In our 30+ years of working with organizations to administer and manage elections, there’s never been another period of change and evolution quite like the last year and a half. Rapid, seismic changes in business and society have forever altered how organizations gather their stakeholders and make decisions. In-person meetings, conventions and the like haven’t gone away, but they can no longer be the only way organizations conduct business.
It’s becoming clear that most organizations are choosing hybrid formats for their meetings and decisions now and in the future. The option of in-person attendance is still desirable and valuable for many people, especially those with a pressing business reason to attend or who want to build or maintain relationships with other attendees. Meanwhile, people who don’t have strong reasons to go in person are increasingly deciding not to, saving the time and expense and eliminating their risk of exposure to COVID-19 or another ailment. We’ve seen the organizations that cater to both sets of people maximize meeting participation and overall event satisfaction metrics.
New meeting and voting tools (many software-based) have been introduced to help organizations facilitate hybrid events. For the most part, they’re working; meetings and decisions are still taking place, and administrators and attendees are working together well to adapt to new systems. That said, some best practices have emerged that can help organizations quickly implement and benefit from hybrid systems. They include:
- Ensure complete security. The integrity and sanctity of your vote, and the reputation of your organization, depends on the confidence you and your participants have in the security of your chosen voting platform. You need to know and be able to prove to people how your platform confirms and preserves their identity, protects from viruses and malware, keeps out possible hackers, etc. If participants don’t have confidence in the voting platform and process, they’ll go away – and they may never come back.
- Optimize reliability, and have a plan B. Outside of a security breach, there’s no bigger obstacle to hybrid meeting and voting than hiccups or problems with your chosen system(s). They need to work reliably, all the time, without fail. And, if the unthinkable does happen and something goes wrong, you need a support team available on-site or via phone to help you quickly resolve the issue.
- Be able to adjust on the fly. Any meeting administrator will tell you that the direction of a meeting, and the motions and votes a body ultimately takes, can and often does change from what’s on the original agenda. You need a system that enables you to react to whatever happens – by adding or subtracting a planned motion, changing voter/participant rosters and more – in real time.
- Maximize safety and cleanliness attributes. The less people have to interact physically, and the more they can use their own devices and technology as part of the voting process, the safer they’ll feel in today’s pandemic world. The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend has produced amazing business results, and most IT decision-makers see it as a good thing. By embracing and integrating BYOD, you maximize the odds that your voters will fully participate in your meeting.
- Integrate processes for efficient outcome reporting and record-keeping. It’s important before a vote to consider how you will report results to voters and other stakeholders afterward. You also will need to record and file the results for future reference if/when authorized people request them, audits take place, annual reports are written and more. The best meeting and voting tools out there today have built-in features to help on these fronts, and they ultimately make these processes more efficient for everyone.
After investing the time and resources to adapt and operate in virtual environments, and having those solutions work for the most part, it’s highly unlikely that organizations will revert to the old ways of doing things in the months to come. Instead, hybrid approaches (such as our software-as-a-service platform DirectVoteLive) that embrace and integrate newer technology and offer more options for people to participate are increasingly becoming the norm.
The question for organizations, then, isn’t whether or not they need a new voting system that enables hybrid participation. Instead, the question is: “Which one?”