Board meetings online continue to grow as the world becomes aware of the benefits of collaboration via virtual technology. This trend offers an effective way to get members involved and removes geographical limitations that would otherwise require the travel of meeting attendees. There are still some obstacles to overcome when transitioning to this new model. With advance planning and savvy facilitation, boards can encourage robust participation in remote board meetings.
It is crucial that, in addition to deciding on the agenda for the meeting, everyone has the necessary technology to be able to participate. It’s ideal to provide an access link for testing and login details in advance, and also to ask participants to mute their microphones when they’re not speaking, which can aid in reducing background noise and enable them to better hear the person who has the floor. Also, it’s a good idea to establish a protocol for conversations (i.e. an approach to hand-raise to request the attention of the group) and to avoid multitasking as it can create confusion during the meeting.
One of the most difficult aspects of virtual board meetings is creating the sense of comfort that is normally present in face-to-face meetings. Icebreakers are one way to create a sense of connection. Ferrazzi Greenlight, for instance, designed a set of exercises that can take place during a videoconference or a “sweet and sweet check-in” where participants discuss something for which they’re grateful and another thing with which they struggle professionally or personally. This allows for an open and vulnerable conversation, which can improve relationships between board members.