The Ultimate Hybrid Board Meetings Playbook for Success

Get a free trial of Boardable to see how it can streamline your hybrid board meetings.

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.

Hybrid meetings are meetings where people attend in-person and remotely at the same time.

What is a Hybrid Meeting?

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.

Hybrid board meetings have several benefits.

Why You Should Host Hybrid Board Meetings

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:

Hybrid board meetings help eliminate barriers, accommodate everyone's schedules, and improve board governance.

  1. Break down social and geographical barriers. You can benefit greatly from having a diverse board. As explored in our board diversity guide, it can be difficult for a homogeneous board (one where all board members share similar characteristics) to notice things that are outside of their general life experiences. Hybrid meetings allow you to make your board socially and geographically diverse. People from other parts of the country (or even the world) can attend. Plus, additional audio and video capabilities enable individuals with hearing or visual impairments to participate.
  2. Accommodate everyone’s schedules. If you’re struggling to meet quorum, remote attendance might just be your catchall solution. Remember, your board members lead busy lives, balancing their professional and personal priorities. Sometimes, their divergent roles conflict with one another, making them unable to fulfill all responsibilities. A remote attendance option makes it convenient for them to attend board meetings by eliminating travel time and expenses.
  3. Improve board governance. Virtual meeting technology empowers you to plan and execute board meetings more efficiently. This is especially true when you’re backed by dedicated board management tools that allow the board to focus on governance issues that sometimes don’t get the attention they deserve. Implementing the right tools will enable your board leadership to facilitate highly-focused meetings, create targeted agendas, assign follow-up actions, and provoke thoughtful discussions.

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.

Hybrid meetings also have specific challenges you'll need to combat.

The Challenges of Hybrid Board Meetings

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 challenges of hybrid meetings include lower participation, more hands-on facilitation, and potential cybersecurity issues.

  1. Lower participation levels. Some aspects of interaction can be lost during hybrid board meetings due to reduced face-to-face interaction. To be truly effective, board members need to be fully engaged. The quickest way to counteract reduced participation is to implement video and encourage input from members attending virtually. This added face-to-face element will serve as a reminder to your in-person attendees that remote attendees are still a part of the conversation.
  2. The need for more hands-on facilitation. Remote attendance requires board leaders to be more hands-on to ensure the hybrid meeting is focused and productive. Your board leaders will need to form detailed agendas, encourage active participation, and rely on technology to keep board members focused and producing their best work. Otherwise, it will be easy to get sidetracked using the new format.
  3. Security obstacles. Digital participation requires reliable technology. Anytime you’re transmitting confidential information over the internet, there’s the risk of a data breach. As re:Charity’s article about virtual board meetings explains, mitigate cybersecurity risks with a virtual meeting platform that’s fully secure. Your system should use secure sockets layer (SSL) certification to encrypt data. Then, your team can safely transmit documents and have confidential discussions without concern.

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.

Follow these key steps to host standout hybrid meetings.

Steps for Hosting Successful Hybrid Board Meetings

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.

Follow these steps to make the most of your hybrid board meetings.

Step 1) Check if your organization allows 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:

  1. Your organization’s bylaws. If your bylaws explicitly state whether your board can conduct virtual or hybrid meetings, you can move forward accordingly. If they don’t specifically mention hybrid meetings, speak with your board chair and legal counsel to clarify any ambiguity.
  2. Local regulations. Some states and cities implement specific rules regarding remote participation in organizations’ meetings. Check these government regulations and review any legal ramifications related to hybrid meetings. While most states do allow hybrid board meetings, it never hurts to double-check.

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.

Step 2) Select the right software to facilitate your hybrid meetings.

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:

Video Conferencing Technology

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.

Boardable Spotlight makes running board meetings incredibly easy.

Agenda Builder

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.

Polls + Virtual Voting

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.

Use Boardable to streamline polling and voting during your hybrid board meetings.

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.

Get started with Boardable!

Step 3) Set ground rules for your hybrid meetings.

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:

  • Mute their mics whenever they’re not speaking to eliminate extra background noise.
  • Raise their hands or send a message in the chat to indicate that they have input or a question.
  • Be camera-ready with proper attire.
  • Close or minimize extra tabs to eliminate any distractions.
  • Send a message in the chat announcing when they’re stepping away from and returning to the call for accurate minute-taking.

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.

Step 4) Create your hybrid board meeting agenda.

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:

  1. Turn the agenda upside down. Your agendas don’t always have to follow the same pattern. Invigorate your board by turning your agenda upside down and covering the most important information first. After all, it’s much easier to generate new ideas when board members’ minds are fresh.
  2. Assign a goal to each task. Is the purpose of an agenda item to inform board members, seek input, or arrive at a decision? Knowing the goal of each item makes it much easier to achieve. Otherwise, your board will likely reach the intended goal without realizing it and consequently waste time. Boardable’s Agenda Builder allows you to assign an objective to each agenda item, so you can keep the discussion focused on reaching the right goals.
  3. Allot a set amount of time for each agenda item. It can be easy to let the conversation go on when the topic at hand is important. However, spending too much time on a single subject can take away from other items your board needs to address. Avoid this by stating how long your team should spend on each topic. If an agenda item runs over the allotted time, table the discussion for later and keep it on the agenda for next time.

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.

Step 5) Host your hybrid board meeting.

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:

  1. Encourage everyone to speak at the beginning. When participating remotely, it’s natural for people to be apprehensive about speaking in a digital environment. Combat this by encouraging everyone to say something toward the start of the meeting. An easy way to ease tension is by verbally taking attendance. Time permitting, you can also include an icebreaker to help new members get used to the technology. Try going around the virtual boardroom and having everyone share their weekend plans.
  2. Designate an in-person participant to monitor the digital boardroom. Someone who’s attending in-person should be the eyes and ears for the virtual participants to ensure their voices are heard. For instance, they can let the board chair know when someone virtually raises their hand. Plus, monitoring the virtual boardroom allows any connectivity or audio issues to be quickly addressed.
  3. Replicate what’s done in the physical boardroom for virtual attendees. You’ll want to ensure the experience is consistent for everyone. Otherwise, your remote attendees will feel forgotten and excluded from the conversation. For instance, if there’s a recent press release about your organization that warrants discussion, hand it out in person while also presenting it within your virtual meeting platform. That way, everyone can see the document and contribute accordingly.

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.

Step 6) Follow up with your board members.

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:

  • Rate different qualities of the meeting numerically.
  • Offer a one-sentence summary of their experience.

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.

Check out these additional resources to make the most of your hybrid board meetings.

Additional Hybrid Board Meeting Resources

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:

Get a free trial of Boardable to make the most of your hybrid board meetings.


Schedule a custom demonstration of Boardable today!