7 Tips for Successful Online Board Meetings

As we navigate through these uncertain times, it’s important to be open to possibilities—and to learn to use the tech tools that are out there in effective ways. Could online board meetings offer us new ways of engaging board members, now and in the future? Nonprofit management expert Jeanne Allen shares some great ideas on how to bring folks together online in her recorded webinar, How to Have a Successful Online Board Meeting. Following are some quick tips for effectively and respectfully engaging board members before, during, and after the meeting.

Before:

  • This is the moment to embrace a consent agenda if you’ve not done so yet. Listening to committee reports is hard enough when everyone is in the same room, and that can be disastrous online.
  • Acknowledge that it’s harder to be spontaneous online. When facilitating an in-person meeting, I watch the group and “read” the room. Online, it’s important to plan for participant interactions, whether via the chat box, group breakouts, or individual brainstorming — and include those interactions in the agenda

During:

  • Assign roles to different folks in the meeting.  In the webinar, we highlight 5 roles, with a focus on how the facilitator role is extremely important to keeping things moving forward.

  • There are great ways to grab people’s attention during the meeting, but having everyone on video is the best way to build connections. Seeing the other faces of our fellow board members does a lot to engage people.  

  • Help others communicate more actively as a participant by modeling the behavior—i.e. nod your head more, put a thumbs-up sign in the window to indicate agreement.

  • In leading meetings, I’ve learned that if there are four or more folks on a video, everyone hesitates and waits for someone else to start the conversation, so the leader needs to give everyone their turn. We can see the faces and know that the others are engaged in the meeting — or not — and try to pull them into the conversation.

After:

  • Sometimes the best part of a board meeting is in the parking lot afterwards. How about bringing that into the regular meeting? One way to do that is to build some form of meeting assessment into the conversation. Send a short survey or email communication to members after the meeting and ask: How did this online meeting work for us?  What can we do better next time?   

For more tips, watch the recorded webinar, How to Have a Successful Online Board Meeting.

Jeanne Allen has 30 years of experience in the nonprofit sector in a variety of management and staff positions. She has worked with a wide variety of organizational missions, including environmental, youth development, health issues, advocacy, racial equity and domestic violence. Jeanne is a newswire contributor for Nonprofit Quarterly and on the Editorial Board for Change Magazine, a publication of NTEN. Learn more at Jeanne Allen Consulting.


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