The COVID-19 pandemic has sent most organizations into a completely remote work environment, whether they were ready or not. That’s included switching to remote board meetings as organizations continue planning strategy and direction.
While remote meetings can bring together more board members and make timely decisions during an uncertain time, they can quickly turn stale and lead to disengaged board members. Technology and planning can come together and improve your board engagement — and help you run better meetings.
Attention and Awareness
Remote meetings have shown us the difference between attention and awareness — and why it’s important to nurture both. Attention is when you direct your focus onto one specific activity. It’s powerful, but it runs out fairly quickly. Awareness is more passive but acts like a sponge, absorbing the information your unconscious mind constantly captures. That’s when connections are made, and it powers our intuition.
Generally, remote work has meant most people shifted from the awareness gained from the office to the attention of working from home. While productivity may rise on specific tasks, we don’t gather useful background data to lend us fresh insights.
Remote board meetings face the same challenges. Because we don’t share a room, we lose out on those moments of true collaboration. Board members finish their individual tasks, but it turns board meetings into dry status updates rather than the enlivening strategic discussions board members want.
Even though there’s no real replacement for in-person meetings, we can still improve the remote meeting experience and inject more engagement. Try these three tips to revitalize your next remote meeting.
Preparation is key to improving remote board meetings. Start by assembling a virtual agenda. An easily shareable and collaborative document will guide the meeting and adapt based on where your board wants to spend time in discussion. Also, cover the most important business as early in the meeting as you can. You want to capture your board members’ ideas on important issues while they’re fresh.
Before the meeting, test your video conferencing solution and ensure it can facilitate the conversations you plan to have with your board. Without the usual nonverbal cues from in-person meetings, you should encourage a video option so board members can see faces and build rapport with each other.
Assign roles to board members and share responsibilities with them when you distribute the agenda. Roles could include a designated notetaker, timekeeper, and technical point person in case of issues with the video platform. Giving them a clear direction will help them feel connected and invested in the overall outcome.
While every board meeting should be an engaging experience, it’s more important than ever to do that virtually. Remote meetings eat into everybody’s attention reserves. Without an interactive and engaging experience, your board members’ attention will easily slip.
To prevent this, find places in the agenda to encourage interactivity and try some activities to get board members talking. A few tips to consider:
- Have every board member speak at the meeting’s start. It’ll show who’s present and lay the groundwork for a spirit of collaboration.
- Take questions throughout the meeting. Waiting until the end can lead to forgetfulness, or you’ll miss opportunities for engaging discussions. Plus, if the meeting runs long, they may even hold back questions just to end it on time.
- Consider pausing after each agenda item and asking every attendee to share their immediate feedback. Quieter board members will have the chance to participate and voice what’s on their mind.
- Add a time limit to each agenda item. That’ll help your meeting stay on course and prevent lags in discussions.
- Put ideas that are tangential to the agenda items or that run past their time allotment in a “parking lot.” At the end of the meeting, decide next steps for the parking lot items.
Ask for Feedback
Once the meeting adjourns, follow up with your board members for feedback. It’s a good opportunity to engage your board members and put their minds to work on important issues. It might be a major decision on the organization’s direction, or it could be a logo design for an upcoming virtual event. Either way, it allows board members to contribute their time and talent after the meeting.
Polls and surveys can capture data from board members and inform your decisions. When polling, try letting board members submit anonymous feedback — you’ll want the honest truth from them. Review every result and suggestion and keep them in mind as you develop an organizational strategy and plan the next board meeting. Using their suggestions shows you value their input and lets you build stronger relationships.
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Even after offices reopen, these tips can help you ensure everyone on your board feels included and appreciated. As you plan board meetings, both remote and in-person, adding engagement and space for collaboration can bring stronger, more energizing discussions to your board and create meetings people get excited to attend.
Boardable is an online board management portal that centralizes communication, document storage, meeting planning, and everything involved with running a board of directors. Founded in 2016 by nonprofit leaders and founders, Boardable has a mission to improve board engagement for nonprofits. Boardable is based in Indianapolis, Indiana.