Remote meeting software revolutionized and modernized standard board meeting protocols. It was originally developed as a governance tool for businesses and organizations so they could convene and discuss agenda items without incurring the time and expense of having to put a board meeting together at a physical location. Over time, best practices for conducting remote board meetings have evolved to make teleconferencing and videoconferencing even more effective. Advanced digital products are now available to support greater security along with the benefit of being fully integrated into a comprehensive ecosystem of digital governance solutions.
One of the original purposes of remote meeting software was to pave the way for boards to assemble quickly during times of crisis to communicate and solve problems. Remote meeting software has proven to be invaluable during the current COVID-19 pandemic. In the quest to contain the outbreak and keep it from spreading, organizations are finding it necessary to shift board meetings, committee meetings, executive meetings and sensitive discussions to the virtual realm to accommodate the need for social distancing.
Diligent Corporation has made the process even easier. Now, board administrators have the ability to insert a videoconference link into an email with all the details of the upcoming meeting to be held within the security of Diligent Boards. This process provides your General Counsel and Corporate Secretary with the peace of mind that the organization’s most confidential conversations are locked down within the Diligent platform. Board directors will quickly see the value in this process, especially during this time where the COVID-19 pandemic will likely result in additional teleconference and videoconference meetings to deal with the crisis.
It’s imperative to ensure you have access to the right technology and processes to run remote meetings effectively. If you prepare well, use the right tools and take a few steps to follow up after the meeting, you can conduct a quality remote meeting just as well as you can conduct a quality in-person meeting. At the same time, you can alleviate any worry that you’re subjecting your board directors and other meeting participants to undue health risks.
Setting an Agenda for a Remote Board Meeting
Remote board meeting efficiency begins with a board portal system by Diligent. The board portal has industry-standard security built right into the system. The board administrator simply adds the link for the videoconference directly into the email announcing the details of the meeting and invites meeting participants to view the meeting agenda, which is part of their board meeting book. As the board administrator shares or amends the agenda, meeting participants will automatically be notified so they can view the changes in real time.
For boards that use Diligent Messenger, all communications occur within the security of the board portal. Users have control over features like copy and paste and email forwarding, as well as the ability to retract messages. With Messenger, users get alerts when messages have been sent, delivered and read. They also have the option of purging or preserving them. Emails can also be stored in the archives. If a mobile device is ever lost, stolen or otherwise compromised, all information can be wiped remotely.
Real-time agendas, board books and a secure email tool work together holistically to ensure that your board meetings function smoothly and securely.
Test Your Conferencing System Prior to the Meeting
There are many teleconferencing and videoconferencing meeting platforms from which to choose. Whichever one you choose, just be sure to do a practice run to get acquainted with the nuances and various tools and features so you’re not fumbling around during a meeting. Test the features for individual microphones, raising hands, etc. When you’re well-acquainted with your hardware and software, you will be able to use your tools more effectively and it will help you solve problems faster if any problems should surface.
Be sure to test the system and make sure that you know how to add people to the meeting. If you plan to record the meeting, save it to a secure location using Diligent Secure File Sharing. Pick a default communication option so that if someone isn’t able to access the software, they can go from videoconference to teleconference or use a dial-in option. You can also use Diligent Secure File Sharing or Diligent Messenger to share supporting material quickly without leaving the platform. Regular emails aren’t secure and they won’t always support large attachments.
Remote Meeting Etiquette
Meeting etiquette is just as important for remote board meetings as it is for in-person meetings. A seasoned board chair will know how to keep the meeting flowing smoothly, invite full participation and prevent participants from speaking over one another.
Remote board meetings tend to have a better flow when there are fewer people. Invite the right people to the meeting while trying to keep the number of participants to eight to 10, if possible. If you get too many people at a remote meeting, some participants may be apt to listen without engaging.
Be mindful of time zones and try to pick one that is as convenient as possible for most participants. Also, be sure that meeting participants know which time zone the meeting is being held in to prevent someone from arriving hours early or hours late. The board chair or meeting facilitator should join the meeting at least five minutes early and greet participants as they join in. By entering the virtual space early, you won’t be scrambling for any reason and your meeting can begin on time.
Take a few minutes to introduce yourself and everyone who is participating in the meeting. Participants will feel more inclined to engage when they know who else is in the virtual meeting room. It’s wise to make a few housekeeping announcements before the meeting starts. Let participants know whether you will be muting them to prevent distracting sounds and how they can unmute themselves if they wish to speak. Be sure to disable computer notifications, pop-ups and sounds from the meeting host’s computer so they don’t distract participants from the meeting.
In the best-case scenario, everyone will join the meeting on time. If latecomers arrive, be sure to announce their arrival, but it’s not necessary to go through all the introductions again. In the essence of time, consider that you may need to impose a time limit for each speaker so that no one dominates the discussion and so the meeting ends on time. Add this announcement to the housekeeping rules before the meeting begins.
You may be on the fence about whether to use webcams during the meeting. While your meeting will certainly be more interesting and engaging if you use them, once again, consider how many people will be joining the meeting. Webcams are doable for about five people, but any more than that will limit the viewing area on your screen. Also bear in mind that web meeting functions can drain bandwidth and interfere with the quality of the audio and video.
Diligent Voting and Resolutions
You don’t have to sacrifice voting options when holding remote board meetings. This comes down to using modern governance tools like Diligent Voting and Resolutions. Digitized voting affords you the opportunity to hold a vote for any reason, such as the following:
- Unanimous written consents
- Signatures on 10K forms and SEC registration statements
- Approval of policies and motions between meetings
- Approval of meeting minutes
- Approval of committee chairs
- Votes on external directors joining subsidiary boards
- Urgent approval on a loan that falls out of policy
- Tracking attendance for mandatory board seminars
Remote Board Meeting Follow-Up
If you prepare well, your remote board meeting will flow smoothly and be quite productive. To be sure that participants benefit fully from the meeting, a little follow-up will help you hone your remote meeting skills and prevent unnecessary mistakes. Diligent Evaluations is a tool that you can use for a quick follow-up to rate your effectiveness in running the meeting well. You can set it up so that participants can answer anonymously so you get candid feedback. Suggestions for improvement will ensure smooth remote meetings in the future.
As far as approving minutes, voting and project management tasks that resulted from the meeting, meeting follow-up action items can all be completed securely within the Diligent platform.
All of Diligent’s tools are backed up by award-winning customer support that’s available 24/7/365. Diligent is also offering additional training for board administrators and directors on how to use videoconferencing alongside all other Diligent products for a fully contained, secure governance solution.
How the Right Technology Can Support Board Meetings During Crises
The onset of COVID-19 certainly fell upon us rapidly and unexpectedly. Diligent’s Boards solution with videoconferencing integration ensures your organization has a complete ecosystem to make sure it has everything it needs to securely and efficiently set up board meetings, communicate consistently with leadership and follow up after meetings. Diligent provides the tools that your board needs to prevent information from leaking as you manage your organization’s response to COVID-19.
Having a fully contained platform will reduce your board’s reliance on non-secure texts and emails, ensure that critical videoconference links are securely distributed with an embedded password, prevent confusion around meetings and allow your corporate leadership to remain hyper-focused on the current crisis.
The fact that you can hold board meetings remotely with confidence should give you peace of mind in knowing that your board can continue to address important board matters without interruption. As an added benefit, remote board meetings place participants on a level playing field, which helps to develop respect, empathy and trust for all. Finally, board chairs and corporate secretaries will become more skilled at conducting remote board meetings and their experiences will serve them well once the pandemic has passed.