It’s quite possible that virtual board meetings may be part of the “new normal” for your association leadership for the foreseeable future. By being a purposeful planner, you’ll use technology to not just survive, but thrive.
For several years, I’ve worked for an international society that only met in person once a year with five virtual meetings. Even with that background, the changing expectations around online meetings has presented challenges, even for my group which was familiar with virtual board meetings. Two words – purpose and planning – summarize how not just make the best of but make the most of the time your board spends meeting virtually.
The purpose of your board getting together may be more complex than you previously realized. Meeting in person might have included shared meals that built working relationships or shared experiences in addition to discussing business. How is orientation and training being done for incoming board members or recognition of board service being celebrated for outgoing leadership? Defining the purpose of your virtual meeting will be important as you think about the technology you select and expectations you set with board members.
An in-person meeting would have included driving directions and a virtual meeting needs the same level of detail. Some tips include:
- Pre-meeting instructions should set the expectation on use of video* versus audio only.
- Just like an in-person board meeting, create a timed agenda. Add links into your agenda to background material and related resources. This will be help board members prepare for the meeting, and allow them access during the discussion as well.
- The proliferation of technology options has made it harder, not easier, for board members to participate. Request that board members log into the call at least 10 minutes in advance to solve any connection issues. Your time together is too important to waste on trouble shooting. If possible, have another staff member on stand-by to help so you can focus on running the meeting.
- Ask all board members to mute their audio when not speaking to minimize background noise.
- Some platforms have closed captioning or translation options. Educate your board members on the features of the technology so they get the most out of the meeting.
- Determine how to handle questions – by raised hands or other sign. Just like being in person, talking over each other isn’t productive.
- Most platforms have a chat feature which makes it easy for board members to have side conversations. That could distract for the meeting itself so set an expectation around the productive use of chat.
- Determine what to share on the screen and who has control of that feature.
- Be purposeful in what will serve as the official minutes of your meeting prior to hitting record for the conversation. If possible, record the call for the convenience of the secretary, make sure to delete all related files afterward. Always good idea to consult your legal counsel.
Virtual board meetings can be an effective solution when the time and cost of travel present barriers to board participation. Purposefully planning will play an important role in members having a rewarding board experience when connecting through technology.
*The increase in the number of virtual meetings has also seen an increase in the number of people conducting meetings while driving. As a meeting attendee, this sends my stress level skyrocketing. I’m starting to think I need to add a note to meeting invites about turning video off when this is unavoidable.