repeated comment. The organization has held its AGM virtually every year since.
Client Comments: From “Feedback” at the close of the virtual sessions
What are some of the benefits of virtual tools?
- Surprisingly easy to use for engaging across time and geography
- A very real sense of connection across the globe
- More rich information sharing and exchange
- I can think about my ideas in my personal space. I can relax.
- More participation, experience using virtual tools in preparation for using them as a facilitator
- Connecting volunteers who cannot travel to meet face to face
- Allow those who work in isolated areas to provide another channel for working with clients without incurring the costs of travel etc.
- Capturing comments during the meeting where everyone can get them.
- Creates new synapses in my thinking by having diversity of inputs.