Board members and business professionals spend the majority of their workdays in meetings, whether that’s around a conference room table, on the phone, or in front of their laptops on a video call. Regular meetings are crucial for any board of directors. It’s time they use to discuss strategic objectives, manage crises, and cast votes on important matters.
Unfortunately, not all meetings are productive or easy. Some can be downright painful. Communicating effectively in board meetings is one way to get more tasks accomplished, ensure good governance, and keep board members engaged.
Here’s how you can communicate more effectively in board meetings:
This meeting communication skill is important, whether you’re meeting online or in person. Your body language communicates a lot, implicitly. Sit up straight and look people in the eye (or look into your camera) regularly, instead of focusing on just your notes or your PowerPoint presentation. When you make eye contact, you build a sense of trust and come across as more sincere. Board members are more likely to listen closely. To keep energy high, you could consider doing your presentation from a standing position or walking around the room.
If the body language of your colleagues suggests they’re a bit bored or getting distracted (perhaps they’re yawning or picking up their smartphones), consider moving on to a different topic or shifting gears to invite their questions.
Practice active listening. Effective communication skills include giving regular eye contact back to the person speaking and engaging with what they’re saying. An example of nonverbal active listening is nodding your head when a board member is speaking to acknowledge that you’ve heard and understood what they’ve said. If you’re participating in an online meeting, consider turning on your camera so that the speaker can see that you’re listening closely to what they’re saying (and they avoid feeling like they’re just speaking to a blank screen).
When it’s time to ask questions or discuss a topic, you can show you’ve listened closely by repeating back key points and asking clarifying questions.
Effective communication in board meetings also means waiting for someone to finish speaking before interjecting with your own point or argument.
It’s not uncommon for directors to travel a lot, have a full-time job, and sit on other boards. Board administrators also have busy and demanding roles, and generally work on small but mighty teams. Making sure everyone is prepared for the meeting is crucial, and also helps make meetings more efficient.
A board portal software helps admins easily create board packets digitally so that directors are well prepared when they arrive and can contribute in meetings. Engaging directors requires making communication to them convenient, including providing easy access to any updates to board materials with no document version confusion. In Aprio, directors can also add their annotations directly to digital documents, even when they’re offline, as well as share notes with other board members ahead of the meeting.
At board meetings, the agenda can include links to key documents, reminding directors which materials relate for discussion and providing linked access without any delays in the meeting.
With board management technology, what you’ll get is a paperless board meeting that sets the stage for more effective communication because you won’t waste time addressing missing documents or covering issues that have already been discussed in the board portal.
While keeping to an agenda is crucial, there’s nothing wrong with introducing something new during a board meeting to inspire the board of directors and keep everyone interested. Just like effective communication in business meetings, it’s important to share relevant and inspiring news stories, a happy anecdote, or a new video about your organization’s activities.
Sometimes meetings lose momentum, or directors disengage because one person is monopolizing the conversation and others don’t feel heard. Actively chair discussion to draw in other directors – not just to avoid directors zoning out, but to ensure all board members contribute a voice on important issues.
Before the meeting is over, take the time to quickly recap what you’ve covered and list out any next steps that need to happen before you meet again. While we all do our very best to listen well during a meeting, not everyone is going to remember every point made by the speakers. Effective communication in a business meeting should include listing out the key points of the meeting and the related action items.
Your board admin can easily post these notes in your board governance software after the meeting so that every director can easily review them. Encouraging accountability to follow through on task commitments is the final step of effective communication skills in meetings.
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