For organisations around the world, COVID-19 forced board meetings to go virtual. The new normal became the videoconference, with varying levels of success. Even with the return to the office, many remote-work transitions seem here to stay. This presents organisations with the challenge of keeping their board meetings engaging and productive, even when online. The following article provides insights and practical tips for running effective virtual board meetings.
Is virtual board meeting software here to stay?
The past decade has witnessed an unprecedented surge in technological advancements reshaping the way organisations communicate and collaborate. As business leaders strive for greater efficiency and adaptability, the landscape of board meetings has undergone a significant transformation. Traditional in-person board meetings, once the cornerstone of decision-making and strategic planning, are being replaced by their virtual counterparts.
Despite the apparent novelty and complexity of the technology, it is possible to run productive remote board meetings. In fact, when conducted appropriately, virtual board meetings can be more effective than in-person meetings, with better time management and clearer decision making. As with any technology, there are pros and cons to the technology, so a deeper analysis is useful.
Are virtual meetings better or worse than in-person meetings?
Virtual meetings come with their own advantages and disadvantages. It is crucial for businesses to understand these pros and cons in order to make informed decisions about incorporating virtual meetings into their operations.
Advantages of virtual board meetings
Enhanced flexibility and accessibility
- Virtual board meetings offer unparalleled flexibility and accessibility, allowing participants to join from any location without being hindered by geographical barriers or transportation logistics.
Increased cost and time efficiency
- Virtual meetings significantly reduce the expenses associated with travel, including accommodation, transportation, and meals.
- Efficiency is enhanced as board members can redirect the time and energy spent travelling toward higher-value tasks and decision-making.
- Holding remote meetings using virtual technology makes it possible for boards to hire directors from various backgrounds with different skill sets and experiences, regardless of their location or mobility.
- For some people, participation in in-person meetings can be influenced by cultural hierarchies of age, education, or gender. Virtual meetings lessen or remove this influence, allowing members greater freedom to engage.
Improved decision-making processes
- Virtual board meeting software includes information-sharing tools that facilitate real-time access to crucial data and documents, enabling faster collaboration and more informed decision-making.
- Automated recording and transcribing of the meeting discussion mean the minutes become a comprehensive reference for any future review.
Disadvantages of virtual board meetings
- Virtual board meetings entail the transmission of sensitive information, posing potential data breach risks. To ensure confidentiality, organisations need to implement stringent security measures, including the use of secure virtual meeting software that encrypts all shared data and documents.
Reduced personal interaction
- Virtual board meetings may lack the personal touch and face-to-face interaction of in-person gatherings, potentially impacting rapport and relationship building among board members.
- Non-verbal cues and body language may be less apparent, requiring participants to adapt to alternative communication methods to avoid implied meanings or other non-verbal cues.
- Connectivity issues, hardware or software malfunctions, and unfamiliarity with virtual platforms can delay or slow virtual meetings.
- Some participants may reject the concept of adapting to new technologies, potentially weakening their engagement or hindering the flow of discussions and decision-making.
How to hold a successful virtual meeting – four tips
Adopting some proven best practices for virtual board meetings makes it possible to prepare for and conduct a board meeting that is as effective as a meeting held in person. Outlined below are four tips for running a successful virtual meeting.
1. Prepare thoroughly
As with any meeting, comprehensive preparation is the foundation of a successful virtual board meeting. Create a detailed agenda that clearly outlines the discussion topics and allocates appropriate time for each item. Share it, along with all the necessary supporting materials, as you would with any meeting.
But because the members will be attending remotely, be sure to include the link to the meeting software and the login credentials. Ideally, the participants will have the meeting link in their calendar already, though sharing it again in an email is good practice. This approach will enable board members to join the meeting on time and help foster meaningful discussions and well-informed decision-making.
2. Optimise the technology and connectivity
To ensure a seamless virtual meeting experience, it is essential to optimise the technology and connectivity involved. Prior to the meeting, conduct tests on the chosen virtual meeting platform to familiarise yourself with its features and identify any potential technical issues. Provide participants with clear instructions on accessing and utilising the virtual tools, including joining the meeting, sharing screens, and utilising chat or messaging functions. Offering technical support during the meeting or designating a point of contact for troubleshooting can promptly address any connectivity issues that may arise.
3. Foster virtual meeting attendee engagement and participation
Facilitating all members’ active participation is crucial for a successful virtual meeting. As with any in-person meeting, create opportunities for interaction by soliciting input, inviting questions, or encouraging feedback. The virtual meeting adds interactive features like polls or breakout sessions to promote engagement and gather diverse perspectives. Allocate dedicated time for open discussions, allowing board members to share insights and concerns. By fostering an inclusive environment that values and encourages participation, virtual board meetings can be dynamic and productive.
4. Augment virtual meetings with online board management software
Utilising online board management software can be extremely useful for virtual board meetings. Such software offers a centralised platform that facilitates seamless collaboration and document management. With features like secure document storage, real-time updates, and version control, it ensures that all board members have access to the most up-to-date materials.
Additionally, online board management software typically includes tools for creating and distributing agendas, scheduling meetings, and tracking action items. By utilising this technology, organisations can enhance efficiency, improve communication, and streamline the overall board meeting process.
Can productive board meetings be held virtually?
As countless companies and organisations around the world have shown, the answer is yes. The transition from in-person to virtual board meetings has brought both challenges and opportunities. By choosing the right technology and establishing clear guidelines, organisations can leverage this transition successfully. The flexibility and efficiency of virtual board meetings enable organisations to continue making informed decisions and driving growth in the face of change.
How Acclime can help
As businesses continue to adapt to this new normal, partnering with a trusted business service provider can offer invaluable support. Acclime’s online board management software – Acclime BoardManagement – streamlines the entire meeting process, from agenda setting to document sharing and collaboration.
Acclime BoardManagement enables seamless communication, secure document storage, and easy access for board members, ensuring efficient and productive virtual meetings. With Acclime’s expertise and innovative solutions, businesses can confidently embrace the transition to virtual board meetings and optimise their governance practices in the digital era.