Two years into the pandemic, COVID-19 still complicates plans for anyone coordinating events such as cooperative annual member meetings.

From my experience planning our twice-postponed StoryConnect conference, I feel for anyone trying to plan a big event. With that in mind, I thought we’d share a little bit of information on cooperative annual meetings we gathered from a 2022 survey of Pioneer Social subscribers.

While this is admittedly a limited sample and has a Midwestern geographic skew to it, the results show a clear majority (60%) of responding utilities plan to hold in-person meetings this year.

2022 Member Meeting Formats:

  • In-person member meeting: 60%
  • Drive-thru member meeting: 12%
  • Virtual: 8%
  • Hybrid meeting with in-person and virtual meeting elements: 8%
  • Undetermined: 12%
In April 2020, Columbia REA CEO and Pioneer Board Chair Scott Peters had to shift his meeting from in person to virtual. In 2022, utilities are evaluating whether or not to shift back.

I am interested to see how the forced experiments with virtual or drive-thru meetings that many co-ops tackled in 2020 and 2021 steer the future of member meetings. I’ve heard more than one co-op communicator say something to the effect of “everybody liked the new format, but we’re going back to the traditional meeting style in the future.”

Obviously, there are board and bylaws concerns to keep in mind, but if new formats engage new members or engage longtime members in new ways that they appreciate, I hope some co-ops stick with them.

Two other nuggets from the survey that may or may not be useful to folks planning their annual meetings:

  1. Of those surveyed, March, April and August were the most common months for meetings.
  2. The most common time for meetings to start was 10 a.m., followed by 7 p.m.

Working with a couple hundred electric and telephone co-ops across the country here at Pioneer, it’s interesting to me how different the meetings are from one cooperative to another, and how some co-ops use digital voting tools while others tap innovative print options.

However you plan to hold your meeting in 2022 and beyond, make sure to build in opportunities to tell your story!