Virtual Planning, Real Success

By DTM Ajay Hiraskar, District Administration Manager and TM Moazzam Daimi, District Credentials Chair

Find it challenging to arrange a regular meeting for your club? Imagine having to arrange a meeting for Officers across the District! The District Council Meeting (DCM) is a meeting where all the leaders of the District, ie, the District Officers, Club Presidents and VP-Educations come together to chart the course of the future of the District. It is where important updates are conveyed, key decisions are taken and motions are passed. This year, a few of our District Officers arranged just that, although not in person, but virtually! Read on to know the story of how they achieved this breakthrough.

The year 2018-19 brought a new set of opportunities for the District Leadership Team. The International Board took a decision last year that the District Council Meeting (DCM) and semi-annual District Conference was to be conducted in a virtual manner. Thus, District Leadership teams had to identify technology and tools which would enable smooth conduct of the DCM while ensuring a quorum and virtual voting on key decisions.

Within District 98, this responsibility was fell on the shoulders of the District Administration Manager – DTM Ajay Hiraskar and the District Credentials Chair – TM Moazzam Syed Daimi.

DTM Ajay first identified the key challenges which could impact the conduct of a Virtual District Council Meeting. These were identified as follows:

1.The primary issue was that members would be attending the meeting from various large cities and smaller towns, and a stable internet connection might be a challenge for some members.

2.The quality of conference calling using internet-based tools was found to be of poor quality, especially with a large number of attendees.

Additionally, the following requirements were also to be fulfilled:

1.Quorum would need to be established to ensure that the DCM protocols were followed.

2.Participants would need to have the opportunity to raise questions as well as propose or second motions.

3.Voting by all participants would be required for approval of certain points.

Various tools and solutions were evaluated which could overcome the challenges enumerated while fulfill all the requirements. The conclusion was that no single tool or solution was available for all these things. Therefore, independent solutions were identified which would serve their individual purposes, and the conference calling solution identified was Grptalk.

Grptalk is a solution proposed by a fellow Toastmaster which enables a conference call using the telecom network. This ensures excellent call clarity irrespective of the number of participants and ensures that only we are able to track the attendance of participants with a documented report. Additionally, participants do not need to remember a username and password to log into the conference call, as the system dials all the participants simultaneously at the designated time.

Research on the various voting tools possible were done by the District Credentials Chair – TM Moazzam and he arrived at the conclusion that SurveyMonkey was best suited for the purpose. SurveyMonkey is a very well-known tool which has the option of anonymous surveys and instantaneous results.

It was also decided to host Virtual Division Council Meetings to acclimatize members with the process. 11 separate Division Council meetings were conducted by each Division Director on September 9, 2018 which were attended by their respective Division Council members and some of the District Officers. This ensured that all the members had the opportunity to experience the conference call and the voting process. All the meetings went off very smoothly and only a couple of them took more than the indicated time.

Additionally, a mock vDCM was also conducted within the key leaders of District 98 on September 21, 2018 so that each presenter was familiar with the flow of the meeting.

Having done everything possible to make the activity foolproof, it was finally D-Day on September 23, 2018. At 8.30 am the entire support team for the Virtual District Council Meeting converged at a common place in Pune. The team consisted of DTM Ajay Hiraskar, TM Moazzam Syed Daimi, TM Jayant Kelkar, TM Kaustubh Ghanekar & DTM Mayank Naidu. Other members who also helped were DTM Sameer Naik and TM Leena Bhortakke.

The vDCM meeting was initiated at 8.50 am and at 9.01 am, the meeting was formally started. The quorum was certified at 9.13 am and we had 324 DCM members on the call. All the discussion items planned were completed along with voting on key proposals and the call concluded at 10.09 am.

Mission accomplished and each participant has grown as a leader in the process.

This article was first published on District 98’s bi-monthly newsletter ‘Communicate 98’. To read other articles, click here

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