Having all board members in one boardroom for a board meeting is an ideal scenario for an organization, but this is not always possible. Board members often run their own companies, serve in multiple boards, travel for business reasons, and attend other meetings, so conflict in schedule is bound to happen.
Fortunately, board members who otherwise can’t attend now have the opportunity to share their valuable insight and experience through remote board meetings. With the right technology, working with board members in different locations is not only possible, but also manageable.
What makes a remote board meeting as effective as a face-to-face one? The following solutions definitely help:
Step 1: Board Portals
Board members need to review important files a few days before a board meeting so that they can make informed strategic decisions for their organization.
In the past, board packs were often sent by mail to board members who are based in remote locations. It was the most convenient option at that time, but it had accompanying risks nonetheless. For example, board packs containing confidential data could get lost in the mail. Even if they did arrive to their intended recipients without a problem, they could just as easily be misplaced or worse, stolen. The number of potential security breaches was quite high.
Nowadays, board meeting solutions like Boardbooks, BoardVantage, BoardPad, and Convene offer a more secure alternative to printed board packs in the form of board portals. Meeting files are stored electronically in board portals, and only those granted with access rights can log in. In addition, data — whether stored or transmitted — is also encrypted to prevent hacking.
Different board portals employ different security measures, so make sure to pick one with enterprise-grade security such as Convene.
Aside from security, board portals also offer a mobile platform for collaboration. Wherever they are and whenever they want, board members can open and work on meeting files with their fellow board members with just their iPads, iPhones, or their Android devices.
Step 2: Videoconferencing
Setting up a conference call is an easy way to facilitate remote board meetings, but it removes a crucial aspect of communication — body language. Facial expressions and gestures can’t be captured by audio, so communication may not be as effective as that found in face-to-face board meetings. But when gathering all board members in one place is not possible, the next best thing is videoconferencing.
Videoconferencing enables board members to be fully present in a board meeting even if they’re located in various parts the world. The nuances of non-verbal communication are still there for everyone to see, leaving a smaller chance for misinterpretation. This is an important factor to consider because board members need to communicate with each other effectively when making big decisions and strategies for their organization.
Videoconferencing also eliminates the need for travel. In the end, it’s a win-win situation: Organizations save on travel expenses, and board members save time and effort.
Step 3: Screen Sharing
Videoconferencing is interactive, but screen sharing brings the interaction to a higher level. Meeting management software such as CiscoWebEx, GoToMeeting, and Convene allow screens to be shared. This feature lets board members keep track of discussions and stay on the same page, both figuratively and literally.
These programs also have a feature that allow the presenter role be passed around from one person to the next. When given active roles in a board meeting, board members become more engaged and involved in decision-making.
Take note that not all board portals offer screen sharing, and not all meeting management programs have a board portal option. An exception to this is Convene which combines both capabilities. As a comprehensive board meeting solution, Convene can be used alongside videoconferencing to empower your organization’s remote meetings. In addition, Convene uses a document-sharing model instead of sharing screens. Once the documents are shared, Convene only transmits actions instead of the screen information, leading to higher quality and a more responsive experience that uses less bandwidth.
Thanks to technology, remote board meetings will soon be the norm, and not the exception. But this doesn’t mean that your organization can forgo face-to-face communication altogether. A study< by Cornell Center for Hospitality Research said that, "under certain business conditions, face-to-face encounters are a more successful means of communication than virtual communications when used in large group settings." When possible, encourage board members to meet and interact with each other in face-to-face encounters, even if only once in a while. This will foster stronger professional relationships, resulting in better collaboration.