The COVID-19 pandemic has forced companies and organizations to move operations and business processes online — including board meetings. Directors are now talking about issues and making crucial decisions over online discussions and exchanges.
Virtual board meetings are no longer a last resort — they’ve become normal.
What are virtual board meetings?
It’s not always easy for board directors to squeeze regular meetings into their busy schedules. However, with the help of board management software, online board meetings allow members to join from wherever they are with only an internet connection. That’s what virtual board meetings are all about.
The pandemic has changed the business landscape, and virtual board meetings have become the new normal. Though conferences can be fully digital, where all attendees join the meeting remotely, they can also take a hybrid approach, which combines board members who are physically present in one location and communicating with those participating online. And that’s not the only advantage they offer.
Pros of virtual board meetings
Some companies hold virtual board meetings because they have no other alternatives. Take multinational corporations that have trouble gathering board directors from different countries into a single room. Plus, modern realities require the adherence of social distancing rules.
But even if face-to-face board meetings are viable for your company, you should still consider virtual meetings for the benefits they provide.
Eliminates travel time, boosts productivity
By removing the need to travel, virtual board meetings save time and expenses. Since it’s more convenient for busy board directors to attend online meetings, achieving quorum can be much easier.
Instead of wasting time on a long drive or commute, attendees can read the materials and exchange feedback before the meeting starts. This can help shorten the meeting itself and make discussions more focused and insightful.
Decreases administrative tasks, promotes better governance
The right board management tools can significantly reduce logistical and scheduling tasks. They can also speed up preparing, editing, and distributing documents and board meeting packs.
With menial tasks out of the way, board members and assistants can focus on more important governance issues. They’ll also be better equipped to hold emergency board meetings and make timely decisions.
Reduces restrictions, enhances board diversity
Board members from different social and geographical backgrounds can enrich discussions and improve decision-making. The problem is that it’s not always easy to enlist board members from across the globe. Now that virtual board meetings make it easy to gather people from all over the world, you no longer have to limit your choices.
But as with all things in life, virtual board meetings have a downside.
Cons of virtual board meetings
Virtual board meetings have their challenges, too. Here are their technological and communicative roadblocks.
Even with the ubiquity of advanced gadgets and fast internet connections, it’s still unavoidable for virtual meeting attendees to encounter technical difficulties. Laptops can go berserk and/or lose their internet connection.
You also have to deal with learning curves when introducing new software. Plus, not all board members may have the necessary technical requirements to run the software.
Board directors often discuss sensitive matters like business strategies and financial performance. This is why security is always a concern during meetings. Going online increases exposure to security breaches.
Some board members may hesitate to share sensitive information, and others may be too lenient with the data they share online. The former hampers effective communication, while the latter exposes your organization to unwanted risks.
Limited interpersonal interactions
Face-to-face meetings allow people to read body language and facial expressions that may not be readily apparent in a virtual conversation. Moreover, it’s easier for board chairs to keep attendees engaged in a real-life setting. The simple act of holding eye contact goes a long way.
Maintaining the same level of engagement is not as easy in a virtual meeting. Board members who are used to the traditional setup may hesitate to speak up. Many end up becoming passive listeners.
People in face-to-face meetings feel more compelled to pay attention to and engage in the discussion. This is not always the case in remote settings, where it’s easier to give in to the urge to grab a cup of coffee or check the inbox. It becomes even more challenging for those joining the meeting from their homes. Some attendees have to handle their distracting kids and pets.
Either way, you will benefit from virtual board meetings when they’re run efficiently.
How to run efficient virtual meetings
The following tips for running efficient virtual board meetings can help you combat many of the challenges of an online setup.
Use the right platform
To ensure efficiency in your board meetings, make sure you’re armed with the right software and integrated video conferencing tools. It’s best to choose tools that are designed to meet your unique needs.
Easy-to-use board portal software allows directors and administrators to manage meetings, securely distribute and access materials, and communicate with each other. The portal must also be accessible from all devices.
Set a clear agenda
A well-prepared agenda ensures your meeting has a clear direction. It also helps attendees stay on track with the key topics and meeting objectives.
It’s best to distribute the agenda at least a week before the scheduled meeting. This will provide board members with enough time to review its contents and prepare talking points.
Establish ground rules
Without proper structure, it’s easy for chaos to reign over the meeting. Stay in control by setting clear ground rules. You can require attendees to follow specific guidelines, such as:
- Keep the video camera turned on throughout the meeting
- Wait to be recognized by the board chair before speaking
- Use the mute button when not talking
- Stick to the agreed-upon time duration for each topic
- Send documents using the designated board portal to ensure security
When all members stick to these requirements, the meeting will be much more effective.
It’s easy for remote attendees to get sidetracked. Keep them engaged by proactively encouraging interaction and collaboration.
You can do this by periodically asking the remote attendees for their thoughts and comments on a specific topic. You can also assure them you’re using secure meeting software, so they won’t have to worry about disclosing sensitive information.
Ensure easy access to information
To ensure active participation, make it easy for the attendees to access relevant documents and materials.
Board directors who have read the pre-meeting materials can show up prepared with questions and talking points. A well-prepared board packed complete with necessary information like performance data and recent financial reports can also keep the meeting attendees informed and involved.
But to fully reap the rewards of the virtual setup, you must be armed with the right board portal software.
Helpful virtual board meeting software features
When searching for the best software for your virtual board meetings, look for the following features.
Board portal software can make meeting preparations easier by providing a builder that lets you create easy-to-distribute digital agendas. The tool should let you add and reorder agenda items easily.
Meeting attendees should download the agenda in PDF format and view it even when they’re offline. They should also be able to view the file on the board portal without downloading it.
Video interactions help keep meeting attendees engaged. This is why virtual board meetings must integrate video conferencing.
Use a board portal that connects with your preferred video-conferencing application. That way, you will be able to manage the virtual conference and document sharing from a single hub.
Your board portal should have a document center that lets you easily upload, merge, view, move, delete, and restore files and folders — all without requiring plugins. Meeting attendees should be able to access the files from any device. Moreover, they should be able to share highly sensitive documents without compromising data security.
The right board software ensures data security using features like strict access policy, encryption, two-step authentication, watermarks, remote wipe, audit logs, and industry compliance.
Board portal software makes administrative tasks more manageable, allowing directors and administrators to focus their energy on more important matters.
The portal may include a task manager that links things-to-do to specific meetings. This will allow attendees to check assigned tasks from the previous meetings that have not been completed. The task manager also facilitates preparations for the upcoming meetings.
More and more board chairs and CEOs are discovering that virtual board meetings are better than face-to-face conferences. Fast-adapting companies benefit from board portal software because it emphasizes collaboration, security, and effective governance. And in a world where offices are becoming optional, virtual board meeting software is what you need.