The Intergroup Council exists to serve and unify the services and activities of A.A. groups in the Baltimore Metropolitan area and to uphold the Twelve Traditions of A.A. The Council consists of one representative from each of the more than 500 groups in the Baltimore area. Through representatives working together, the Intergroup Council is able to accomplish tasks individual groups could not do alone.
INTERGROUP MEETING- 2ND Monday of each month @ 8:00 pm
INSTITUTION COMMITTEE- 3RD Friday of each month @ 7:00 pm
The list of pamphlets below provide useful information about Baltimore Intergroup, G.S.O., the service structure, and group information.
- Click on the link provided by the meeting host. It will be in a format like this: https://zoom.us/4227565411 OR if you don’t feel comfortable online, call-in using the phone number provided
- If this is your first time using Zoom, Click on “download & run Zoom” (bottom right)
- Click “Open Zoom.us?” in the dialog box on the top.
- Click “Test speaker and microphone.”
If you’re asked to enter your name, type only your first name and last initial.
Managing the Control Functions – Muting, Video and Chatting
ToolBar: Once in a Zoom meeting, turn on this toolbar by hovering your cursor at the bottom of your screen. There are just a few tools you will need.
Hover over bottom of screen with mouse to turn on
Tap top of screen to turn on
|Click Mute to turn on and off your microphone (it’s a good practice to mute unless you are speaking. Always mute if there is background noise at your location.)|
If the secretary calls on you to speak, tap or click the Unmute button. If there is no Unmute button, and you only see a Mute button, then everyone on the meeting can hear you.
|Click Stop Video to turn off your camera.|
Click Start Video to turn it on.
|Select Chat (or Participants and then Chats on mobile) to make comments to the group, or to any of the individuals on the call. The Chat window on the right of the screen shows comments posted by all participants.|
|To Share: Select Manage Participants and tap on “Raise Hand” to share.|
|To Leave: Click “Leave Meeting”|
For Zoom users: With the rush to shift to online meetings, many of us did not have time to investigate how to protect our anonymity on Zoom. Now that online meetings are accessible, we want to pass on best practices for protecting anonymity. These have been curated from the membership and online resources.
Not only do members’ names show up on Zoom, but there is some concern about the information that Zoom gathers about its users, much like many online platforms do. It is our understanding that using the web browser Firefox (rather than Chrome or others) offers individuals more personal protection and control.
Unfortunately, the default Zoom settings run counter to AA’s spiritual foundation of anonymity. The meetings are publicly accessible and full names and faces are often displayed. Additionally, by default all Zoom meetings are recorded to the cloud. Turning that feature off is simple, fortunately.
Suggested Meeting Setting Changes to Preserve Anonymity
Here are some suggested settings for your meeting to use. Please note that most, if not all, of the settings below are not the Zoom default:
- Login to Zoom.us
- Click on Settings.
- Click on the Meeting subtab.
In the Zoom Settings section, under the Meeting subtab…
Scroll through the options in In Meeting (Basic) and In Meeting (Advanced) and change the following settings:
- 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
- Disable Virtual background (While fun, some trolls have been showing up to online meeting with violent and pornographic images as their background.)
In the Zoom Settings section, under the Recording subtab:
- Disable Local recording
- Disable Cloud recording
- Disable Automatic recording
We will update this page with additional information as we learn it and encourage you to share tips and tricks with us that we can include.
These settings are essential to guarding against unwanted interruptions during meetings. Intergroup’s Web & Tech committee highly recommends using these settings. Once you update them, they will be set each time you conduct a meeting. Each group is autonomous, so we suggest read to the end to see guidelines and considerations for an informed group conscience.
Don’t attempt to host the meeting from a smart phone or iPad. Use a PC or Mac. Not all functions may be available or easy to find on a mobile device.
This is a critical setting. To eliminate interruptions, you must disable the ability of the attendees to unmute themselves. Here are the steps to properly Mute All:
- Click Manage Participants at the bottom of the Zoom Screen
- At the bottom of the Participants pane, Click Mute All
- On the Mute All applet that appears uncheck “Allow participants to unmute themselves”. This is critical.
- Click Continue
Now, all participants are muted. As the host and/or co-host, it’s your role to unmute and mute participants as needed. This means only one person can be speaking at a time.
The chat function can help participants communicate directly with the host/secretary. You need to set chat to only allow participants to chat directly with host only. Here are the steps to configure chat only to host:
- Click on Chat at the bottom of the Zoom screen
- Click the three dots in the right of the chat pane
- Under Participant Can Chat With: select “Host Only”
This will allow participants to send chat messages to the host if needed. But, no one else can be contacted.
Screen sharing should be limited to only the host. This eliminates the possibility of sharing offensive material. Follow these steps to limit screen sharing:
- Click the down arrow to the right of the Share button on the bottom of the Zoom screen
- Click “Advanced Sharing Options…”
- On the Who can share? option, select “Only Host”
Join Before Host
By default, participants can come into the meeting prior to the host. To avoid potentially disruptive participants, disable this feature.
- Disable Join Before Host to keep users out before the host arrives. When “Join Before Host” is enabled, a troll can enter at anytime and no one has control to kick them out. Set this Zoom settings under ADMIN / Account Management / Account Settings / Meeting. Lock, if possible.
Virtual background can be used to display offensive content. Disable this feature using the following steps.
- Disable Virtual Background. Set this Zoom settings under ADMIN / Account Management / Account Settings / Meeting. Lock, if possible.
Optional Settings for Additional Security
Many of the optional settings are configured online in your Zoom profile. Go to https://www.zoom.us to set these. Log into your account and go to My Account.
- The Required Settings above settings can also be configured through your Zoom profile. If they are set in the Zoom account profile, they will apply to all meetings in Zoom. This may not work if this Zoom account is also used for work or non-fellowship meetings.
- Co-Host: This feature allows the host or secretary to share the administrative duties of managing the Zoom meeting. One host can manage the normal meeting functions like readings and speakers, while the second host can manage participants. This is helpful if the primary host/secretary is not comfortable with Zoom or using online meetings. Set this Zoom settings under ADMIN / Account Management / Account Settings / Meeting.
- Lock the meeting to prevent re-joining of removed participants.
- Click Manage Participants at the bottom of the Zoom screen
- At the bottom of the participants pane, click More
- Click Lock Meeting
- Enable the Waiting Room for your meeting. *Note: this is now a default setting in Zoom. You then play an active role choosing who to allow into the room through the participants list. Set this Zoom settings under ADMIN / Account Management / Account Settings / Meeting.
- DisableFile Transfer to prevent trolls from sending files to the whole group. Set this Zoom settings under ADMIN / Account Management / Account Settings / Meeting. Lock, if possible.
- Disable Annotation, Whiteboard and Remote Control. These features will likely never be needed in a meeting. No need to have these enabled. Set this Zoom settings under ADMIN / Account Management / Account Settings / Meeting. Lock, if possible.
- Prevent participants from saving chats and disable private chats. Set this Zoom settings under ADMIN / Account Management / Account Settings / Meeting. Note that Private Chat is Locked. This will prevent it from being enable during the meeting by the host
- Disable Recordings. Set this Zoom settings under ADMIN / Account Management / Account Settings / Recording. Lock, if possible.
- Mask phone numbers. This will help protect anonymity and anyone being contact after the meeting. Set this Zoom settings under ADMIN / Account Management / Account Settings / Telephone. Lock, if possible.
How to Remove Disruptive Participants
Follow these steps to remove someone from the meeting:
- Click Manage Participants in the bottom of the Zoom client
- Hover over a participant and click More for these options
- Click “Remove”
Considerations For Your Group Conscience
You should discuss these settings with the group conscience. Some settings do make it more difficult to participate and some members may have issues with some. Here are some key decisions:
- Waiting Room: This is an option that stages anyone in a waiting area when attempting to join. The host or co-host is required to allow participants into the meeting. The challenge is there may be participants who you do not know and could be completely innocent and may not be allowed in because they are not known.
- Listing meeting on Baltimore Intergroup Virtual Meeting list: This is optional but helps us fulfil our 12th step duties by carrying the message. We encourage groups to post their meetings but practice proper “Zoom Hygiene” to avoid issues.
- Use meeting passwords: This is now a default setting on Zoom when you create the meeting. It would need to be shared with the participants. We also ask that you share it with Baltimore Intergroup to keep safe and make available to people who call asking for a meeting.
- Meeting Splash Screen: Create a “splash screen” to display meeting guidelines. This is shared from the host’s screen. It’s a one-page Word document with meeting info. (Intergroup can provide an example.)
- Meeting Format: The safest way to run a Zoom meeting is a Round-Robin. This gives the meeting the control of calling on someone known in the meeting. The downside of this format is dial-in users are listed only as a phone number and may not be called on. This is a limitation some groups are willing to accept to keep the meeting safe.
- Create a custom meeting script for the secretary. This format and structure is different to all of us. Make the transition as easy as possible on the secretary by drafting a script for the entire meeting.
- Asking for “a burning desire” shares at the end of the meeting: While this is a nice gesture in a face-to-face meeting, it opens the group up to interruptions with online meetings. An alternative is for the host or co-host to make an announcement that they will stay on the Zoom meeting until all participants have left. If someone needs to talk, ask them to stay until all others have left.
- When to Mute All: Some groups leave everyone unmuted until the meeting starts. This allows for some fellowshipping before the meeting.
There is a lot of concern about how we can carry the message, and that newcomers will not want to attend phone or online meetings. Here are some suggestions:
- During this unprecedented time, GOING TO ANY LENGTHS TO STAY SOBER means attending online and phone meetings even if we all would prefer to meet in-person. It’s true that many of us still managed to get to the bars in the midst of a snowstorm. However, this time is different. If you know a newcomer– or any alcoholic in the fellowship who is struggling right now– connect with them by phone or text and agree to meet them at a virtual meeting. They will feel less alone if you are there, too.
- Secretaries might consider asking at the beginning of each meeting if any newcomers are present and/or leave time for newcomers to speak in the last 5 minutes of a meeting. If there’s anyone who needs extra support, maybe they can be encouraged to speak up during the meetings.
- One group posted a sign on their meeting with the hotline number listed. This is a great idea:
- Another group is having one or two homegroup members stand at the doors of their closed meeting to talk with any newcomers that show up.
- How about having a “parking lot meeting?” One group is setting up phone calls a half hour before their online meeting where members can hang out and catch up with each other outside to the structure of a meeting. It’s not a meeting, but a *place* where people can connect with other alcoholics in an informal but important way.
- The office is getting calls from people who need to talk and connect in order to stay sober. We are putting them in touch with people on our 12th Step list so we can keep the phone lines open for other calls. That means 12th Step calls will be increasing, so please check your messages regularly and call us back. And don’t hesitate to call for help.
- A great way to be of service during this time is to help the elders in our community who may not be very tech savvy and may be intimidated by this transition to online meetings. Have one-on-one chats with them through Zoom and show them how it works. This will help them feel confident with the tools and ensure they are not isolated in their inability to physically get to a meeting.
- Things are still evolving. If you have other ideas about how to reach out to newcomers, please let us know!
Online and phone meetings make it difficult to “pass the basket.” Some groups have set up digital contribution accounts with Venmo, PayPal, Google Pay, or others to deal with this challenge.
In response to several requests, Intergroup now has a Venmo account @BaltimoreIntergroup for the convenience of members and groups. Members might also consider becoming a becoming Faithful Fivers — meaning, they agree to a recurring contributions directly to Intergroup of $5 or more each month– or make a one-time contribution to Intergroup. We are grateful for your support in any amount.
Here are some reasons your groups might consider the 7th Tradition for online meetings:
- Our groups still have meeting expanses such as:
- The cost of subscriptions if your group is meeting via Zoom or another paid platform
- Paying rent at our meetings facilities where our supplies continue to be kept despite the fact that we can’t meet in person.
- Meeting supplies we may need after an extended closure. We may experience a large influx of people who are motivated to re-join the fellowship in person.
- Intergroup, Maryland General Service, and the General Service Office still have operating expenses such as:
- Websites – which we rely on more than ever!
- Phone lines, rent, and insurance
- Utility and other ongoing expenses
- Paid Special Workers who are working many hours to make information available to everyone during this pandemic. Their compensation is crucial to their ability to serve us.
Even though virtual connections is relatively inexpensive, the expenses of keeping our fellowship informed and connected continues. Each group is autonomous and might consider having a group conscience on whether digital contributions are an option, and which platform best meets their groups’ needs. If you have been helped by AA meetings, please consider continuing to practice our 7th Tradition and make contributions to the service entities that support your group.