Toward the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, mission-driven organizations and nonprofits were forced to adhere to social distancing guidelines by transitioning to remote operations. Among those impacted were board members. Like the rest of your team, board members didn’t have the option to put their conversations on hold. In fact, it became even more important for them to discuss your initiatives and collaborate on strategic approaches to overcome adversity. They got creative by meeting and communicating virtually.
With the end of the pandemic in sight, mission-driven organizations are starting to return to the office and experimenting with hybrid board meetings. That way, board members who are willing and able can attend in person, while those with underlying health concerns can attend remotely.
If hybrid meetings are new to you, you’re not alone. Many mission-driven organizations are providing this option for the first time and need a little guidance to create the most effective hybrid meetings possible.
While hybrid work is new territory for most organizations, Boardable’s experts have worked with thousands of boards to offer digital meeting options for quite some time, so we understand the unique needs and challenges that boards face while working remotely. Using our first-hand experience, we’ve put together this complete playbook for mission-driven organizations to bridge the distance between in-person and remote attendees during hybrid meetings. Here’s what we’ll cover:
Whether your board is waiting or has already started returning to the office, the shift back to in-person operations is rapidly approaching. To get ahead of your back-to-the-office preparation, let’s start with the basics of hybrid meetings.
A hybrid meeting is a meeting in which part of the audience joins in person and another part joins virtually. Remote attendees use audio and video conferencing technology to participate, sharing content virtually to keep every attendee the same page. Regardless of their location, attendees can listen to presentations, provide their insights, and collaborate with their fellow team members.
For a board of directors, an organization benefits from all board members’ input, even when they’re unable to physically attend meetings. With dedicated board technology, all attendees need is a computer and an internet connection to participate. They can join in the conversation and provide insight that’s just as valuable as your in-person directors.
Today, more meetings are at least partially remote than ever. Barco’s hybrid meetings report estimates that more than half of all meetings are virtual across the globe, which comes as no surprise since many organizations have implemented a full work-from-home policy in response to the pandemic. Already, 23% of all meetings are hybrid, and that percentage will likely rise when restrictions are lifted and more normal work regimes are taken up.
Why exactly are so many people implementing a hybrid meeting approach, and more importantly, what does that mean for your board?
The most obvious advantage is that hybrid meetings allow board members to attend wherever they are. However, the benefits run deeper than that. You can expect the following advantages from hybrid board meetings:
While a remote option has more obvious uses right now, the benefits of hybrid meetings will outlast the pandemic. Long after we’ve returned to normal in-person activities, your board members will appreciate the convenience of joining virtually when they’re unable to attend in person. Technology will continue to evolve, resulting in innovative tools that can lead to new engagement opportunities for modern boards.
Every positive change comes with a few obstacles. Your team will need to overcome some difficulties as you adjust to hybrid meetings. Three common challenges that you should be prepared to encounter with hybrid board meetings include:
The good news is that the right software can minimize the impact of these challenges. As we’ll explore further below, Spotlight by Boardable empower boards to host highly productive virtual and hybrid board meetings.
Our platform offers everything you need to keep attendees engaged with sharing tools and face-to-face collaboration. Plus, it allows board chairs and other leadership to maintain complete control of the boardroom by planning agendas, capturing ideas, delegating tasks, and voting on important issues. All of your work will be protected thanks to our extra security precautions, giving your team peace of mind.
Making the most of your board members’ time together requires meeting planners to put in a little extra time into fully preparing. While hybrid meetings don’t have to drastically differ from traditional gatherings, there are some elements you’ll need to account for in your planning. Otherwise, you risk falling subject to the challenges we discussed earlier.
Let’s walk through the vital steps every executive director and board chair should follow when conducting hybrid meetings.
Before you start lining up your first hybrid meeting, determine if your board can offer this option. Some organizations’ bylaws and local regulations specifically outlaw remote attendance, so check whether you can legally conduct hybrid board meetings.
There are two primary resources that you’ll want to check before investing time in planning your meeting:
When reviewing these guidelines, be on the lookout for relevant safety standards. Standards evolve over time, so regularly refresh yourself on these guidelines. For instance, the pandemic has resulted in social distancing, limited in-person gatherings, and mask protocols, but these standards will change once the pandemic and health concerns dissipate. Being on top of these
These two sets of regulations will immediately clarify whether you can offer remote meeting options. If you push ahead without checking, you may wind up violating your own bylaws or local regulations, resulting in legal ramifications. By making sure you’re caught up on the most recent regulations and internal guidelines, you can move forward with full confidence that you’re complying with all applicable rules.
To enable remote attendance and collaboration, board leadership should spend time selecting the right software. Don’t stop at just audio and meeting tools. Additional hybrid meeting software grants even more functionality and allows you to make the most of your attendees’ time together.
Ideally, your tools should either integrate with or be built into your board management platform, providing access to all of your work and features in one location.
Boardable’s team has developed its own remote meeting platform, specifically for boards. As part of our board management software, Boardable’s Spotlight feature grants your team access to all the resources and tools it needs to make the most of your hybrid board meetings. Check out this short overview video to get acquainted with features that can streamline your hybrid meetings:
Face-to-face interaction allows board members to stay connected and assess others’ nonverbal communication, unlike audio-only meetings. Spotlight makes it easy for users to join meetings and participate face-to-face. All they have to do is click “Join Video Call” and a video screen will pop up, allowing them to see other attendees and view meeting documents within the same window.
A well-crafted agenda is the foundation of any successful board meeting. It helps to accomplish goals in a timely manner by keeping everyone on task. Boardable’s Agenda Builder allows you to create agendas with detailed discussion items, intended objectives, and time limits to facilitate the transition between topics.
Additionally, your board admin can take meeting minutes directly on the agenda. Record minutes in real-time to quickly capture ideas, tasks, and decisions without shuffling between different browsers. During your hybrid board meeting, your facilitator can use Present Mode to display important files and encourage attendees to follow along.
With a mix of in-person and remote attendees, voting and decision-making can be tricky. Boardable offers a polling feature that allows you to highlight important decision-making items and quickly capture votes. Enable virtual voting so everyone can participate, even if they can’t attend in person. For more sensitive issues, enable anonymous voting so that everyone feels comfortable sharing their honest perspectives.
This is just a glimpse into our platform’s functionality. When paired with all of our features, Spotlight enables you to replicate in-person board meetings. Everyone can fully engage in the collaboration process, whether they’re physically present or joining remotely. Manage all your documents, follow up on tasks, and facilitate highly productive hybrid board meetings all within one platform.
As you head into your first hybrid meeting, communicate your meeting expectations upfront, and reiterate them at the start of each meeting. By laying down basic ground rules, everyone will be more mindful of how they participate during your hybrid meetings.
First and foremost, teach attendees about proper remote meeting etiquette. Proper etiquette ensures the virtual and physical boardrooms stay orderly and in sync. Our virtual board meetings guide offers several actionable tips to set these expectations. For instance, remote attendees should:
Some organizations that allow remote attendance also report that in-person attendance drops. While hybrid board meetings are certainly beneficial, this can directly impact the dynamic of the group when everyone gets into the habit of calling in without just cause.
Many executive directors and board chairs set a minimum in-person attendance requirement to combat poor in-person attendance. Your leadership should have a frank discussion with board members to make it clear that remote attendance isn’t an alternative to being physically present on a regular basis.
Like we mentioned earlier, your agenda is the driving force behind your hybrid board meetings. A well-designed one serves as the roadmap for the chair, helping them to navigate between subjects and address all business items. An agenda that’s disorganized or incomplete will throw the conversation off track and result in a much longer meeting than necessary — hybrid or not.
Make the most of every hybrid board meeting by optimizing your agenda and ensuring every topic is thoroughly covered. Here are a few tips for doing exactly that:
Your agenda sets the stage for how productive your hybrid board meetings will be. After you’ve taken the time to build it out, share it in advance so that board members can come prepared with insightful thoughts and questions. Then, have it pulled up on the screen during the meeting itself so that everyone knows where they are in the conversation.
Boardable’s Agenda Builder makes it easy to create your agendas, securely share them as interactive PDFs, and take minutes directly on them. Either start from scratch or get a headstart with a template from one of your previous meetings to maintain consistency.
RELATED: Make the most of your board’s time together by following the actionable advice in our complete guide to board meeting agendas.
While it’s tempting to sit back and watch your hybrid board meeting unfold, your board chair and other leaders should proactively engage board members to ensure they actively participate in the discussion.
Experiment with a few ways to keep your hybrid meetings productive and engaging, like:
By prioritizing everyone’s engagement, you’ll find that your hybrid board meetings are much more enthusiastic, focused, and productive. It’ll be evident if you go the extra mile to make the experience as enjoyable as possible, making your board members appreciative of your efforts and increasing their willingness to participate.
Pro Tip: Have in-person presenters join virtually and look at their laptops when speaking. This can help bridge the distance between in-person and remote attendees, making virtual board members feel like a valued part of the conversation. Just be sure everyone in the room mutes themselves whenever they’re not speaking to minimize sound feedback.
Productive hybrid board meetings will almost always result in several follow-up tasks. Make sure you’re taking note of any directly within the agenda. When you use Boardable, you can immediately assign these tasks using the convenient Task Manager. Board members can take a look at their dashboards to quickly reference their priorities, and administrators can follow up on incomplete tasks when the due date approaches. Everyone will know who’s assigned to each task, and nothing will be missed.
Further, board leaders should inquire about everyone’s perspectives on the hybrid meeting experience. For instance, your secretary could reach out and ask board members to:
Understanding what aspects are going well (and which are falling short of expectations) allows you to improve your approach. You’ll benefit from a range of perspectives, and taking action based on board members’ feedback will communicate that you want to make the most of their experience and time.
Beyond easing health concerns, your board might choose to enable remote attendance for a number of reasons. Remember, a hybrid approach allows you to tap into a much more diverse pool of candidates and recruit the best talent for your team. Plus, board members will appreciate the ability to still join in on the conversation when unforeseen scheduling conflicts come up that prevent them from attending in-person.
While hybrid board meetings come with a plethora of benefits, you’ll need to take extra steps to combat any challenges, and with the right features in your toolkit, there’s no need to sacrifice engagement or productivity.
While they might introduce new challenges into the mix, hybrid meetings are essential if you’re planning on offering your board members more flexibility. Now is the time to figure out a plan to run these meetings effectively, so that you can smoothly incorporate them as your team transitions back to the office.
If you’re looking to learn more about effective board management, check out these resources: