SME directors: making the most of virtual board meetings
28 May 2020: with boards of SMEs and charities facing the prospect of meeting virtually for months, perhaps years, Clive Bawden offers practical tips for members to make virtual board meetings a success.
At a time when physical gatherings have become practically impossible, boards of SMEs and charities are suddenly faced with the numerous legal and practical challenges this entails.
The prospect of meeting virtually for months, perhaps years to come has raised justifiable concerns about lack of company direction, a reduced ability to manage any crises and a potential drop in director engagement. However, with the right tools and process in place, much of this can be avoided, and some organisations may even see a spike in productivity because of the shift to online.
Clive Bawden, an experienced director, ICAEW Council member and founder of smart boardroom productivity platform BoardSecure has several practical tips to give virtual board meetings the best chance of success.
Don’t change too much
A board meeting is a board meeting. The only change right now is the channel of delivery.
Director duties remain the same
Even now, the role of a director is to discharge your statutory duties. Focus on this in your meetings, and don’t forget that expert help is on hand via ICAEW’s Coronavirus Hub.
Consider changing the frequency of meetings. Meeting once every quarter face to face in the ‘old days’ might have sufficed, but in a time of crisis when things have the potential to change from week to week, even day to day, more frequent meetings may be necessary.
The basics of what ‘good looks like’ remain
Whether virtual or face to face, board tasks remain the same:
- Plan and evaluate
- Make decisions
- Solve problems
- Set policies
These do not change as you discharge your statutory duties, but let’s not deny there are some unique challenges brought about by meeting virtually. One, in particular, is how to make up for the lack of non-verbal information common in face-to-face communication, such as facial expression, hand gestures and eye movements: otherwise known as body language.
How to compensate for the lack of body language cues
When acknowledging colleagues’ contributions during an online meeting, a nod won’t suffice. Online cues need to be bigger to get noticed: a thumbs up, note on the chat facility or even private message (if appropriate) are some of the ways to do this.
Technology can save us
The chat functions, private messaging or ‘hand-up’ features that come as standard in most meeting technologies today mean there are no more excuses for sitting there in silence – give them a try!
Consider breakout rooms or other messaging apps
Build rapport by offering colleagues a chance to chat one on one – whether it’s via WhatsApp, Facetime or any other platform. There is no reason to just keep your dialogue with colleagues exclusively to the boardroom.
Clive Bawden is an experienced, award-winning Director and Non-Executive Director. Currently representing Birmingham and the West Midlands on the ICAEW Council, Clive is founder of smart boardroom productivity platform BoardSecure.