5 ways to conduct virtual board meetings like a pro | Aprio
March 10, 2021
Karen Peacey

5 ways to conduct your virtual board meeting like a pro

It’s been more than a year since many boards made the shift to virtual board meetings. While you’ve likely got a handle on using video conferencing technology by now, are your virtual board meetings productive and engaging? 

You may have noticed that board members are more distracted, there’s too many interruptions, or worse, silence when asking for feedback. Or are you simply accomplishing less than you would be if it were an in-person meeting?

We’ve gathered practical advice for board chairs looking to conduct more productive virtual board meetings. 

How to conduct a virtual board meeting like a pro

1. Embrace your new role.

Chairing video conferences is much different than chairing a live meeting. Virtual meetings need greater discipline and leadership from the board chair to keep meetings productive and board members engaged. 

Here are 4 ways to help you adapt to your new role:

1. Move at a slow pace. 

Due to a two to three second delay for most systems to communicate, virtual meetings should actually move at a slightly slower pace than a typical in-person meeting. As you’re chairing the meeting, make sure you provide sufficient pauses after asking a question or requesting an action.

2. Explicitly ask for participation. 

When chairing a physical meeting, there is an art to knowing when to follow procedure and when to let the conversation free flow.  With virtual meetings, you need to be more explicit and intentional. You are likely to get much better participation by explicitly asking, “I want to hear from every board member” or asking “I want to hear some views on this matter.”

3. Use tech tools to improve facilitation. 

Depending on which video conferencing tool you are using, you may have access to chat, poll, and quiz functions that help make virtual meetings more engaging. For example, use the chat function to ask for a motion, second and other brief responses.

4. Ask for help when you need it. 

If you’re struggling to keep board meetings on track, enroll staff to help. For example, a facilitator can control which documents will appear on screen or mute participants as required so you can focus on accomplishing items on the agenda. 

Pro tip: Consider how to keep virtual board meetings secure. 

Your board security should be top of mind. Sending invitations to virtual board meetings through email opens your organization to risk. Protect your most sensitive and confidential information from being leaked or compromised by keeping video-conference links and recordings within board portal software.

 

2. Set clear meeting expectations upfront.

As the chair, it’s your responsibility to set clear expectations upfront, that goes beyond simple meeting etiquette. What are the expectations when it comes to cameras, mute and participating? 

With clear guidelines, you increase the chances of the meeting running smoothly and the participants are more likely to come prepared. Consider using these 3 ground rules:

1. Turn on your video camera. 

This helps to personalize the conversation and to keep participants engaged. Remind attendees to make direct eye contact with their webcams when speaking.

2. Raise your hand (or wait until you’re called upon). 

Rather than have people jump in and respond to questions, the board chair should clarify how members can contribute to the conversation. Our recommendation is to either go around to each person to ask for comments or have participants raise their hand and only speak when they’re called upon. 

3. Mute when not speaking. 

Mute every participant as a default. This will reduce background noise and help avoid interruptions.

Pro tip: ask participants to state their name before contributing for open discussions. 

Not knowing who is speaking at any particular time can be frustrating and hard to follow. Plus, it’s possible for screens to occasionally freeze or have a few seconds delay. Keep everyone on track by stating names upfront.

turn cameras on should be a ground rule you consider for conducting virtual board meetings

3. Create agendas that actually work for virtual meetings.

In comparison to in-person meetings, virtual board meetings often require repetition, clarification and additional time for discussion. Ensure you are creating agendas that work well for virtual meetings rather than trying to cram all the items you typically would for your in-person board meeting. 

Here are 3 steps to adapt your agenda for virtual board meetings:

1. Focus on the top priorities. 

Virtual meetings create fatigue quickly. Focus only on the top two to three priority items that need to get accomplished. 

2. Build in breaks. 

If you plan to cover multiple items in a single meeting, build in breaks directly into the agenda – to stretch, get some air, or replenish coffee. Keep each segment of the meeting short, no longer than 30 minutes. 

3. Start and finish strong. 

Start the meeting with activities to get people focused and comfortable. At the end, ask everyone for a closing thought, or provide time for feedback on what worked well and what still needs improvement. Need more help? Learn how to close a board meeting.

Pro tip: use a 20/20 agenda. 

Put 20% fewer items on your agenda than you normally would and allow 20% more time for the meeting and conversation. Build your agendas in 15-minute increments for maximize efficiency. 

 

4. Ensure board members are prepared before the meeting starts.

Since virtual board meetings tend to be shorter and more focused, board members need to come prepared and engaged for maximum productivity. 

If you’re finding the distractions of COVID life have left your directors even less prepared, consider this an opportune time to make board communications more convenient and efficient for them.

With one login, Aprio’s board management software provides centralized access to all board materials including past meeting minutes, agendas, board packages, policies, procedures, strategic and business plans, reports, bylaws, and budgets. This library of information is easily searchable, convenient for any board member who wants to reference previous meeting materials as they prepare for a board meeting.

Materials for the upcoming board meeting are shared via one secure link without any confusion on reports from multiple people, or document updates – everyone is on one page.

Pro tip: take board member preparation to the next level with annotations. 

With Aprio’s annotations, board members can jot down initial thoughts or questions on board documents with a few simple taps, highlight significant points, and choose to share the marked up document with other directors, or the whole board.

 

5. Use time outside board meetings more effectively.

Since there are no hallway conversations at virtual board meetings, use the time outside of board meetings to get additional tasks completed. 

Board portal software can help. Reach decisions quickly with online voting, signature tracking and surveys. Boost communication and collaboration with secure messages, notes and annotations. 

Beyond full board meetings, sub-committees can use Aprio board software to host committee meetings or host online discussions within their group.

Pro tip: send regular updates. 

Sending updates in between board meetings allows board members to feel engaged and requires less time for reports during quarterly meetings.

 

Use Aprio’s board management software to run your virtual board meetings like a pro

There’s no reason to let board meeting productivity slip while working remotely, especially a time that board direction is so valuable. See how Aprio’s board portal technology keeps your board connected and your virtual meetings secure. Contact us today for a custom demo and start running more productive virtual board meetings.

Want to learn more about virtual board meeting best practices? See these related posts:


About the Author

Karen Peacey

Karen Peacy, Director of Customer Relations 

Karen has over 20 years of board administration experience in various industries including credit unions, forestry, software, and the sports sector. She takes real pleasure in supporting and training our clients to make their jobs easier and more efficient.

Curious? Find out more.

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