Board members are often the most experienced and savvy members of any business. They help push the business forward and make critical decisions. As directors, they also have legal obligations and fiduciary duties to act in the best interests of the company.
They naturally have busy schedules and take time out to support your organisation. In turn, it’s expected that you’ll maximise their use of time and expertise. They may have professional and/or personal obligations and schedules that it’s important to abide by. So, instead of organising meetings at arbitrary times and taking up to a whole day (including travelling and lunch!) of your board members’ time, you can use remote meetings to limit the hours spent and make scheduling easier.
A remote board meeting may feel daunting to begin with, but an effective agenda can make sure all the priority discussions are had, votes are cast and decisions are made. The best way to do this is with a virtual board meeting agenda template. Let’s explore what this should include…
How virtual board meetings are different
Hosting virtual team meetings allows all directors (or a majority of directors) to attend regularly from their home, office or other location. This gives the best opportunity for a quorum and is likely to increase attendance overall.
Virtual meetings will still feature key elements of a board meeting, including:
- An agenda
- A president or presiding officer
- A secretary taking notes (or minutes)
- Voting as required
- Motions and relevant motion rules as normal
Crucially, the only difference should be that the directors are joining remotely. These meetings should adhere to Robert’s Rules of Order and ground rules as well as relevant organisational and local bylaws. Just like with in-person meetings, it’s best if your remote board meeting adheres to a set of ground rules such as Robert’s Rules of Order.
What is a virtual meeting agenda?
Generally, all meeting agendas are generally sent in advance so that all participants are aware of discussion points and priorities for the meeting. This allows each member to prepare any questions, votes or action items ahead of the call. A simple way to send the agenda is by attaching an editable document to the meeting invite. Doing so may also mean that additional agenda items can be suggested ahead of the regular board meeting and before the agenda is finalised.
If your organisation abides by Robert’s Rules of Order, the agenda should be adopted at the beginning of the meeting by a majority vote. If the proposed agenda isn’t adopted, the meeting can use the standard order of business as outlined by Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, shown below, to keep the meeting on track.
Standard order of business
- Call to order
- Roll call
- Reading and approval of minutes
- Reports of officers
- Reports of committees
- Unfinished business (if any)
- New business
Why are meeting agendas important?
Without an agenda, a meeting can quickly go off track, wasting everyone’s time and effort and losing focus on the priorities. Having a structured agenda in place ensures that all priority discussions (and votes, if applicable) are had and that the board meeting is as productive and efficient as possible.
How to create the perfect virtual meeting agenda
Here are some things to consider including to create the perfect virtual meeting agenda.
|Define a meeting goal
|Whether you’re hosting a regular board meeting or a special meeting, it’s important to define a goal for the meeting.
|Prioritise discussion points
|A meeting agenda should include a list of discussion points prioritised in order. This makes sure that, if you run out of time, the most important points should be covered.
|Add responsibilities to the agenda prior to initial circulation to make sure that everyone is aware of what they’re expected to bring to the meeting.
|For each discussion point, add a desired outcome, such as “to reach a decision on [Challenge]”.
|Add action items
|Once votes and discussions have been had, make sure to add action items to the meeting minutes that can be followed up in subsequent meetings.
|Virtual meetings should be quick check-ins to sync up. Add an estimated time limit to each agenda item to help move the meeting along and support the chair in controlling the meeting.
|Don’t include ideation or brainstorming sessions
|Brainstorming is usually done in person or requires a separate session. A board meeting isn’t the right place for this.
|Invite the right participants and engage your attendees
|It can be harder to encourage collaboration or speaking up when events are virtual. As such, make sure everyone who is there is likely to participate.
|Get the directors, members and participants to collaborate on the agenda and priorities as well as give feedback on how helpful/unhelpful the agenda was and ways to improve it.
Virtual board meeting agenda template
For your next virtual board meeting, try using the online meeting template below for your agenda. Remember to include items in order of importance, allocate time slots to each area and add a name for the person responsible for each agenda item.
[Organisation] Regular Board Meeting: Q3
Meeting time: 00:00–00:00
Meeting attendees: X, X, X, X, X, X, X, X and X
- Firm up and sign off plans for 2022–2023 accounting year
- Review sales and revenue vs targets for Q2
- Plan Q4 activity
Opening – 30 minutes:
- Call to order – Chair/presiding officer
- Welcomes, roll call and apologies – Chair/presiding officer
- Reading and approval of minutes from previous meeting – Chair/presiding officer
- Reports of officers – Mr James Smith (CFO) to present
- Reports of committees – Ms Annabel Yeates (chair of the committee) to present
Matters for decision – 45 minutes:
- Vote on 2022–2023 budget – All present members
- Vote on new secretary for Q1 2023–2024 period – All present members
- Vote on new expenses process – All present members
Matters for discussion – 20 minutes:
- Sales vs revenue targets for Q2 and Q3 to date – All present members
- Actions to support Q4 activity planning – All present members
Unfinished business – 10 minutes:
- Continue discussion about tabled motion in the last meeting – All present members
Announcements – 10 minutes:
- Announcements and comments – Chair/presiding officer
Closing – 10 minutes:
- Finalise action points – Secretary
- Review suitability and availability of next meeting – Chair/presiding officer
- Adjournment – Chair/presiding officer
This template can be used to help create individual priorities, assign responsibilities and keep the meeting running smoothly with approximate timings.
Best practices to follow when organising virtual board meetings
While virtual calls are different from in-person meetings, there are some things you should check and adjust to keep this type of meeting running according to plan. Here are some actionable steps to take for a productive meeting.
1. Check the laws and regulations
Double-check the local laws and regulations of the regions or countries where people will be joining the board meeting from. This will help avoid conducting an inappropriate meeting that violates the rules of any region or country. In extreme cases, this could mean any votes that had taken place during the meeting being declared null and void.
2. Fix in-person attendance requirements
Different organisations have different bylaws and regulations and, as such, may not have the relevant guidance in place for remote team meetings. However, this should form a part of your bylaws, even if the rules explicitly state that remote attendance is not allowed. It’s important that this is included either way for clarity. Make sure your bylaws allow remote attendance to your meeting, and understand what the attendance requirements are for this meeting and any future online meeting.
However, if your organisation follows RONR (Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, published in September 2020), there has been a new amendment (2020-1) that explores this.
RONR says, “an assembly can ratify actions taken by officers, committees, delegates or subordinate bodies in excess of their instructions or authority.” This includes being able to ratify actions to carry out decisions made at an electronic meeting of a body for which such meetings are not authorised.
So, by RONR rules, electronic meetings are able to take place (as long as they’re not explicitly unauthorised by bylaws), but decisions made or votes cast can be ratified (or not) at the following in-person meeting.
3. Set a time beforehand
Although there’s rarely a perfect time for absolutely everyone, fix a time well before the meeting that will work for the maximum number of attendees. A quorum should be present to ensure that votes can take place. If there is no quorum present, which is necessary for voting and democracy, the meeting may have to be postponed to another time slot and/or date when more members are able to attend.
4. Encourage conversations and interactions
One of the perks of meeting in person is the camaraderie, conversations and interactions with each other before, during and after the meeting. While this can’t be replicated fully in a virtual environment, create opportunities for breakout sessions or even a quiz to liven things up. To maximise the effect, encourage all present members to participate.
5. Ask for feedback
As always, collect feedback to find out what you can improve next time. There are plenty of ways to create an effective virtual board meeting agenda, and each member and director is likely to have their own experiences of what does and doesn’t work. Making incremental changes each time means that your virtual agenda creation will only get better.
What are the most important elements of virtual board meeting etiquette?
Here are some top tips for your next virtual meeting and how to avoid bad meetings! Prepare or familiarise yourself with the agenda and discussion points beforehand. Dress appropriately as you would for a normal board meeting. Have a pen and paper on hand to make notes throughout. Mute your microphone when you’re not talking, especially when the chair is speaking. Test your webcam, microphone and internet connection beforehand to make sure your attendance isn’t distracting to others. Avoid background noise, distractions, bad lighting and mysterious microphone noises!
What should you not do during virtual board meetings?
The same rules apply to electronic meetings as they do in person. Don’t cut someone off when they are talking, and don’t try to create community discussions that require everyone’s input, as this may lead the board away from the agenda.
When should you publish your virtual meeting agenda?
First, you should check with all board members whether they have something they’d like to add or if there’s a particular topic they’d like to discuss at the meeting. Once you’ve had that feedback and given everyone the chance to respond, attach an editable document to the calendar invite to give everyone visibility. Give everyone enough time to digest the prospective agenda in advance and add their notes, comments or feedback ahead of time.
To conclude, organising a virtual board meeting agenda shouldn’t be a headache. Use the above virtual meeting agenda template or that of your in-person meetings to make sure everything is covered. Ensure that all members have enough time to review and revise the agenda topics ahead of time, and strive to create a meeting that is engaging and encourages cooperation and communication from all who are in attendance. By doing so, you’ll ensure that your virtual meeting will run smoothly, be timely and cover all key discussion points to make it as productive as possible.
Feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of running a virtual board meeting? The iBabs board portal will give you one less thing to worry about.