How the AOA Held a Successful House of Delegates Meeting During a Global Pandemic

Despite COVID-19 closures, a partnership between governance and operations led to a successful House of Delegates meeting for the American Osteopathic Association.

By Dawn Amaskane, CMP

A guy talking online with employees via video call

Along with the rest of the world, professional associations and societies have been challenged during the past year to improvise, adapt and become more nimble in response to the impact of COVID-19. The American Osteopathic Association was faced with such a challenge in spring of 2020 when it became clear that the AOA House of Delegates would not be able to convene for its annual in-person business meeting.

Held each July, the meeting gathers more than 1,000 delegates, alternates and guests in downtown Chicago for strategic updates, leadership installations, and policymaking sessions. After determining that safety concerns and travel restrictions would preclude the in-person meeting, AOA President Ronald Burns, DO, President-elect Thomas Ely, DO, Speaker of the House of Delegates Ray Morrison, DO and Vice Speaker of the House of Delegates David Broder, DO, worked with CEO Kevin Klauer, DO, EJD, to ensure the business of the AOA would move forward despite the pandemic.

Governance leaders concluded that strategic updates and the installation of the new President would take place virtually during the traditional timeframe in July, while the in-person HOD policymaking sessions could be postponed until the AOA’s annual convention in October. In preparation for the July meeting, AOA governance and staff collaborated to select a virtual platform and assemble a full program of recordings and visual assets to support the meeting.

2020 July House of Delegates Virtual Meeting Highlights:

  • 500+ participants convened via a virtual platform
  • Installation of 2020-21 AOA President
  • Election of AOA President-elect and 14 board members
  • Meeting support was managed by 10 AOA staff members

As late summer approached, it became evident that the October annual convention would also need to be hosted virtually. In response, the governance leadership and staff operational teams sprang into action to transition the policymaking portion of the House of Delegates meeting to an online platform.

Over the course of six weeks, governance and staff identified solutions to bring the policymaking component of the meeting online using a web-based voting mechanism. A core staff team including representatives from executive administration, communications and marketing and IT, along with support staff from six other departments, executed the following tasks:

  • Streamlined communication with HOD officers and the CEO
  • Coordinated presentation materials and resolutions
  • Developed processes and templates for voting slides and results
2020 October House of Delegates Virtual Special Session Highlights:

  • 600+ participants convened via a virtual platform
  • More than 380 delegates participated in debate (well beyond the required quorum)
  • 162 resolutions were considered
  • 47 votes were cast through an online voting mechanism
  • 30 AOA staff members supported the meeting

In addition to addressing the business of the House, operations staff worked to incorporate elements of the in-person meeting into the virtual format, such as the beloved tradition of hosting the Chicago Police Department’s Bagpipes and Drums of the Emerald Society for a musical performance immediately following the Call to Order. Though the traditional procession through a crowd of delegates was not possible this year, AOA staff arranged for a recording of the musicians performing in front of AOA headquarters to be shared during the virtual meeting.

Throughout the meeting, the speaker and vice speaker communicated via cell phone with the CEO and other executive staff to receive updates regarding quorums and vote tabulations.

Despite many obstacles and challenges, the virtual House of Delegates meeting was a success due to the collaboration between the President, President-Elect, Speaker, Vice Speaker, the CEO and the rest of the AOA family.

For more information on the AOA House of Delegates, please visit the AOA website or contact the AOA.

About the Author

Dawn Amaskane, CMP, is associate vice president of administrative affairs for the American Osteopathic Association.

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