Suggestions for Groups Moving Temporarily Online

“Taking advantage of technological advances, for example, A.A. members with computers can participate in meetings online, sharing with fellow alcoholics across the country or around the world. In any meeting, anywhere, A.A.’s share experience, strength, and hope with each other, in order to stay sober and help other alcoholics. Modem-to-modem or face-to-face, A.A.’s speak the language of the heart in all its power and simplicity.” Foreword to Fourth Edition, Alcoholics Anonymous, p. xxiv

Suggestions for Groups considering moving temporarily to an Online AA Meeting format

Numerous AA meetings in Europe are temporarily suspended in response to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus). Fortunately, many groups are continuing to meet by moving to an online meeting format.

If your group decides to meet online whilst suspended, the following suggestions may be useful and help allow members, visitors and newcomers to access your meeting.

Setting up an Online AA Meeting

There are many online video/audio conferencing platforms that may be used for online meetings. Two of the more commonly used ones are Skype and Zoom.

Please note we are not endorsing, nor are we affiliated with, any of these platforms. We are simply providing these links to our members for information purposes only.

Skype https://www.skype.com/

Many groups use a free service called Skype. Skype is limited to a maximum of 50 participants and is simple and easy to use.

A group would usually create a new account on Skype using the group name e.g. “berlinfridaynight”. A group member, such as the GSR or Chair, would act as the “tech host” and then schedule and initiate a Skype call at the appropriate time. The tech host can both add participants or send out a clickable link to join.

GSO UK has offered some guidance on starting a Skype meeting.

Zoom https://zoom.us/

Other groups use a platform called Zoom, which has a free basic service for up to 100 participants and supports the use of video without loss of audio clarity. Although if you want to meet for more than 40 minutes then a PRO account (16 Euros per month) is required. A group member, such as the GSR or Chair, would register for an account and act as the “tech host”. Meetings can be scheduled at the appropriate time and then joined by clicking the meeting link.

Here is some additional guidance from New York Inter-Group on the subject of protecting anonymity in Zoom meetings and things to consider in the platform’s default settings.

Informing the Fellowship

Once the meeting is set up, it is suggested to inform your local Intergroup, CER and AA GB of the temporary changes to your meeting. Consider also placing a sign on the door of the meeting venue with more information on the temporary arrangements, including how to access the online meeting.

Note:some meetings may also choose to have a mixed format, where some members meet in person at the meeting venue, and then also join the online meeting together from there.

Joining an Online AA meeting

To join an online meeting, a group usually publishes details on which platform is being used as well as how to access the meeting. There will normally be a group member or “tech host” that can be contacted for help if needed.

Skype https://www.skype.com/

Any member wishing to join a Skype call will need to create a Skype account. It is suggested to use a generic or anonymous name rather than using your personal or work account. To use Skype on a smartphone or tablet, the Skype App may need to be downloaded.

To join a meeting, many groups request that participants send a “contact request” to the tech host account on Skype well in advance of their first meeting and mention that they want to join the meeting. Then, be on Skype 10 minutes before meeting time and send a Skype message saying “join” to the tech host account. Please do not call. The tech host will call you shortly after you send a “join” message.

Zoom https://zoom.us/

Members can simply click the meeting link to join through a browser on a PC/Laptop or with a smart phone. When requested, download and install either the Zoom App or browser extension. Members can then just type in the first name and join the meeting.

Online AA Meeting Etiquette

Use of a headset with a microphone is recommended. To minimise background noise please mute your microphone when not speaking.

It is suggested to use a fast broadband landline connection if possible, as Wi-Fi connections are more unstable and may drop out.

To strengthen your connection, turn off all other internet applications on the device you are using when you participate in a meeting.

Seventh Tradition

Even though the expenses are different for online meetings (i.e. no coffee or biscuits), groups may still collect Seventh Tradition contributions online for example via PayPal and/or through online direct deposit to the treasurer’s personal bank account.

More help and information

There are many groups in CER who have been meeting online successfully for a number of years. More details including contact information for these online meetings can be found here https://alcoholics-anonymous.eu/online-meetings/.

It is suggested to try out the platform you will be using well in advance to practice logging on and familiarising yourself with the controls such as mute / unmute.

Ask for help early as it is difficult for the tech host to assist once the meeting has started.

The webteam at CER will also try to help. Just drop them a line here.

More background information regarding the Coronavirus is available here https://alcoholics-anonymous.eu/coronavirus/.

 

Matt S.

RECLO, CER

updated 26 March 2020

 

Editor’s note: this article has been published in accordance with our ArenA Editorial Policy.