Board Meetings > virtual-meetings > Facilitation & Engagement Tips

How can I be a better facilitator for a virtual meeting?

Going virtual is difficult – we get that. The intimacy and connection you receive in face to face meetings is lost, and the challenges of technology can easily get in the way. But it’s no excuse to let your governance practices and engagement slip away. An effective virtual board meeting depends on two things: good facilitation and an engaged board.

Check out the questions below for facilitation tips and resources on engaging the board:

Do you need tips on how to be a better facilitator?

Facilitator Tips

Leading a complex discussion and debate can be difficult for the board chair. In face-to-face meetings, a skilled chair studies board members’ body language and facial expressions and is able to react immediately to the mood of the room. In virtual meetings, the lack of visual cues — which can also be an issue in some video-conferences — means that the chair needs to learn different engagement strategies. It is the facilitator’s responsibility to make sure that every element of a virtual board meeting is handled correctly and efficiently. The board chair will need to be: assertive, organized, and highly focused. Below are a few tricks to keep the meeting on track:

  • Crowd source a set of norms with the board before the meeting. This makes sure that everyone knows how to ask a question, vote, express their opinion, and what’s expected of them. This list should encompass everything from the technical to the agenda
  • Think about what roles your officers play – don’t be afraid to lean on them for help:
  • Your board chair could be the moderator, keeping an eye on the screen to see who’s up next to ask a question
  • The board secretary can take notes
  • The board treasurer might monitor the chatbox or the polls
  • Who can troubleshoot the technology or keep track of any members that can’t be heard or become frozen?
  • Do some kind of check-in or activity before the meeting starts. This could be a mission moment, or a prompt to get everyone eased into the meeting. Ideally, a virtual meeting will be shorter than a normal meeting – so don’t make the activity complicated. It could be as simple as asking everyone to type the origin story of their name into the chat feature. This is a good way to recreate the personal connection that’s been lost by distance and technology.
  • The facilitator should also think about the way they are presenting the information. Is it one long, dull presentation? Keep the agenda as simple as possible, and send any information you can in advance.

Does the person leading your meetings need to improve their facilitation skills?

Do you need tips on how to engage your board?

Board Engagement Strategies

Right now, whatever you are going through, you are not alone. Boards and CEO’s around the world are trying to figure out what is best for their organization and are making extremely difficult decisions. While it is easy to react to the crisis and get side tracked from the important work of the board, board should also be thinking long term. To keep the board engaged during this time, consider these resources on generative thinking and creating a culture of inquiry.

While the board chair needs to be a good facilitator, it is imperative that board members know that they need to be just as engaged in discussion and prepared for decision making as they are when meeting in person. Read this blog post on the need for board governance during COVID-19, and use the suggestions as a guide for bringing good governance back into your board meetings. Consider checking out our COVID-19 resource page, and this blog post on engaging your board as your navigate COVID-19 where we have addressed problems like the ones below:

  • Annual meetings cannot be held to vote in officers or ratify resolutions (especially if general membership is to vote on this action)
  • Bylaws do not provide for virtual meetings, electronic voting or extension of terms for critical board leaders, such as officers serving additional terms
  • Quorums are not able to be met

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