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Not-for-profit Board Video Conference Etiquette

The ongoing pandemic is making video conferencing a necessary component of not-for-profit leadership for the foreseeable future. Videoconference technology can keep your board safe and connected, which is vitally important to keeping your not-for-profit strong and sustainable during these challenging times.

As of March 2020, Zoom reports serving 200 million meeting participants, and that number grew to 300 million in April. As of December 2019, there were only 10 million meeting participants, which pales by comparison.

Prior to the pandemic, best practices for not-for-profit board meetings were just beginning to emerge and they continue to be in a state of evolution. That said, lots of things can and do go wrong during video conference board meetings when all the participants aren’t on the same page with video conference etiquette. You certainly want to avoid excerpts of your board meeting ending up on the latest version of COVID video meeting bloopers.

More importantly, not-for-profit board meetings via video conference can be quite productive when all the participants practice video conference etiquette.

Related article: The Why a Board Portal Will Improve the Performance of Your Not-for-profit Board

What Can Go Wrong During a Video Conference?

In the early days of video technology, there was much concern over whether the technology would work correctly, if at all. There was even more discussion about whether people would be able to navigate the tools or be willing to overcome their fears over using it. As always, security is an additional concern.

Video conferencing technology has evolved to a degree of intuitiveness. Nearly anyone can easily host or participate in a video meeting with the current technology. As people become better acquainted with the technology, the focus has turned to the appropriateness of the speech and behavior of meeting participants during video conference meetings. That’s where it pays for not-for-profit boards to set some basic standards and expectations for video conference etiquette during board meetings.

You won’t have to browse the internet too long to find examples of people behaving badly during video meetings. Even under the best of circumstances, things can happen in the background that are out of a meeting participant’s control.

Some of the infractions that have become public include flashes of participants or others being inappropriately dressed, loud or obtrusive pets, and lack of awareness that the camera or mic is on.

Virtual meeting etiquette is just as important as in-person meeting etiquette. If you were sitting in your boardroom, you wouldn’t have your computer windows open to inappropriate websites or be disrespectful to one of your peers. You wouldn’t fight with your partner or pet your dog during an on-site meeting, and you shouldn’t do it during a video conference either.

Regardless of whether your meetings are open or closed, there’s always the chance that inappropriate speech, actions, or behavior will spread via the internet or word of mouth, and it could be devastating for your not-for-profit.

Related article: 3 Reasons Why Document Sharing Apps Are Not Enough for Boards

Not-for-profit Board Video Conference Etiquette

It goes without saying that you need to test your equipment and meeting software before the meeting begins to ensure that all the technical elements of your video conference work properly, and the meeting host is familiar with the tools.

With that out of the way, have you addressed other issues that can be problematic during not-for-profit board meetings?

Here are a few tips for not-for-profit board meeting hosts and participates to ensure that your video conferences are productive and appropriate.

Video Conference Etiquette for Not-for-profit Board Meeting Hosts

  1. Choose the proper hardware and software. Have a computer backup in case of a low power source or breakdown. Choose software with the highest degree of security.
  2. Frame the camera so that participants can view your face and not just the top or bottom of it.
  3. Check the lighting. It’s distracting to meeting participants if your image is dark or fuzzy.
  4. Use the various video tools to fully engage the participants. Show them how to use tools like emoticons, chat, etc. Also, be sure they know how to mute their video and mic.
  5. Always use an agenda, even if it’s just a basic outline. Send a copy out before the meeting just as you would for an on-site meeting. Agendas help keep you on track.
  6. Start and stop on time. Don’t wait for participants unless there’s a compelling reason. Don’t go over the allotted time. Board members and others may have other commitments.
  7. Be flexible. The concept of video conference board meetings is still new for a lot of people. We tend to be creatures of habit, so be flexible as your board members learn to adapt.
  8. Assign a “tech person” to handle allowing participants to enter meetings, answer questions, assist participants with problems, and any other technical problems, to free up the meeting facilitator to focus on running the meeting.
  9. Be professional even when you think you’re offscreen.

Video Conference Etiquette for Not-for-profit Board Meeting Members and Participants

  1. Set your profile up with the name you want participants to refer to you by. Funny or sarcastic names may be temporarily humorous, but they could become officially or unofficially part of your meeting record and cause embarrassment to your organisation.
  2. Mute yourself when you’re not speaking.
  3. Notify the meeting organiser if you’ll be late or unable to attend. That way they can decide if they need to wait or get started without you.
  4. Be on time. Early is on time. On time is late.
  5. Be prepared to answer questions or present if that’s your role. Don’t waste anyone’s time.
  6. Review your background so you can see what other’s see. Aim for a plain background or use a virtual background if the platform has the capability to avoid distractions.
  7. Wear appropriate clothing from head to toe. A business meeting is still a business meeting. Bear in mind that you may need to get up or stand at some point and the other participants will view whatever is in the scope of your camera.
  8. Choose a quiet area if possible. Arrange for care for children and pets to avoid distractions.
  9. Consider the potential for outside noise—traffic, etc. If you can hear it, others can too.
  10. Close out of all other programs on your computer to avoid anything inappropriate from accidentally being viewed by other participants. People have been fired for such acts and a similar incident could cause liability to your not-for-profit.
  11. Look into the camera and pay attention during the meeting. This isn’t the time to multitask on other projects.
  12. If the meeting is long, be sure to turn off your mic and video. Otherwise, participants can see and hear everything you say and do while on break.
  13. Turn off your device’s notifications so you’re not getting pop-ups during the meeting.
  14. Say your name before you begin speaking. The speaker isn’t as obvious during virtual meetings, especially if there are a large number of participants.

In conclusion, your BoardEffect board portal offers useful space for collaborating about how your not-for-profit can adapt well to the video conference platform. We’re all experiencing a learning curve with video conferencing technology and now is the time to set the right standards for video conference etiquette.

Related whitepaper: Staying Cyber Aware in a Crisis: Smart Tips for Not-for-profit Boards

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