It may be tempting for boards to skip board meetings and put board business on hold during times when it’s impractical or improbable for boards to meet in person. The reality is that it may be even more important to continue tending to board business during times of crisis as we’re now dealing with due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For all organisations, a certain number of board meetings are legally required and board effectiveness in the virtual space is key.
During these challenging times, it’s vital for boards to meet virtually if necessary. Times of crisis usually create new issues that boards need to address soon, if not immediately. Up until recently, virtual board meetings were somewhat of a novelty. Boards experimented with them and used them as necessary. The outbreak of COVID-19 has made virtual board meetings a necessity.
If your board has hesitated to try a virtual meeting, there’s no better time to get your feet wet than the present. Your first virtual board meeting will be a success when you choose your platform wisely, prepare in advance, make use of your board portal, and make adaptations as necessary.
Related article: Why Should Not-for-profit Boards Consider a Board Portal?
5 Tips to Help Your Board Operate Effectively in the Virtual Space
1. Get Set Up for Virtual Board Meetings
It’s crucial for boards to be set up to conduct board meetings virtually during times of crisis or when they can’t meet in person. Choose electronic tools that will help you work efficiently. A board portal and a virtual meeting platform are your “go-to” virtual board meeting tools.
BoardEffect software will give your board continual access to their board materials. Also, the platform supports all board processes securely, including scheduling, collaboration, budgeting, audits, compliance, and more.
Choose a virtual board meeting software platform that has video and recording capability. Virtual meetings work better when you can see the other board members’ facial expressions and emotions. Members that can’t attend a meeting can view the recorded version later.
Be sure to do a test meeting for those who will be running the meeting so they know how to operate all the features and they can get comfortable with the technology. If board members need additional support in using the technology, the board chair should ensure that they can get it.
It’s essential for the board chair to prepare as well as possible for board meetings. Be sure that electronic invitations list the proper time zone for each recipient so that no one is late. Set up your own computer so that all notifications and reminders are turned off and won’t disrupt your meeting. Also, close extra programs on your computer to help keep the audio and transmission clear. Double check to make sure the sound on your computer is on and is turned up to a reasonable level.
Related article: How Not-for-profits Are Providing Support During COVID-19
2. Planning Your Virtual Board Meeting Agenda
Your BoardEffect board portal is an essential tool during times when your board needs to operate virtually. It provides a centralised space where your board can continue its work without interruption. Store your boardbooks, financial statements, reports, meeting minutes, and the agenda on your board portal for convenient, secure access at all times. The board chair should emphasise to all board members the importance of reviewing materials well ahead of board meetings and being well-prepared.
Adjust your board meeting agenda so that it’s more conducive to a virtual board meeting. Scale your agenda down to the most important items because discussions are likely to take a bit longer with video meetings. Set approximate times for each agenda item so that the meeting stays within the allotted time frame. Meetings should run between 60 and 90 minutes.
Set up the screen sharing feature to share all PowerPoint presentations. Keep slides simple and to the point. White backgrounds will make things easier for everyone to read.
The board chair should ask someone to handle the technical aspects of meeting like helping people join and monitoring the chat box. The chat box can be used for motions, votes, and other responses.
It’s helpful to set times for each agenda item to keep the meeting on track. The board chair may ask various board members to lead on certain agenda items. The chair should be sure to start and stop the meeting on time and make sure everyone knows the rules and protocols that are expected. For example, the chair might ask each person to announce their name before they speak to make it clear who is speaking at all times. The chair may also want to recognise speakers before they begin speaking to avoid crosstalk. If discussions are weak or not forthcoming, the chair may provide a few minutes for each member to respond.
Ask all participants to mute their mics when they’re not speaking so that everyone doesn’t hear common household noises like dogs barking, children playing, doors closing, etc.
Related whitepaper: Staying Cyber Aware in a Crisis: Smart Tips for Not-for-profit Boards
3. Discussing and Addressing the Issues that Motivated Virtual Board Operations
Your agenda should list emergency items first. If it’s become necessary for your board to meet virtually, it’s likely that things the board will need to focus its immediate attention on any emergencies or issues that need immediate attention within the organisation. These issues must take priority over the board’s other work.
For example, the COVID-19 outbreak brings many safety questions to the surface. The board needs to make decisions about whether activities can continue safely or when it will safe to resume them. Boards may also need to make plans to install glass shields, make adaptations for social distancing, or require staff and volunteers to wear masks.
Boards may need to assign someone to stay updated on CDC or other emerging news and announcements. New information can be securely sent through BoardEffect’s secure portal.
Related article: 3 Reasons Why Document Sharing Apps Are Not Enough for Boards
4. Follow Up Actions
At the close of the meeting, the board chair can use the time to summarise discussions and ask if they missed anything. The board portal is a good tool to use to be sure that all board members follow up on any action items assigned to them.
5. Addressing Follow Up and Getting Feedback
The board chair should be proactive in making sure that all board directors are active while the board is operating virtually. Usually, the chair has a good idea of how to tap into each member’s knowledge and capabilities. Board chairs may need to make an extra effort to ensure that board members aren’t neglecting their duties just because the board isn’t meeting in person.
Operating board work in a virtual space is a new thing for many board members. It’s vital to ask the other board members for feedback on how they can improve their effectiveness during virtual meetings and virtual work. Ask the participants how well the technology worked and what you can do differently to make meetings more efficient and effective. Be sure to highlight the positive aspects of virtual meetings as well.
When boards aren’t able to physically meet in person isn’t the time to ride things out and get back to board business when things return to normal. It’s precisely the time to step things up and be proactive to prevent having to deal with resulting negative issues later on. A virtual meeting platform and a BoardEffect board portal can help you get the job done, no matter how challenging your circumstances are.
Related article: The Importance of Budgeting for a Board Portal