First, what is a virtual board? By my definition a virtual board is a group or individuals that come together for a cause and participate in at least one or more meeting via technology. (phone, skype, google, conference call, webinar)
Once you have decided to try being a virtually connected board (or committee) I recommend you first honor the tradition of a traditional board. By that I mean have an agenda, at least at first meet at your regularly scheduled time, co-select the tool you want to try and most important be patient with those learning to connect in this way. A good rule of thumb is if your meeting is scheduled to start at 1:00pm. Log on about 12:50 and encourage new people to log on early to get them comfortable before the meeting begins.
Board members today have more technology tools at their fingertips than fingertips. Every board member will also have a different level of familiarization with each tool. When looking to transition I would poll your people to determine where they are on a technology spectrum. On the entry level end they are comfortable connecting only via telephone, on the high end they will use Google + or similar tool with video and document sharing. Once you gather the spectrum of your board find the middle ground. The place where the not so tech may have the opportunity to try something new and the tech gurus can step down a bit. For most boards this is generally some combination of phone for audio and screen sharing.
The transition to a virtual board room should be a gradual process not an all or nothing proposition. If your board traditionally has 8 meetings a year maybe try 2 or 3 virtually this first year and see how it goes.
Last keys to success same rules apply in a virtual meeting as a face to face meeting. Set an agenda, send it out in advance, request your board members review the consent agenda and materials prior to the meeting and stick to Roberts’ Rules of Order for motions and procedures. End on time and always ask for feedback from each participant and request they participate by using their name.
A virtual board meeting opens up countless opportunities for your organization. It allows you to expand who can serve on your board, brings in new technology to connect them, technology allows you to save the planet by not emitting so much carbon in gas or airplane flights and it’s critical that you not allow virtual board meetings to take away from your board business. Use the same level of attendance policies and accountability as you would a face to face meeting.
Make a transition plan, teach the technology and have fun connecting and doing business in this new way. Evaluate the process each year and look to add connections. If you only use phone the first year then maybe the second move to video. Make the transition easy and fun for all involved.
Is your board making the transition to virtual meetings? What worked I’d love to hear your stories.