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How can we make our online board meetings more effective?

Governance specialist and changemaker coach Jodie Willmer has been supporting boards and committees for many years to embrace technology, and has some sound advice for those still grappling with the virtual board meeting.

With current increased uncertainty and complexity, it may be tempting to put off the board meetings for your board or committee because you can’t meet face-to-face.

But do you really need to cancel or simply pivot?

Meetings can still continue, even while adhering to the “social distancing” laws. The amazing technology at our fingertips today means we can utilise Zoom and other video communication methods to conduct productive, efficient meetings (almost) face-to-face.

Here are seven top tips for maintaining professionalism, strong communication and results-driven outcomes while meeting online.

1. PRIOR PREPARATION PRVENTS POOR PERFORMANCE

Practise, practise, practise. Make sure you are familiar and confident with all aspects of the technology prior to conducting your first meeting. Use headsets and microphones external to your device for improved audio.

Consider where your screen is facing when conducting your meetings, remembering that as well as seeing your face, your attendees will also see your background. Find a blank wall, perhaps sit in front of your favourite piece of art or even put up a screen to remove distractions. Ensure the lighting is right for people to see your face clearly. If your attendees are unable to see your facial expressions and hand gestures well, it may as well be an over-the-phone meeting.

2. HOPE FOR THE BEST, PLAN FOR THE WORST

If online meetings aren’t for everyone, and you don’t consider it imperative that you see one another, perhaps give the option of joining via phone (Zoom allows this) or hold an over-the-phone meeting instead.

Where possible, allow more than one person to host the meeting. This ensures the meeting will go ahead, even if one host becomes unable to attend or their internet drops out.

Similarly, give phone numbers of multiple people hosting the meeting. This way if someone has trouble contacting the hosts, they have communication options, eg; SMS, a quick phone call, etc.

3. PRIVACY

There are ways to ensure the privacy of people and information while conducting online meetings, especially from home. Using a meeting link with a password prevents random people from “dropping by”.

Revisit the privacy protocols of your organisation/group and discuss the importance of these continuing even during different circumstances such as these. Where possible, encourage your participants to select a private location in which to attend the meeting.

If you plan on recording the meeting, inform participants of this and gain their permission to do so.

4. FEEDBACK

Either verbally, by conducting a short online questionnaire or via a poll in the meeting, invite feedback on how this process can be improved in the future.

5. IT'S STILL A MEETING

At the end of the day, although you’re in different locations using different means of communication, your regular protocol and etiquette remains as important, if not more so, at this time.

Welcome participants, make introductions where required, and include them in discussions. Invite people to contribute, rather than people talking over one another or leaving the meeting not feeling heard. Stick to the agenda, referring back to it as required. Ensure someone takes responsibility for minute taking.

Use the mute button. With so many people’s home life going ahead in the background – kids, dogs, doorbells, etc. It is important that participants mute themselves or that you, as the convenor, mute all participants until they need to speak.

6. RESPECT PEOPLE'S TIME

Start and finish on time. It is important to check in on people’s wellbeing at this time, however during a meeting may not be appropriate. Consider opening the meeting 10 minutes before for chat time, or allow participants to remain on the line after the meeting has been drawn to a close to give the opportunity for “around the board table” chit-chat.

7. GO EASY

Be kind with yourself and one another. Unless your board is used to operating remotely, there are sure to be some teething problems. Persevere, own any errors made and commend everyone for trying something new. You never know – your board may take to meeting from home like ducks to water, and remote board meetings may become your new norm!

TOP FIVE TIPS 
    1. Familiarise yourself with all elements of the technology you intend on using.
    2. Maintain your board’s standard privacy policies.
    3. Observe the time throughout the meeting to avoid being tardy or running overtime.
    4. Adhere to your board’s regular meeting procedures and etiquette.
    5. Be prepared to accept feedback and make changes accordingly.

 

Jodie Willmer is a Specialist business member of The Xfactor Collective, specialising in governance, leadership and strategy. Jodie is renowned for helping organisations tame the chaos and overwhelm to create visionary plans, and provides a range of training and tools to support changemakers.

Need help in your organisation? We run the sector’s first Specialist triage support service (our CONCIERGE) where we can help you find support from a range of services and solutions.

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