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Zoom Polling for Congregational Meetings

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For our recent annual meeting, we utilized the Zoom polling feature to conduct the votes on the business. It worked well (once we sorted through some of the following complications), and it provided fast returns on the questions.

What was essential was being able to trust our people to know whether they should vote or not. The method we used does not work if you cannot trust your people to know whether or not to vote—but there are other ways to do that should you like (see below). Although we had over 230 connections during the business, we received only about 100 votes on any questions, proof to us that people were self-regulating.

Zoom only allows one response to any “poll,” however, you can have several “questions” under each of the polls. We used these questions to allow for additional voters in each situation. Each of the questions must be answered in order to submit the response to the poll/complete the vote, so we added the “not applicable” for persons 2 and 3 as options. Any people who are not voting can simply close out that window. (Sometimes, it’s necessary to close the window on individual computers, not just the host doing that, so it’s good to let people know.)

For example, here’s one of the questions we used during the meeting:

         Poll: Approving the Rules of Procedure

                  Question 1: Person One: I approve the proposed Rules of Procedure

                           Possible answers: Yes; No

                  Question 2: Person Two: I approve the proposed Rules of Procedure

                           Possible answers: Yes; No; Not Applicable

                  Question 3: Person Three: I approve the proposed Rules of Procedure

                           Possible answers: Yes; No; Not Applicable

We instructed people that if they were alone in their viewing, they still had to answer questions 2 and 3, using the “not applicable” option; then they could submit their poll.

We then added up the responses to the “yes” votes from persons 1, 2 and 3, and the “no” votes from persons 1, 2, and 3. That provided us with the results. We were able to show the results to the people through Zoom in order for them to be able to verify the results were as stated.

For those using a Chromebook, (rather than a Chrome browser), they were unable to see the polls, and so we invited them to vote using the Chat function. Similarly, if you have people who have only called in (no video connection, no Zoom app on their phones), they would have to vote by unmuting and giving a verbal answer. We were able to make these adaptations on the fly, and now know better for the future.

The Poll feature must be activated on the account that you’re using—(settings page at zoom.us). Polls can be created in advance. This must be done while signed into the Zoom account at zoom.us. You go to “Meetings” setting, and open the meeting; you will be able to find a place where you can add polls (the location moves around as Zoom modifies their product).

During the meeting, any co-host can launch, close, and show the results of the poll, but during the meeting, only the person who logged in as the initial host can add polls during the meeting. Clicking on the Poll option, you’ll find an option to add polls; this takes you to your account through the website (at zoom.us), and allows you to create the polls.

We ran into a small problem that we sorted out during the meeting. We had a high number of co-hosts in the meeting (for other reasons), and we discovered that if they touched their computers during the voting, the poll closed, and we had to restart it. Once we realized that we all had to have our hands off our devices, the subsequent votes went well. We also created a practice poll so that we could walk people through it. For us, we used the question about whether people could hear the meeting (as recommended be asked by the UUA counsel in the advice on legal virtual meetings) and had people test out the polling feature.

I would strongly suggest that you practice the polling process prior to the meeting so that you are familiar with how this works.

Polls are apparently saved in the “reports” section of your Zoom meeting details. (I have not personally verified this). We also took screen shots of the shared results so that we could have those for our meeting minutes.

There are features in Zoom that allow you to track who voted in which way, and those require registration and tracking email addresses. We chose not to do this, but this feature can be researched at Zoom.us.

Other options for voting:

-Raising Hands. You can ask people to raise their hands to vote for a question. This did not work well for us, as with over 200 participants, it would have been hard to scan the audience to see who has their hand up. The “lower all hands” option for the host/co-hosts would have been employed at the end of the vote. This option, if it’s viable for your size, allows you to scan the pictures to see if the appropriate people are voting. However, it also allows people to vote on both sides of an issue, either inadvertently or intentionally. It also only allows one vote per computer.

-Using the Chat. If your congregation has a smaller number of people, you can ask people to vote through the Chat feature, by putting in their name (the one on the membership rolls, as the display name might be different), and then putting in their vote. This does allow multiple votes per screen, and does allow you the option of being able to check that the people who are voting are eligible to do so.

-Outside polling systems: This allows you to make sure that only those who are eligible to vote receive the links to the voting. These require that people access an additional browser to be able to vote. These poll results can also be shown through screen sharing option in Zoom by the meeting organizers. One thing that’s important is to make sure that the questions are short, or otherwise it may be difficult to read the small print. This option works well for polling the audience during an in-person meeting, provided that everyone has access to a smart device.

WEBINAR VIDEO "Congregational Meetings on Zoom."

About the Author

Lisa Presley

Lisa Presley is a life-long Unitarian Universalist who was an active lay leader before entering our ministry in 1991. As a lay leader she was board president, board member, worship associate, stewardship campaign chair, religious education teacher, bookkeeper, secretary, and shoveled the snow as...

For more information contact conglife@uua.org.