As the virtual meeting era evolves, we're learning best practices on the fly. Your board can get ahead by putting these 7 suggestions into practice.
“Carl, you’re muted.”
We all remember the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the world quickly pivoted to virtual meetings to keep businesses running as stay-at-home orders were enacted.
For many boards, it meant adopting new technology, notably the videoconferencing platform, Zoom. With anything new comes a learning curve, and those early meetings often resulted in plenty of user-error and unexpected surprises. Participants struggled to turn on their microphones and cameras, while pets and children made unexpected cameos in all sorts of important business meetings.
What seemed like a short-term solution is now a permanent fixture of daily life. Even if you feel confident using Zoom, think about how you can enhance your sound and lighting, personalize your background, and implement other tips to make your next Zoom board meeting go off without a hitch.
1. Curate Your Background
Your Zoom background says a lot about you, so think of ways to let your personality shine. You can strategically place a piece of art or hang family photos, showcase a unique hobby, or highlight a favorite cause. Use a bookcase in the room to display some of your favorite books or authors. Even applying a fresh coat of paint or adding pops of accent color can make a tremendous difference.
It’s not about competing for an appearance on Room Rater, but “staging” your background with some personal artifacts goes a long way toward providing a more professional and polished image.
2. Invest in Decent Equipment
Once you curate your home studio, take some time to optimize your audio, video, and lighting.
Proper lighting is important. Make use of available natural light, but avoid sitting in front of a window to prevent a washed-out look. If you use a desk lamp or ring light, you’ll want to light yourself from the front or side. Many ring lights allow you to adjust how warm or cool they appear, so you can perfect the mood.
Sound and video depend on your computer. In some cases, your computer’s built-in mic and camera will suffice. If you serve on multiple boards, or participate in frequent Zoom meetings, consider upgrading your digital arsenal to include a web camera for HD-video and USB microphone for crystal-clear audio.
3. Put Kids and Pets on Mute
Sure, most people chuckle at the sudden pounce of a cat or cute puppy, or the sneaky toddler who wanders into the Zoom call — it’s now a part of the fabric of life created by adjusting to a fully remote and virtual environment. At times, it offers a much-needed distraction, but it can also throw your board meeting off course, and waste valuable time for a group with little to spare.
Try to keep your kids and pets at bay. Close your office door, or find another space free of distractions. If all else fails, place yourself on mute, except when you need to speak. Bonus tip: Make sure you know how to mute and unmute yourself. Don’t be Carl.
4. Set the Ground Rules
For an in-person board meeting, you typically expect predetermined rules, processes, and decorum to govern social norms. But since we’re still relatively new to this all-virtual world or what some consider a hybrid blend of remote and in-person participants, many of those norms have yet to be established.
As for any meeting environment, it’s important to lay the ground rules for Zoom, such as:
- Everyone keeps cameras turned on
- Mute microphone unless you’re speaking
- Everybody participates and engages in discussion
- Screen-sharing not allowed
- Ask questions using the chat feature
- Meetings start and end on time
5. Accomplish Smaller Tasks Before the Meeting
A board meeting is truly a meeting of the minds, so don’t waste valuable time going over mundane tasks or administrative functions. Vote on smaller issues, go over the consent agenda, and cover non-mission-critical issues before meetings to preserve time for strategic discussion.
Consider using a digital board management platform to streamline these tasks in advance of your next board meeting.
6. Send Board Materials in Advance
Sending board materials to members and directors in advance — at least a week before the board meeting — is considered a best practice of effective board management, regardless if you’re meeting virtually or in-person. It allows members to read through the board materials ahead of time, so they show up fully prepared. If you wait until the day of the meeting to distribute board books and other reference materials, you’ll likely see a significant drop in meeting engagement as members struggle to catch up.
7. Use a Board Management Solution
Some boards adopt a board portal to make it easier to share board materials digitally. A board portal, such as OnBoard, allows you to store and distribute meeting agendas, meeting notes, voting records, and other key documents in a secure, central hub. Members can easily review previous meeting notes, and stay informed between board meetings.
According to OnBoard’s Board Effectiveness Survey, board members who use board management software reported sending materials to board members earlier than non-users, and came to meetings better informed.
Board management software also helps board administrators work more efficiently, as they can update the board book and make other last-minute changes on the fly, and without needing to reprint or resend materials before the next Zoom call.
Ready to take your meeting agenda and minutes to the next level? Request a demo or a free trial of OnBoard, the board intelligence platform that empowers boards and committees to hold more effective, informed, and uncomplicated meetings.
About The Author
- At OnBoard, we believe board meetings should be informed, effective, and uncomplicated. That’s why we give boards and leadership teams an elegant solution that simplifies governance. With customers in higher education, nonprofit, health care systems, government, and corporate enterprise business, OnBoard is the leading board management provider.
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