We all shifted our ways of conducting meetings overnight, and it seems to have stuck. Now that restrictions are lifting, we are once again able to meet in person. But with the ease of virtual meetings, do we even want to go back?
Arzu Alimohd, one of Ewald’s Account Executives explains “When reviewing whether to have an in-person or virtual board meeting, there are many factors to think about. First, you must see the comfort level of the board. Are all board members able and comfortable with meeting in-person? Second, you must see the interactions of each board member on a virtual board meeting. Is each member engaged and participating? Reviewing board members body language and eye contact during a virtual board meeting is essential to ensure all are participating and not working on other items.”
In this post, we will review some pros and cons of virtual meetings.
- Easier to schedule: According to Top Nonprofits, without the travel time, board members only need to block out the time the meeting takes. This may allow members to devote more time to pre-work.
- Budget: Smart Meetings emphasizes the budget savings in their article. Nobody has to travel for meetings anymore. No one even needs to stop by Starbucks on the way into the meeting. Not only is this better for your association if you are not paying for catering or travel costs, but it is better for the board members themselves.
- More diversity: Virtual meetings mean virtually (no pun intended) no borders on your board. Your members can come from anywhere if you commit to virtual meetings. Top Nonprofits explains that this can open doors to more expertise and diverse perspectives.
- Engagement is reduced: We’ve all seen it and probably even done it. It is so much easier to get away with multitasking in a virtual meeting. We all know this makes us less productive in the meeting, but we are all busy and sometimes, it is just too tempting. According to Top Nonprofits, for board members who aren’t as used to being online, the virtual format may inhibit their willingness to speak up.
- Less interaction: No more handshakes and side conversations before and after meetings. Now, we hop in right on the hour and leave as soon as it is over. Smart Meetings explains that this can cost the board the casual conversation often seen with in-person meetings that may improve understanding or give board members the opportunity to ask questions.
- Less formal: There is something to be said about the ceremoniousness of an in-person meeting. When we put on something other than pajama shorts and take the time to travel somewhere, we know there is a purpose in what we are doing. Team Building created a list of virtual meeting etiquette tips — including basic things like dressing well and cleaning up your background space. It seems that for some, virtual meetings may be too
- Consider a flex format: Who says you need to pick one? Consider a flex format such as having virtual monthly meetings and an annual in-person meeting. By figuring out what works best for your board, you may be able to have the best of both worlds.
- Place emphasis on pre-meeting reading: Lean into the efficiency of virtual meetings. Assign pre-work so that you can hop right into business during your meetings. Harvard Business Review explains that because board members don’t need to travel, spending extra time preparing can make board meetings more efficient.
- Take good minutes: This is true for any meeting, but particularly in these times of Zoom-overload, taking detailed minutes can be the only way to recall what happened in your meetings. Top Non-Profits explains that one should think of minutes as though you are writing to readers in the future. Be thoughtful and take the time to record meeting details correctly.
Analysis: Every board is different and therefore, has different needs. For some, the virtual format may be energizing and effective — while for others, it may be exhausting and fruitless. There is no formula to determine the best options, but by weighing these pros and cons, you may be on your way to figuring it out.