The rapid transition to virtual meetings in 2020 required bridging the technological gap that emerged between what was mandated and how board meetings were being run. Those responsible for organising board or committee meetings had to learn to facilitate these meetings in a virtual environment using new software platforms. Then they had to help the administration and board get comfortable with them.
There was some advantage for organisations that had already implemented online governance platforms, as they only had to learn the virtual meeting software. But this was still a lot of change and adaption required to ensure that laws and protocols were followed and official actions were accurately captured in the minutes.
The role of orienting new board members
For many organisations, just as they were settling into this new routine and just as new or elected officials were getting comfortable being on camera in virtual meetings while juggling agenda materials, elections brought new members who needed to be onboarded. In normal circumstances, new member orientation is a crucial step; it takes on even more significance in a virtual world.
Typical new member orientation covers concepts like organisational norms and culture, legal requirements, and data and information specific to your organisation. Virtual orientations are similar but take on an added layer of information and, with proper planning and execution, can be just as effective as in-person orientation.
- Establish a clear agenda: Create a detailed plan outlining the topics during the orientation session. Share this agenda with new board members in advance so they can prepare and ask relevant questions during the session.
- Provide orientation materials: Provide new board members with an orientation package that includes essential documents and materials, such as bylaws, board policies, and previous board meeting minutes. This might consist of an organisational chart, a glossary of terms and acronyms, instructions for email access if the organisation provides that, and a calendar of events. All materials can be put in one location using a secure, web-based platform that includes confidential information such as security reports, which can still be easily housed and searched but be available only to members.
- Conduct virtual orientation of the e-board solution: Orienting a new member into a virtual environment requires a degree of technological proficiency. Host virtual orientation sessions using e-board solutions allowing video conferencing and screen sharing. This will help new members become familiar with the e-board software and understand how to use it effectively. This would also be an excellent time to have new members sign any conflict-of-interest statements required by law.
- Encourage active participation: Encourage new members to actively participate in the orientation session by asking questions, sharing ideas, and providing feedback.
- Assign a mentor: Assign an experienced board member to act as a mentor for new members. The mentor can provide guidance and answer questions, helping new members feel more comfortable and confident in their new role.
- Get feedback: Follow up with new board members after the orientation session to ensure they have everything they need to participate effectively in future board meetings.
As corporates, state-owned entities, and government departments face increasing regulatory requirements to use e-board solutions for their board meetings, it is essential to ensure that new board members or elected members are equipped with the knowledge and tools they need to participate in remote meetings effectively. By following these tips, meeting organisers can ensure that all participants have the knowledge and tools to contribute effectively to meetings.