As organizations embrace a virtual meeting format, they must also contend with new obstacles, such as screen fatigue, competing priorities and nontraditional schedules. Yet with a little intention, planning and discipline from everyone involved, virtual board meetings can be just as effective, engaging and informative as in-person sessions. In this blog series, we walk board leaders through the virtual meeting process and identify best practices to maximize the experience in these highly unusual times.
Tips to Increase Engagement in Virtual Meetings
By virtue of their volunteer role, board members are invested in the organization’s cause. Translating that passion into participation advances the board’s goals and helps drive greater results. It can be hard enough to keep participants engaged during in-person meetings; it’s even harder to do so in a virtual setting. Board members calling in from their own homes face an increased level of distractions and video conferences do not always capture body language and nonverbal cues. Here are some tips to overcome these obstacles and keep board members engaged during a virtual meeting:
- Efficiency: Meeting facilitators and presenters should use a direct and concise communication style. Trim down remarks to three or four key points per agenda item that advance the overall meeting goals. When presenting operational updates or financial reports, avoid reading the full document, which can be shared in its entirety with board members; instead, stick to the highlights or key takeaways.
- Format: Consider setting up breakout rooms within the video conferencing tool for smaller group discussions. Limit these breakouts to no more than five people to allow for input from everyone and set a time limit for discussion and dialogue. Then, each group can report back to the full board.
- Humanity: The informal conversations before and after the meeting are a big loss in the virtual environment. Start the meeting on a positive note with a round of check-ins, where board members can share how they are doing and a recent personal or professional high note. Keep this personal approach going throughout the meeting by sharing stories of commiseration amidst the current environment, which can help bond the group and create a sense of solidarity.
- Elements of engagement: Video conferencing technology offers a number of tools to capture input and engage participants. Consider using polls and survey questions not only as a way to keep board members engaged, but also as a chance to collect their perspectives on various issues that can inform future meetings or initiatives. If desired, share the results within the session as another chance to engage.
- Energy: Virtual meetings can feel flat without the shared experience of being together in person. It is hard to read the room when no one is there with you. Presenters should try to match their tone with the content, but make sure to keep their energy levels high.
- Guest stars: Without travel time or costs, a virtual format unlocks a new range of guest speaker possibilities that can bring a new dynamic to meetings. Consider tapping into experts or leaders who may have otherwise been outside of your region or scope pre-pandemic.
- Welcome feedback: Follow up after each meeting or on a regular basis to solicit commentary or feedback to continuously improve the virtual experience.
An engaged board is a more productive board, so these steps should help improve the energy and interaction of your next virtual meeting. However, during times of disruption and uncertainty, exchanges may not always be pleasant and positive. We’ll conclude our virtual meeting series with an unavoidable topic in group settings – conflict resolution – and offer ways to push through challenging dialogues in a virtual environment.
Questions about the strategies discussed here or need assistance improving your organization’s virtual board meetings? Contact your RKL advisor or reach out using the form below this post. Visit our Business Recovery Resource Center for more guidance and insights.