It has been over a year since association board members from around the country have been able to hold in-person board meetings due to the pandemic. Boards are growing fatigued from the lack of interaction among members and are missing out on important aspects of association leadership. For example, directors who have resigned never got a proper send-off and new directors have not been formally introduced.
Thankfully, with the help of virtual meeting platforms, board of directors continued to meet on a regular basis this past year with video calls; perhaps seeing each other more than they would have prior to the pandemic. Video conference calls have become the norm and talking on the telephone is largely a thing of the past. However, we can all agree that the novelty of virtual meetings is beginning to wear off and everyone is ready to see each other in the flesh. But until that can happen, here are a few ideas you can incorporate into your virtual board meetings to ensure engagement levels do not burn out.
Picture yourself walking into a conference room – what is the first thing you do? Finding your seat at the boardroom table to immediately call the meeting to order is probably not it. Instead, you will likely pour yourself a cup of coffee and start a conversation with a fellow board member. In-person meetings provide a great opportunity to reconnect and, for some, decompress after a day of travel. If done correctly, this reconnecting can also be adapted to virtual meetings. Board members are often jumping from meeting to meeting amidst an already busy workday. Change the tone for the call and ease into it by allowing members to catch up – like they would in person.
Try something like this: at the beginning of every meeting, ask a fun, icebreaker question that is not related to board business. Examples of some questions could be:
- What is something about yourself that no one else knows?
- Where is your favourite vacation destination?
- If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Depending on the size of the board, this can be a quick 15-minute exercise to start off the meeting. Not only will you learn a little more about your fellow board members, but you will have fun doing it.
My colleague’s article, Board Succession Planning during a pandemic, contains more information about connecting virtually as association leaders.
Sitting in front of a computer for hours at a time is draining, not to mention hard on the eyes. Now that the majority of meetings are conducted virtually, directors can easily spend all day sitting at their desk. To avoid this, throw in a break in the middle of the meeting to allow members to stretch their legs. Make it a group activity and do a quick exercise session together. Someone from the board can lead a quick routine or everyone can jump to their feet to jog on the spot – cameras-on can be optional. This time can also be used to chat with one another. Camaraderie is a crucial aspect in ensuring a strong and cohesive board. In order to maintain that within a virtual world, try to retain as many components as possible from in-person meetings, which includes informal conversation and meeting breaks.
It won’t be long until we can finally meet in person. Why not start planning for upcoming meetings and events? Consider adding an item to the agenda that allows directors to start planning for the future. Whether this means selecting the meeting location, discussing potential events, or even deciding what to order for the board dinner; get those conversations rolling. Reignite the fire and provide board members with the opportunity to visualize themselves together again. As plans begin to unfold, however, retain a back-up plan as we are not in the clear yet. For instance, look into cancellation policies and alternative dates.
Whether you are making the most of the current situation or gearing up for the future, it is important to keep in mind that virtual board meetings are likely here to stay. Ensure their longevity and success and incorporate something new and exciting to your meetings. You may be surprised at how a little change of pace can keep board members engaged and productive in a virtual world.
For more info on virtual meetings, read Virtual Meetings for Your Association Board.