As we continue to cope with a pandemic that’s disrupted the way we live and work, virtual board meetings have become part of our daily lives. But while we may have grown accustomed to holding remote board meetings, and strive to make them productive and professional, there’s always some room for improvement.
How do you keep virtual board meetings engaging and keep board members happy?
As part of the COVID resources for boards we’re sharing this year, we’ve gathered our top five tips for making your virtual board meeting more productive and enjoyable.
While you may have set expectations for meetings when everyone began working from home in March, it’s worth spending the first few minutes of your meeting reminding everyone of what they are, as well as covering any other “housekeeping” rules.
Depending on your preferences, these may include having directors speak one at a time, muting themselves when they aren’t speaking, turning cameras on (or off), introducing themselves when they do speak, and being prepared to share their screens when asked. This will help whoever is taking minutes during the meeting correctly identify the speakers and capture the information they need.
If members are consistently getting up from their desks during longer meetings, consider implementing “bio breaks” so that everyone can grab a glass of water, stretch, or use the bathroom without worrying about missing key information or disrupting discussion.
Zoom fatigue is real. Virtual meetings are known to drain our energy in ways that in-person meetings don’t. With this in mind, consider shortening the length of your meeting. This could mean re-evaluating what’s on your agenda to see if there’s anything non-essential you can cut out. It could also mean moving a discussion online to your board portal.
Being strict about the length of your board meeting may also mean giving speakers time limits for agenda items and gently reminding them when they’ve used up all of their speaking time.
The most productive board meetings, in person or virtual, are the ones where members arrive prepared, informed, and ready to make strategic decisions. Prepared board members contribute to more constructive dialog and a better meeting pace.
While these unprecedented times have had most boards allowing a grace period of some spotty engagement and director preparation, now might be a good moment for the board chair to remind directors of what’s expected and offer support if needed.
Convenient access to board materials from any location is essential to support board members. One way to make that simple is with board portal software that lets directors log in from a computer or mobile device to securely review board materials, check meeting calendars, take notes, and discuss items with other board members, all in one centralized place. Some board portal providers like Aprio offer director training and support to ensure, even during COVID, that accessing information and participating in meetings is convenient and easy.
It’s easy to engage participants during in-person board meetings, with lots of people and activity in the room. It’s not easy to replicate that energy in a virtual board meeting, but there are techniques you can try. Consider asking every attendee to turn on their video. While it may be tempting for directors to turn off their cameras and multitask, seeing everyone’s faces can help people connect and be more present.
To break the ice at the beginning of the meeting, consider having each member share a fun fact about themselves or a personal anecdote. Even a quick check in conversation where the chair asks—what’s going on around you today, any kids or grandkids, or pets?—can help connect and build empathy among board members, as everyone is juggling unique demands these days. It can also help to have a couple folks who are outgoing to kick this off.
To make sure everyone is participating in the meeting, consider asking each member to present something from the agenda. If some directors are quieter than others during discussions, take the time to ask them specifically for their thoughts and opinions.
When the meeting is over, use your board portal software survey tool to gauge opinions on how the meeting went and ask for feedback on topics that may need more attention. The survey tool is also a perfect way for your quieter board members to have a chance to voice their opinions.
If board members don’t talk and collaborate between virtual board meetings, they’ll waste critical time revisiting old agenda items and discussion points from the last meeting. And staying connected between meetings is even more important while in-person interactions are reduced.
The annotation tool in the Aprio board portal software gives directors a place to address agenda topics in between meetings, take notes on materials, and have confidential conversations—which in turn makes board meetings themselves more productive. Directors can make sticky notes, highlight, underline, strikethrough, write, or erase text comments and draw shapes around text.
Instead of getting wrapped up in an issue that only affects certain board members during a virtual meeting, and making it longer than it needs to be, members affected by that issue can have a confidential conversation in Aprio (instead of over unsecured email). And unlike paper notes, annotations are kept with your board materials online, stay archived, and keep conversations secure.
Ready to see how Aprio can help improve your virtual board meetings? Book a demo today.