Ever since the pandemic took hold, businesses have had to adapt to running mostly online. Meetings of all shapes and sizes have migrated to becoming virtual and boards have had to meet more regularly to discuss navigating their companies through uncertain times. Even as restrictions ease, it’s likely that virtual board meetings will remain for the foreseeable future.
With that in mind, it’s important to observe best practices to hold a successful virtual board meeting. In this article, we provide 10 tips to ensure your meetings are productive and succinct.
1. PICK THE RIGHT PLATFORM AND CHECK YOUR CONNECTIONS BEFORE THE MEETING
There’s no shortage of platforms to host virtual meetings and most of them can make your online discussions a breeze. The most popular are Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts. Most platforms have added project management and collaboration tools, such as calendars and chat boxes, to facilitate communication and organization.
Just remember to always provide another means of joining the meeting such as a telephone number and check your connection before the meeting starts to prevent any awkward situations that can lead to a lack of productivity or even having to reschedule.
2. KEEP THE AGENDA CLEAR AND ENSURE THAT ALL PAPERS ARE CIRCULATED PRIOR TO STARTING
Videoconferencing can make conversations less natural than in-person board meetings, so be sure to give all participants enough time to prepare for the event. Send them all the documentation ahead of the meeting and make file sharing easy between participants.
Another way to make virtual meetings more effective is by adapting the program to the online environment and communicating the topics clearly before the event. Be sure to cover all critical business areas but without overwhelming the participants. Ensure that there are regular refreshment breaks if a meeting is to be lengthy.
3. INCREASE PRODUCTIVITY BY ASSIGNING A MEETING LEAD
Just as a moderator has always played an important role in a traditional board meeting, a virtual meeting can run smoother by assigning one as well. Having a chairperson helps you keep the conversation on track, prevents miscommunication, and ensures participants go through the agenda without missing any points.
The moderator will also keep people engaged even during meetings that cover challenging topics and make sure no one is left out of the conversation.
4. SET GROUND RULES AND DISCUSS THEM WITH THE PARTICIPANTS
Online board meetings require discipline to be productive. Depending on the number of participants and the complexity of the agenda, you might want to suggest how people can participate in the conversation to avoid disruption. Having a maximum speaking time set for each action item can avoid having one person monopolising the conversation.
Also, be sure to remind people of important housekeeping elements at the beginning of each videoconference, such as how to mute and unmute themselves, whether they can use the chat, and what else they can do to make things run smoothly. Prepare a virtual meeting protocol to take account of all of the above and the possibility that multiple attendees will cause feedback and will need to be muted or possibly switch off their cameras.
5. PRIORITISE THE COMFORT OF THE PARTICIPANTS
Before diving straight into the hot topics of the day, take five or 10 minutes at the beginning of the meeting to ensure everyone has everything they need to proceed. Participants should be comfortable for the length of the session to stay engaged and achieve maximum productivity.
6. ADD A FACE-TO-FACE ELEMENT TO THE MEETING
Face-to-face interaction makes virtual board meetings more authentic and can increase the comfort of the participants. As many as 90% of participants find it easier to get their point across when they know others can see them.
Make it a rule for all participants to turn on their video cameras, when possible. If people aren’t comfortable with video conferencing, talk about the benefits of seeing the others (and being seen) at the beginning of each virtual board meeting.
7. ENCOURAGE PARTICIPANTS TO USE THE CHAT BOX
The chat makes it easy for anyone to bring up points for discussion without disrupting the flow of the meeting. The Chair or company secretary can keep an eye on what’s in the chat box and introduce new speakers naturally in the conversation.
8. MAKE A CONTINGENCY PLAN SHOULD CONNECTIONS NOT BE UP TO SCRATCH
No one wants to reschedule a virtual board meeting due to a missing cable or unstable internet connection, but it’s not always avoidable. Be prepared to handle the unexpected; it’s better than having board members stuck in front of their monitors, waiting for you to deal with tech.
9. INCLUDE A SHORT BREAK
Online board meetings should include fewer points on the agenda and last a little longer than an in-person meeting.
So, to increase productivity, there should be a short break in the middle to allow for drinks and refreshments. Ideally, the company secretary will let participants know what time the break will be and for how long to ensure the meeting stays punctual.
10. MAKE THE FIRST AND LAST MINUTES MEMORABLE
Be sure to begin the meeting by describing its purpose and setting out expectations with regard to its flow through the agenda. Allowing a few minutes for general chat can help to set the meeting off on the right foot.
Conclude by thanking the participants, with a recap of the main points and action items, confirming the next steps while everyone’s still online, and stating that minutes will be circulated to all Directors.
Virtual board meetings are still new to many board members, so give everyone time to get used to the new “business as usual”. You can make their lives (and work) easier by adapting the events to an online environment and preparing them well for the meetings. The more meetings you plan, the easier it will be to get used to how people behave online and adjust your communication accordingly.
Ensure that everyone is comfortable during meetings and that they understand the ground rules stated in the protocol. Encourage participants to follow the guidelines and keep communication channels open for them to send suggestions that could improve the process for all parties involved.
If you’d like to know more about virtual meetings or enquire about registered offices, contact MSP, to find out how we can help you streamline the admin processes.