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How to Hold Successful Hybrid Board Meetings

Posted: 3/15/2022

Click here to read on NonProfitPRO.

By Jeff Middlesworth

Over the last two years, many businesses have adjusted to having their teams work from home. While some companies shifted to a hybrid environment, 68% of companies do not have a hybrid work plan in place. Experts say the future will likely consist of a hybrid workforce, leaving many people anxious about the change, reporting feelings of exhaustion and being burned out from the change in environment. Whether or not a leader addresses these anxieties can significantly impact productivity in a hybrid setting.

While these challenges may seem only like an office issue, boardrooms are also impacted. Nonprofit board management has become an increasingly difficult task in a hybrid setting. When board members work both virtually and in person, action items, materials and other information can easily be lost across platforms, documents and emails. Add poorly managed hybrid meetings to the list, and board members can start to feel disengaged and unorganized. Hybrid meetings are here to stay. Here's how you can ensure board meetings remain successful even when teams are in person and virtual.

Make Board Meetings Effective and Engaging

Board meetings provide space and time for your team members to come together and share ideas, collaborate on your organization's goals and create strategies for working toward objectives. Accomplishing this during a hybrid meeting can prove challenging as remote board members must feel just as engaged as in-person members.

It's best to start with the basics and ensure that meeting attendees, especially new board members, are aware of your meeting structure and the typical order of business, which can include the following steps:

  • Call the meeting to order and begin the meeting at the designated start time.
  • Take attendance. Ensure the number of attendees is high enough to hold the meeting. If not enough people are attending the meeting, it cannot take place.
  • Approve an agenda. This is a time for attendees to request additions, changes or deletions to the schedule.
  • Address both new and remaining business. Discuss any items that were not resolved in previous meetings and work through any additional items pertaining to the nonprofit organization and its needs. Assign action items based on these conversations.

The best way to optimize your nonprofit board meeting and the time of your board members is to begin meeting preparation with the end in mind: Clearly define goals and outcomes for your meeting. Think about discussion items, upcoming events and issues that need to be voted on. Whenever possible, organize the agenda by most critical discussion topics. Team members are more attentive at the beginning of a meeting, and touching on the most engaging topics right away will help keep their attention throughout the entire board meeting.

An effective board meeting requires attention from everyone. Knowing the typical signs of disengagement can help raise a red flag when the meeting starts to go off the rails, and it can also teach you and your team how to manage your time better together. Have your team participate in post-meeting board engagement surveys to improve future meetings, thank them for their hard work, and create an inclusive and welcoming environment where everyone feels their opinions matter. Doing so will encourage participation and higher levels of engagement.

Boardrooms consist of a variety of different personalities and backgrounds. Each member will approach a meeting differently. Some will talk; others will observe. Take a moment to think about the individual members. How well do you know them outside of work? Do you know about their hobbies? Interests? Pets? If you answered no to all those questions, consider setting time aside to meet with each member periodically to have conversations that may be tricky to hold during a board meeting. Encourage your board members to get to know each other outside of the boardroom. Participation matters, and some people may feel more comfortable participating in discussions if they are familiar with those with whom they work.

Invest in a Board Management Solution to Optimize Your Meeting Lifecycle

Organizations that use board management software to manage their nonprofit boards can simplify pre-meeting prep, execute meaningful and engaging meetings, and promote accountability — even in a hybrid work environment. With the right technology, your organization can:

  • Plan meetings well ahead of time. A meeting scheduler that integrates with calendars to help omit errors, and save manual time and energy.
  • Keep your documents secure and all in one place. Going paperless is the future of the boardroom. Utilize a platform that offers secure document storage, accessibility to those with permissions and easy collaboration with other features, such as e-signature.
  • Simplify meeting agendas. Save time on meeting planning by using an organized platform that offers agenda templates.
  • Access meeting recordings. In a virtual setting, it can be difficult to retain information; meeting recordings can provide accountability and ensure that information can be revisited at a later time.
  • View and download reports. Tracking data helps your organization gain insight into your board's engagement and lets you see what is working and what needs to be improved.
  • Set and track goals. Setting goals for your team helps everyone stay focused and up-to-date on your organization's progress and success.
  • Vote virtually. Polls and virtual voting can garner participation in a variety of ways, such as decision making on sensitive issues or feedback on a lighter topic.

Accessibility is a necessity in the digital age because it promotes a more diverse, equitable and inclusive environment. Everyone — including people with hearing, sight and speech disabilities — can benefit from using software with additional accessibility features, such as a screen reader and dyslexia-friendly font. This technology can also help board members who use smaller screens, such as mobile devices, or experience issues like loud background noise.

While there are numerous nonprofit board management solutions, it's important to consider a platform that's best for your organization — one that prioritizes security, simplifies the hybrid meeting experience and allows everyone to contribute without barriers.

As the world continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, it's no longer an option for boardrooms to carry on the way they had before. Meeting preparation is an essential step in ensuring that all your board members are engaged, on task and organized at all times. Holding consistently effective board meetings ensures members will produce the highest quality work, resulting in a number of successes for your team.

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