Looking to move your AA meeting online? Many of us are using Zoom (or equivalent hosting services) to keep our fellowship going, while keeping our communities safer by maintaining physical distance. There are many options, but here are some tips and tricks we have found to help meetings run smoothly.
- Hosts and Co-Hosts may be delegated to control disruptions.
- While attending an online meeting please remember the principles of being in a public space: refrain from distracting others with on-camera activity like eating, moving around, or using your phone in a way that looks like it’s recording, and always mute yourself when not speaking.
These are some guidelines that have been gathered by people who have been using video platforms for a long time, as well as those new to the experience. As with all things in AA they are suggestions and not rules and we hope they serve as starting points for groups to feel comfortable.
Lighting and Presentation
Online meetings are more impersonal by nature, but some things can help make the experience more real and thus help foster stronger connections.
The easiest way to replicate the experience of being in-person is to try and present yourself as close to that as possible. Find or make good lighting, put your phone or computer on a stable surface, make sure the camera isn’t at an odd angle, and be seated upright. Being in bed is comfortable, but unless you were in the habit of laying on the floor in meetings its likely to be an odd choice now that everyone can see each other all at once.
HD and Quality
Some changes in the Zoom app can improve the quality of your audio and video. Review these settings to see if they help. HD is not always available due to internet conditions, but enabling it can make a huge difference when it is.
Virtual meetings should be considered a public space because you’re audible and/or visible to others. Be mindful of background sounds or conversations, clothing choices, and anything else that will be broadcast to the rest of the group.
What you do on screen is visible to everyone and potentially distracting. If you need to move around, with or without your camera, it is polite to turn your video off.
Privacy and Anonymity
Virtual Backgrounds can be used to obscure the space around you, but use judgement on whether the background you pick will be distracting.
Do not take pictures or recordings of the meeting, or use your phone in a way that looks like you’re recording.
Being the Host
The Host and Co-Host(s) are special statuses for meeting participants who have the power to mute people and kick them from the meeting. This is the most immediate way to deal with disruptions, intentional or otherwise. There are several ways to become the host of a meeting, depending on the way a meeting is set up.
Broadly, the owner of the account that set up the meeting is automatically the host if they are present. That person can delegate other people to be Co-Hosts by following these instructions. If the Co-Host option is not available in the meeting, the account holder will need to verify that they are logged in through the Zoom app (run the app directly rather than following a meeting link).
For when the account owner is not present, they can distribute their Host PIN so that anyone can “Claim Host” privileges. The instructions for how to do that are at this link.
Groups that have signed up for Central Office meeting rooms will almost always need to use the Host PIN method of gaining privileges. If your group does not have the PIN available, send an email to email@example.com to request it.
Passwords and Security
Passwords are another way to restrict access to meetings for groups who use their own Zoom accounts. If a group decides to use a password they can submit a password request email address through the meeting change form so that people can attend.
If a group starts to experience unwanted guests and behavior (Zoom bombing) the host or co-host can kick people from the meeting and enable the Waiting Room feature from the Security menu at the bottom of the screen. This will prevent people from re-joining the meeting without being added manually. This feature can be enabled at any time, but can potentially block newcomers from joining if they do not have the ability to contact someone to let them in.
Recommended Meeting and Account Settings
In the Zoom Settings section, under the Meeting subtab:
- Enable Co-Host
- Require Encryption for Third Party Endpoints
- Disable Auto saving chats
- Disable File transfer
- Disable Feedback to Zoom
- Disable Screen sharing
- Disable desktop/screen share for users
- Disable Remote control
- Allow Virtual background (this is the Zoom default and allows the user to use a virtual background instead of the inside of their apartment, for example)
In the Zoom Settings section, under the Recording subtab:
- Disable Local recording
- Disable Cloud recording
- Disable Automatic recording
Share your phone list
You can post a link to a google doc of the phone list, or each member can add their number in the chat if they want to. Adding extra ways to stay in contact, while having to have physical distance may help folks who are newer.
Format of your meeting
If you call on people: In the attendees window there is the option to raise your hand. If this is a format you use in person, this function can serve the same function virtually. The chair can then call on people who have raised their hand.
If you use a lottery: This can be hard to adapt. Zoom will tell you the number of participants in your meeting. Your chair can use a random number generator, such as (https://www.random.org/). But they will still need to count down the list of participants in the participant list, since zoom does not automatically number participants.
AA still has expenses, so for 7th tradition you can assign someone be delegated as the receiver account for venmo or PayPal etc. If your meeting does not already have this, delegate someone’s personal account (perhaps your treasurer). Remind participants to set their Venmo donations to private. You can also have them comment 7 or pink to allocate to the group or corrections, if that is something your group does.
Unmuting can be difficult and intrusive, if people are doing so after every share. Instead, consider encourage people to use the reactions in the chat, or sign language or recognizable body language (thumbs up, clapping while on mute) via their video.
Remember, not everyone is familiar with this technology, so let’s all have patience and encourage folks to have patience through this. And thanks for all your work to move meetings remotely!
Looking to set a virtual meeting up?
Zoom meetings are a functional solution for many of us, though you may find a better platform for your needs. Your group or local intergroup can get a month to month pro membership, then set up meetings at their meeting time.
With a pro membership, Recurring Zoom Meetings or Personal Meeting rooms can be used to host meetings. As long as you allow joining before hosts, and only schedule one meeting at a time, these options can both be used interchangeably as equivalents to rooms in a building. People can call into them any time, as long as they have the link or the phone number and meeting number.
Google calendars can be used to split up meeting times for use of the zoom room, if many meetings want to share one Zoom Pro Account.
If your meeting does not have resources or know-how to set up meetings you can schedule meetings through Salt Lake Central Office (https://www.saltlakeaa.org/online-meetings/), and many intergroup and districts are adding their own as time progresses.
If you are temporarily canceling or moving your meeting online, and are served by Salt Lake Central Office, please also fill out a meeting change request form (https://www.saltlakeaa.org/meeting-changes/). Provide us your zoom link too, so we can let people know where you are at.