Virtual But Not Alone: Lessons From 2 Annual Meetings

Honda FCU and Partners share experiences from their first online annual meetings.


Top-Level Takeaways

  • Honda FCU and Partners FCU hosted virtual annual meetings and reported higher attendance.
  • Both credit unions will apply experience gained to future meetings and other digital engagements, such as financial education.

Honda Federal Credit Union ($1.1B, Torrance, CA) and Partners Federal Credit Union ($2.1B, Burbank, CA) each serve a far-flung membership who work in and around production.

Honda FCU’s members make cars, motorcycles, and more at multiple locations across the country. Partners FCU serves the workforce of The Walt Disney Company, producers of movies and memories at theme parks and studios located primarily in California and Florida. And this year, both cooperatives met the mandate of their charters to host an annual meeting by taking it virtual.


Data as of 09.30.20

HQ: Torrance, CA
MEMBERS: 69,445
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 10.1%
ROA: 0.22%

They used different presentation platforms, but both credit unions report attendance was up from the in-person sessions of the past, and both say they’ll apply this year’s experience to planning future annual meetings and member interactions.

Honda FCU followed standard procedures for notifying members about the virtual annual meeting. Check out the credit union’s marketing and communications plan. Then search for similar documents and more in Callahan’s Policy Exchange.

Show You Care By Staying Home Yet Being There

Honda FCU normally rotates its annual meetings around the sponsor’s nine major manufacturing locations in seven states. It planned to hold this year’s event at an Ohio plant on the fourth Wednesday in September — its regular date for annual meetings — but COVID-19 caused the credit union to change its plans.

The credit union still held the meeting on Sept. 23, but instead of a live gathering, Honda FCU welcomed 171 attendees to a virtual event. That’s better attendance than at past meetings, which the credit union normally held between the first and second shifts at the assembly plant.

Honda FCU followed its standard procedures for notifying members about the annual meeting and board nominees. It also followed its regular meeting agenda. However, the credit union did add a registration link to its website and required members to register to attend.

Brock Kasnick, Chief Experience Officer, Honda FCU

“A lot of people who normally couldn’t attend our meetings were able to, and they told us they appreciated it,” says Brock Kasnick, chief experience officer at Honda FCU. “And because we made the decision in the spring to go virtual, it gave us time to prepare.”

Partners had less time to prepare — its board decided on March 27 to postpone the meeting by one week and make it virtual. The meeting was scheduled for April 23 at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. Instead, the credit union presented it virtually on May 7.

The meeting lasted one hour and averaged approximately 130 attendees as viewers dropped in and out, says Royce Ngiam, vice president of marketing and business development at Partners.

The meeting was not the same as in the past — Partners has incorporated movie-themed videos, education, and prizes in its annual event for several years — but it served the purpose and sent a message.

Royce Ngiam, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, Partners FCU

“By going virtual, we demonstrated to our members that we care and are making safety an utmost priority,” Ngiam says. “Remember, at the start of this, there was a lot of debate and rhetoric about the scale and scope of COVID-19. Running the meeting virtually showed our members we’re in touch and looking out for everyone’s best interest.”

Remote Control: Presenting By Platform

Honda FCU updated its Go-to-Meeting account to Go-to-Webinar and staged the one-hour affair from its home base in suburban Los Angeles. According to Kasnick, the CXO, the credit union’s marketing team put together a slide presentation that basically followed its in-person format.

Partners followed a similar strategy. It used Adobe Connect — the same platform it uses for its member education webinars — for the annual meeting but otherwise tried to keep things as normal as possible.

Mike Terzian, Chief Member Services Officer, Partners FCU

“Outside of coordinating hotel staffing and a large catering order, we didn’t change much,” says Mike Terzian, the cooperative’s executive vice president and chief member services officer. “We kept the same presentation topics and format. Our prize giveaway was different, but the big change was to keep everyone virtual. We had a handful of people properly distanced in a large conference room; every other presenter broadcast remotely from their home.”

Partners leveraged the experience and advice of Disney special events staff, who helped the credit union roll with technology punches. The production team used multiple phone lines and Slack to line up speakers and adjust on the fly, Ngiam says.

Being able to provide feedback and direction while remote gave us more control than we might have had in a live setting.

Mike Terzian, EVP and Chief Member Services Officer, Partners FCU


Data as of 09.30.20

HQ: Burbank, CA
MEMBERS: 181,072
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: -5.9%
ROA: 0.37%

“Since it was the first time we attempted anything like this, we weren’t sure what to expect,” the Partners marketing chief says. “We did have some technology issues — one of our presenters had home internet issues and missed their call time, but, luckily, we got them into the session as we were going live.”

That might sound chaotic, but according to EVP Terzian, the structure offered benefits, too.

“Being able to provide feedback and direction while remote gave us more control than we might have had in a live setting,” he says.

6 Practices To Pull Off A Virtual Meeting

Preparation is key to producing a successful virtual annual meeting, says Royce Ngiam, vice president of marketing and business development at Partners FCU. Here, he shares five ways to prepare.

  • Study up. Have a handbook of prescriptive directions — eye contact, smile, lighting, etc.
  • Time it. Review timing cues and transitions
  • Practice. Run through the event with the production team but without the presenters.
  • Run a dress rehearse. Test everything in the live environment — all the presenters and complete presentations.
  • Be early. Get the show ready at least two hours before the event time.

Monitoring Feedback, Building On The Experience

Honda FCU included a survey in its presentation, and 53 of the 70 respondents said they preferred the virtual event over an in-person one. The comment section also included numerous critiques and suggestions, including several from members who said it was their first opportunity to attend an annual meeting.

And there was this: “Picture and sound quality were excellent. Please consider a hybrid annual meeting for next year (if permissible) as both options have tremendous benefits. Connect personally with the local membership while having members worldwide join virtually.”

In the survey, the credit union also asked members what they would like to see in future webinars. More than 60% of attendees selected “new products and services;” approximately 50% chose “financial education” as well.

“A virtual meeting presented an opportunity for change,” Kasnick says. “We’re going to build on that experience.”

The credit union is working with Honda corporate communications staff on perhaps holding the next annual meeting by Go-to-Webinar at a Honda plant, allowing some members to attend in person and others virtually.

Partners, also, is considering its options, including keeping the virtual meeting format and adding a separate member appreciation day or other in-person event when it’s safe to resume those kinds of events. Like other cooperatives, Partners is using its growing digital experience to expand into other kinds of member engagement.

“Given the persistent challenges of 2020, we’ve doubled-down on live virtual education sessions,” Terzian says. “We’ve integrated sessions live on Facebook and offer recordings later. Looking out to 2021, we’ll continue to push integration across any viable digital medium.”

His colleague, Ngiam, has more to add.

“This might be a ‘yes, and …’ situation,” the VP of marketing and business development says. “Maybe there’s a way to blend both so we can be as inclusive as possible.”

But he doesn’t stop there.

“OK,” he says. “I also just really miss the in-person meetings and seeing my friends throughout The Walt Disney Company.”

Want more credit union strategies? Sign up for the free newsletter.