Note: In our current special circumstances there is no need to notify WSO of your temporary electronic meeting; this is only required if your meeting will be held permanently after COVID-19.
At first, organising a virtual meeting with the use of phones or computers might seem like a daunting undertaking for many of our members. We are so used to simply coming together physically and we all so appreciate the personal contact. Now that the COVID-19 precautions require us to participate in physical distancing, we have to do without this much loved sharing of experience, strength and hope for awhile.
Electronic meetings are not new in Al-Anon
For more than 20 years, the World Service Organisation has registered meetings taking place online and via phone conference calls. These meetings have evolved and grown significantly over time. Today, there are almost 500 registered electronic meetings. If you wish to participate in one of these meetings, click on the following link:
Many regional Al-Anon groups have now also stepped up to the plate to find ways to continue to meet using several different online platforms on a temporary basis. It is clear that members realise the importance of being able to welcome newcomers and offer hope despite the restrictions of the pandemic.
Notify the website
In order for newcomers and returning members to find online meetings, please notify the Ontario South website coordinator about your meeting’s access details (group/WSO ID, password, etc). If you would rather not show these credentials online, please provide an email address or phone number that prospective participants can reach out to in order to obtain those details.
Know your platform and keep your meeting safe
Whichever platform and technology you choose for your temporary online meetings, coming prepared will help keep your group safe and protected. This means: taking some time to study information about security and privacy settings.
Copyright rules for Al-Anon meeting materials
Please keep in mind that all Conference Approved Literature is subject to Trademark and Copyright regulations. General documents that can be screen-shared are our Legacies (Steps, Traditions and Concepts), the preamble and suggested closing, as long as they show proper copyright credits. These can also be distributed to the members of a group who are involved in chairing or hosting a meeting, the same way our regular meetings make them available as photocopied materials. They cannot be emailed to all members or posted on any kind of online medium.
Good meeting management requires helping hands
You don’t have to do it alone: the general rule of thumb suggests that at least 2 members help with meeting management. One can chair, do readings and lead discussions. The other can act as a co-host and moderator. Managing a meeting requires focus and leadership and it is recommended to ask members to commit to rotating these tasks regularly. This ensures that all can regularly share and find serenity in the meeting without being preoccupied with meeting management. It also gives other members the opportunity to experience this new way of being in service to their group.
A moderator or (co-)host:
-makes sure nobody is in the meeting with their full name
-asks unidentified participants to change phone numbers or device names into personal names (first name, last name initial)
-requests that, during introduction, everybody has their video camera switched on, so that all can see who is in the meeting (except when participants phone in without video).
Having participants start out in a waiting room can help with quickly assessing possible issues with unidentified attendees. Unidentified refers to participants who:
-show a device name instead of personal (first) name
-do not react when asked to introduce themselves
Moderators should know how to mute and, when necessary, swiftly remove participants from the meeting room in case of unacceptable behaviour or when not responding when asked to introduce themselves by first name and preferably by switching on their video. Alternatively, participants can be moved from the meeting room to the waiting room, where the host can communicate with them in private via messaging. A participant who is removed, will be unable to join that meeting on that day, but has the option of coming back the next time.
Locking the room
The option to lock the meeting when personal sharings start can also enhance the feeling of safety in the meeting and prevent disruptions.
Disable insecure options
Some platforms offer options such as virtual backgrounds, screen sharing and chatting. These can be disruptive and distracting. Disabling these options for all except the host and the moderators (co-hosts) can help keep your meeting safe.
Internet connection issues
Some participants may not have access to high-speed internet connections. This does not mean that they cannot be part of an online meeting. There are often options to use the internet connection for video and, concurrently, a regular phone-connection (no data) for audio. This prevents distortion of voices that can be distracting in a meeting and gives attendees the best of two worlds.
Caution: use wifi, not your phone connection, with mobile devices
Be aware that virtual meetings with video can take up a lot of bandwidth. If you use a telephone to participate with video, first ensure that you are connected to the internet/wifi, rather than inadvertently depleting your telephone data plan within a couple of minutes.
Hybrid meetings: online and in-person at the same time
The term hybrid meetings is used for groups that run an electronic meeting during the in-person meeting, from the same room. To ensure anonymity for all, the most secure way of doing this is by only allowing phone connections for those who want to attend online.
As Covid restriction lessen, some groups will decide to go back to (partial) in-person meetings, following Health Canada guidelines for the safety of all participants. Please follow these guidelines if you choose to attend or help organise, such as wearing a mask at all times, sanitising your hands and, if possible, lend a hand with sanitising the meeting room when the meeting ends.
Depending on your platform of choice, user manuals might be available via your website coordinator. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to find out.
WSO is pleased to announce that a welcome email can now be requested by newcomers to any electronic meeting – whether it be temporary or permanent. We encourage you to share/display this URL with any newcomers to your meetings. The link will prompt the recipient to enter their personal email address for them to receive a one-time welcome email: al-anon.org/welcome. WSO is also working on an electronic newcomer package, that will soon be made available for a small fee via the usual distribution channels such as Amazon and Kindle.