The experience of sitting on a board has changed over the last few years. Many companies had only ever held in-person board meetings before the spring of 2020, but that changed quickly through necessity. The COVID-19 pandemic saw social distancing measures set in place around the world, resulting in more and more online decision-making. Having enjoyed the benefits and flexibility of being able to hold fully virtual or hybrid board meetings, a large number of boards will continue to employ these formats in the future.
But with board meetings being so integral to the success of the company, it is essential to get it right. Running a hybrid meeting is different from an in-person event and a fully virtual version. This article explores the best practices for hybrid board meetings, as well as the reasons that the hybrid approach is such a good fit for organisations that want to get their boards to peak performance.
What is a hybrid board meeting?
Put simply, a hybrid board meeting is a meeting of the board that takes place with some members attending in person in the room and others attending virtually. Effective hybrid board meetings ensure that all attendees enjoy the same experience as each other, no matter how they attend.
Each member should be given the same space to talk, challenge and vote. To achieve this outcome and facilitate decision-making, it is important to research the best methods for holding meetings in this manner.
How to organise a hybrid board meeting
1. Ensure you have the right technology
Obviously, running a hybrid meeting requires the use of technology to help create the right environment for all attendees. Here are some considerations you will need to make:
|High-speed internet||You need high-speed internet in the boardroom to ensure that the activities that occur in person are transmitted as they happen and without interruption to the virtual attendees. You also need to make sure that remote board members have a high-speed connection at their end so that they can remain involved at all times.|
|High-quality microphones||Relying on the low-quality internal microphones on devices in the boardroom is not good enough to ensure that those working remotely hear everything that happens during the meeting. Make sure that there are high-quality microphones to pick up the conversation in the boardroom and online. Those attending from a distance should have a clear microphone, too, to make certain that the group can hear their contributions.|
|Think about the video aspect||Being able to see the other members of the board is important for establishing a connection between directors. This means that, not only should the in-person attendees be able to see the remote board members, but the latter should have a visual connection with the boardroom itself, too. This could be a wide-angle shot, or you could require that those in the meeting room use a camera, too.|
2. Check and double-check technology
Modern computer technology is incredibly reliable, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful to check it and recheck it before the meeting takes place. When you add multiple elements to a meeting setup, it means that there is more that could go wrong, and it can take additional time to track down the problem.
Get everything set up, and run a test meeting. Ask your remote attendees to spare a short amount of time to try out their tech ahead of the meeting. This means that everything is ready to go at the designated start time. It also helps them become accustomed to the way the technology works so that they can concentrate fully on the meeting.
A comprehensive technology check also helps the board chair understand how the various parts of the meeting will fit together by seeing it all in action.
3. Establish a meeting protocol
You will most likely have a protocol for the main aspects of your in-person meetings, and it is no different for hybrid meetings, too. Everyone must understand how the meeting will run and how the main elements of the meeting will be handled.
For example, you should have a protocol for when members wish to talk in the debate. Simply having a mixture of in-person and remote attendees shouting out can become confusing and makes it difficult for the chair to maintain order. You could request that attendees raise their hands for the chair to give them the floor. Alternatively, if everyone is using the same system, no matter how they attend, they could send a chat message or press an alert to put a virtual hand up, if that functionality is available.
Another example is that if a remote attendee needs to remove themselves from the meeting for whatever reason, there should be a method for them to signal this. The administrator can then accurately record each person’s attendance for meeting items and ensure the quorum remains.
4. Prepare notes and agendas early
When you run meetings with a virtual element, you need to consider that your remote attendees can struggle to focus for as long as those in the room. It is difficult to use a screen without a break for too long. The benefit of this is that it helps you focus your mind on streamlining the process, which is something that both in-person and remote board members will appreciate.
To help keep meetings to the point, distribute the board pack with relevant notes and the agenda in good time. This helps directors prepare well for the meeting, and you save time that might otherwise be spent bringing members up to speed or with indecision over what comes next.
The better prepared the meeting members are, the more effective and efficient the meeting process becomes.
5. Assign key roles
There are key roles in any kind of board meeting, with the chair in charge of sticking to the agenda and the secretary taking minutes. However, with the additional elements of a hybrid meeting, you could assign other members roles that would facilitate a beneficial meeting experience.
Have someone monitoring the online participants to ensure that they are receiving a fair portion of the discussion time. Someone else could be on hand to deal with any technical issues that arise during the meeting to attempt to minimise disruption.
6. Use board meeting software
Board meeting software helps to make the process of running virtual and hybrid meetings more efficient. If everyone in the meeting uses a board portal, it allows for better communication during the board meeting and also in advance of the meeting.
With iBabs, directors can collaborate on documents, suggest adjustments to the agenda and correct the minutes of previous meetings beforehand so that there are no unresolved issues to take up time during the meeting itself.
A board portal records votes, too, making it easier to collate and record decisions even when board members are in different locations.
This provides consistency for the members, levelling the playing field and allowing them to have an equal impact on the proceedings.
Best practices in hosting hybrid board meetings
Enable participants to collaborate
One of the concerns that some businesses have relating to hybrid board meetings is that remote participants might be overrun by the voices in the boardroom. This would be detrimental to good governance, as there would be a fair discussion before members vote. Everyone has their right to a say, and each member has their own specialised skillset to bring to the table. If a member is edged out, you miss out on their expertise. Ensure you have a plan to hear everyone’s contribution.
Get the minutes approved beforehand
One meeting element that you can complete in advance to save time on the day is the approval of the minutes. By uploading them to the board portal, you enable directors to access them on any device, wherever they are, and approve them before the next meeting. This means you can move on to the important agenda items without lengthy discussion and debate over the last meeting.
Set up a clear voting procedure
Just as in a fully in-person meeting, you need to have a clear online voting procedure to ensure that you record the consensus of the board accurately. With some attendees working remotely, a simple vocal vote or hands-up vote might not suffice. Using a board portal provides a clear method of voting and accurately recording the results, as well as documenting them for a comprehensive audit trail.
To make sure that your hybrid board meetings align with the needs of all stakeholders, ask for feedback from both remote and in-person attendees. What worked for them? What didn’t work? How could the meeting run more effectively? Ask these questions and more to help you finesse your approach for the next board meeting.
Why should your board consider hybrid board meetings?
There are many benefits to hybrid board meetings. These include:
|Improved accessibility||Board members are busy people, and hybrid meetings allow them more time in their schedules. In the event that a director has a pressing engagement elsewhere, they could still make the meeting if there is a hybrid option.|
|Increased diversity||Without having to consider the geography of where your potential board members are based, you can cast the net further and improve the diversity of your board. You do not have to choose solely from those who are within a certain radius.|
|Higher attendance||Board members can attend from wherever, so they will miss fewer meetings than they would if you only offer in-person board meetings.|
|Control over the discussion||The chair can use the digital tools at hand to take more control of the conversation. If there is a disruptive director, they can mute them and warn them about their conduct. They can also allow members to speak without interruption before opening the floor for debate.|
|Better preparation||When you run hybrid board meetings through a board portal, you gain access to collaborative features that improve preparation. In addition, you guarantee that all members have access to the latest documents because they update instantly as you add them to the platform.|
|Cutting down carbon footprint||Hybrid meetings reduce the need to travel for directors, which helps cut the board’s carbon footprint. Using a board portal is also environmentally friendly, as it helps you to run meetings in a paperless fashion.|
|Lower costs||When some directors attend remotely, you reduce the costs of travel expenses and refreshments. You can also cut out the costs of printing and reprinting board papers when you use a board portal like iBabs.|
What is the difference between hybrid and virtual meetings?
Virtual board meetings are held entirely online, and attendees participate through video conferencing. All attendees are remote and can join from different locations. This allows for flexibility and accommodates attendees who are unable to be physically present.
Hybrid board meetings, on the other hand, combine virtual and in-person participation. Some attendees may participate remotely through video conferencing technology, while others may be present in the same physical location. This still ensures great flexibility while providing all the benefits of face-to-face interaction to those who are present.
How can you ensure that remote participants are fully engaged in the meeting?
The chair must take the lead in ensuring remote participants engage with the meeting. By using the correct solutions for meetings, such as microphones, high-speed internet connections and board portals, you help remote members contribute as effectively as if they were in the room.
Can hybrid board meetings be as effective as in-person meetings?
Hybrid meetings can be more effective than in-person meetings because they allow for better attendance, which provides a better impression of the consensus of the board. If you follow the best practices for hybrid meetings, you will find that all members have the same opportunities and experience.
How can you ensure the security of a hybrid board meeting?
Use a dedicated platform that implements strict password policies, encryption and account-based restrictions to prevent unauthorised access. Keep in mind that switching between different software solutions makes your hybrid board meetings more vulnerable to attacks.
Hybrid board meetings were a perfect solution to help boards work effectively while directors had to isolate, were under restrictions or didn’t feel comfortable in public spaces. However, the benefits extend well beyond this. In fact, it can be a cost-saving, environmentally friendly way to run meetings and improve corporate governance. The ability to hear all board members’ thoughts, prepare more thoroughly and attend from any location are undeniable benefits. When combined with the use of a board portal to facilitate this preparation, collaboration and the meeting process itself, it is easy to see why hybrid board meetings will remain popular in the future.
iBabs helps you take your hybrid meetings to the next level. You can request a demo to see it in action for your business today.