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Virtual / Electronic Meetings - Hybrid Meetings
The following Q&A on electronic meetings is from Notes and Comments on Robert's Rules, Fifth Edition, from Southern Illinois University Press (to be published 2022).
What is meant by a “hybrid meeting”?
The phrase “hybrid meeting” is not described in Robert’s and has no exact definition. Sometimes the term means an electronic meeting with separate physical gatherings of members that together count as a single meeting. Most often, the term means a meeting in which some members are in-person and others participate electronically. For a small board, such a practice might be common and not all that complicated. The simplest example would be a board meeting at which most members are in one room and a member who is out of state participates by telephone conference call. Such an arrangement meets the “simultaneous aural communication” requirement of Robert’s. Other than bylaws language to permit such a meeting, no additional rules may be necessary. Contrast this small board meeting to a “hybrid convention” with thousands of delegates. While it might seem that such an arrangement will be easier to arrange than an all in-person or all virtual gathering, that is not the case. Hybrid meeting arrangements and rules tend to be far more complex. After all, how do you make certain that members participating virtually are treated equally with regard to debating, making motions, and voting as those in the room? Generally, as with absentee voting, it is difficult to combine votes in the room taken by voice or rising with electronic votes of those participating virtually. Most likely a system will be needed in which everyone votes electronically, even those physically present at the meeting.
TAKEAWAY: Hybrid meetings are possible, but worry about meeting rules and procedures AFTER figuring out technology options that will determine what members, whether in-person or virtual, will be capable of doing during the meeting.
Jim Slaughter is an attorney, Certified Professional Parliamentarian, Professional Registered Parliamentarian, and past President of the American College of Parliamentary Lawyers. He is author of four books on meeting procedure, including Robert's Rules of Order Fast Track and Notes and Comments on Robert’s Rules, Fifth Edition. Jim is a partner in Law Firm Carolinas. For more information, visit www.jimslaughter.com.
Charts and articles are intended to provide general information on parliamentary procedure and are not legal advice or a legal opinion.