Virtual Florida Grand Sessions: Technological Findings
Submitted by RIC John R. Miller, Grand Recorder of the Grand Council of Florida
(Photo Credit: unsplash.com
On April 1, 2020, after multiple meetings and phone calls, it became clear that due to the current situation with COVID-19, the Annual Convention of the Grand York Rite of Florida, scheduled for mid May, 2020, was to be cancelled. While this was an extremely hard decision to make, the health and welfare of all our members was paramount. In early April, we had decided to hold an Electronic Convention (E-Vention) on May 16, 2020. Under Executive Orders, there were to be no resolutions presented, and we were only required to get a Budget approved and new Officers elected and installed.
We set upon the daunting task of how to ensure that our 267 Dais Officers, Grand Officers, and Past Grand Presiding Officers, as well as the Companions/Sir Knights that would normally attend, would be able to view this historic event. After researching different software packages, and becoming even more confused, we contacted the General Grand Council. RP Steven Balke, GG Recorder, was very helpful and offered up use of whatever software that the General Grand Council had that we found useful. It was decided, since we were expecting around 400 attendees, that we would try Free Conference Call for the meeting, and we would address the voting with either Survey Monkey or Election Buddy. After discussions and trials, we decided to use Election Buddy for balloting.
We immediately set up an account with Free Conference Call and set up some test calls. The first call went okay, but there were a few problems with the connection. The second call did not go as well as the first, as there seemed to be connection issues when there were more than 50 people on. The third test call was a disaster! We had 110 people on the call, and the lag was horrible. There was also an issue with some of the callers being kicked off of the call and not being able to get back on. After contacting their support department and making them aware of the issues, we decided that we needed to find another alternative.
With the help of General Grand Council, we were able to narrow down the pool of available resources, and settled on Zoom. Once again, we set up test calls, and this time things went much smoother. It seemed as though the lag issue was no longer a problem and getting on to the call was easier also.
With the Software issue now under control, and there is only days until the E-Vention was to begin, the GYR Office went into overdrive. Voting member lists were prepared, ballots (via Election Buddy) were prepared, preliminary reports were put together and sent out to everyone, Budgets were resent, and an etiquette and rules list was prepared. Final preparations were made with the MEGHP, MIGM, and REGC, as well as with the Installing Officers for a final okay!
On Saturday, May 16, 2020, The Grand York Rite of Florida held a “condensed” version of its Annual Convention, electronically using Zoom, a video conference software. The decision was made that on all matters, if the discussion was to be had, then we were to use the “Raise Hand” feature, and the Grand Sec/Rec would notify the Presiding Officer of who wished to speak.
The Chapter Convocation started promptly at 9:00 am EST and, after a couple of minor “hiccups”, the MEGHP gave his allocution, acknowledged the pre-printed reports, announced his awards, and then turned things over to the Grand King to present the Proposed Budget. Since approving the Budget was a “hand vote”, we used the Polling Feature within Zoom. Knowing that there could be a possibility of concerns, we also had a Ballot prepared – just in case. After the Budget was approved, The MEGHP called upon Distinguished Guests for their comments, and then opened the Election of Officers. The elections went as planned until the Grand Treasurer stated that he would not be seeking re-election due to personal reasons. He then made a nomination, which was seconded, and no one else was nominated. All of the elections were therefore unanimous. The MEGHP then put the Grand Convocation at ease and turned things over to the MIGM.
The Grand Council Assembly and the Grand Commandery Conclave were both run in the same manner and we were done with everything except Installations in just under 3 hours.
After a 20-minute break, we reconvened for Installation of Officers. The Plan was to Install only the Dais Officers and then the Grand Presiding Officer would hold a meeting (Via Zoom, FCC, Web-Ex, etc.) and install his officers. The Installations were a success! Congratulations to All of the incoming Officers.
We were finished with everything at approximately 1:00 PM
NOTE: We had decided to use Election Buddy, if needed, for our ballots for the fact that the program was easy to set up and use. Also, it was cost-effective, at $19 for each Ballot, it would keep costs down. While we did not need to use the program during our E-Vention, we did have ballots ready to go if necessary.
NOTE: While the Grand Sec/Rec was overseeing the Conference, he had assistance from 2 others that would let him know of any important chats, and if someone wished to speak (Raise Hand). They were also keeping track of attendees.
E -Vention Guidelines and General Etiquette
Companions/ Sir Knights, Below you will find some guidelines for our Electronic Convention (E-Vention) as well as some required etiquette for video conferencing. Thank you, in advance, for attending our E-Vention
Please remember that this is the first time that the Grand York Rite of Florida has attempted to do something like this. This E-Vention is a scaled-down version of our Annual Convention, and as such, there are some things that will not be discussed and/or balloted upon. Please send any comments and/or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
- BE ON TIME – The meeting(s) will start at 9:00 am. If you arrive late, please do not interrupt the speaker. We will try our best to follow the agenda, so you will be able to “catch-up”.
- PAY ATTENTION – The Grand Presiding Officer will let you know what is acceptable during their meeting. Remember, they have the final word!
- BE PREPARED – Review all of the materials that were sent to you – BEFORE the meeting. If you wish to discuss something, or if you have a question, please use the Raise Hand feature or the Chat utility.
- MUTE IS YOUR FRIEND – Please remember to MUTE your microphone as you enter the call. This may be done for you already, but if not, please do so. If you are call upon (HAND RAISE) then you will be un-muted. Please remember to mute your audio after you are finished speaking.
- BE KIND – Remember that we are ALL Masons. If you disagree with someone or something being said, DO NOT BE RUDE! Rudeness will get you kicked from the call! This is NOT a tyled meeting, and we will try our best to ensure that everyone attending is a York Rite Companion.
- IDENTIFY YOURSELF – This will make it much easier to ensure that everyone knows who is present and, if called upon, who is speaking.
- ENABLE VIDEO – This helps everyone to identify each other.
- SOUND CHECK – Please make sure that your computer audio is working properly, BEFORE the scheduled time of the call. Invest in a set of earphones or headphones.
- SPEAK CLEARLY – Remember that not everyone has top of the line equipment and some may have a hard time hearing/understanding you.
- BE DRESSED- At least from the waist up! In all seriousness, be presentable! Dress as if we are meeting face to face.