Board meetings are not normally the most exciting of business events, but they are a necessary part of business life. To encourage board member participation and make board members want to attend a meeting, it is best to ditch the 20th century way of doing things and bring in 21st-century technology to modernize the proceedings.
What can technology do?
Questions may be asked as to how exactly technology can improve board meetings. After all, board meetings are called for things to be discussed, face-to-face, and tools in the form of cell phones and tablets are often discouraged because they can be distractions. But technology can do several things for board meetings. For example, it can make preparation for the meeting much easier to perform. The same goes for collaboration between board members if working on particular projects. Technology can also speed up processes and result in less time wasted during the actual meeting, and even before and after, if it means that virtual meetings can take place rather than physical ones. Digital tools ultimately can improve the governance of the board, lead to improvements in staff relationships and help leaders to lead more effectively.
The Planning Stage
If you are the one organizing the board meetings, there are several digital tools you can utilize to make your task easier. Inviting attendees or notifying participants can be made simpler through online scheduling software, whereby you enter master information, and this is then distributed to everyone on your prepared distribution list. This informs every attendee at one stroke, thereby cutting down on time.
Through such an application, you can also inform attendees of the planned agenda for discussion. Providing an agenda ahead of the meeting is a crucial part of ensuring that time is not wasted during the meeting and that every attendee comes prepared. It will also give participants the opportunity to raise any queries they may have or even ask for items to be added to the agenda. Incidentally, encouraging participants to have an input in the schedule is a great way of fostering engagement.
This kind of digital tool is just as useful for organizing a virtual meeting as it is for a physical meeting. There are several technological tools through which you can hold a virtual meeting; meeting through an Internet link and seeing the other members using video is now quite popular. These are particularly useful tools for when your board members are in far-flung locations and cannot get to a centralized venue easily, as all they need to do is log on to their computer. These tools often also have features that allow document sharing, which is great if you need to allow several people to collaborate on the creation of a single document.
Virtual meetings are a great choice if you are keen to implement paperless board meetings, handling all documentation digitally. Not only is this an environmentally friendly approach, but it can make it much easier to track changes on documents that can be considered work in progress, saving each stage and providing information as to who has changed what, and when. Regarding distribution, a portal of this type makes it far easier to disseminate materials to those parties that require them.
Technology can also prove invaluable when it comes to the direction in which a board wants the organization to head. For example, presentation software is easy to use – even by those not well versed in the applications – to produce a slideshow made up of text, graphs and other diagrams that can demonstrate a strategy far better than a straightforward talk or a heavily textual document handed around the table can. Online diagnostic tools can be used to determine, for example, whether a marketing campaign delivered the expected results, or whether a website is falling behind regarding user views and therefore needs more work carried out on keywords and other search engine optimization elements.
While you may not be keen on mobile devices being used during your board meetings, you should consider whether they could be of value rather than just being a distraction. While a cell phone left on and ringing during a meeting is annoying, it can be a quick and easy means of looking up vital information if it is a smartphone with access to the Internet. A tablet computer may be an even better tool to have to hand during board meetings, as this will not only have Internet access but other software to display documents, and the device itself can be handed around should the need arise.
While digital tools are often thought of as applications that make storage and sharing of documents that much easier, this is often not their only benefit. Some applications can also be used to train board members and help them to become more efficient in their roles and improve how they do what they do. Some board members may balk at the idea that they need training – let alone having to do it – but to be truly effective in the modern world, it is necessary to understand that nothing stays still and that there are always better ways of doing things. A disinclination to change can kill an organization, and training is most effective when ongoing. An advantage of using an online portal as a training system is that the board members will have a sense of ownership over what they have learned and produced during their training, and they will have helped to create a knowledge database that others can draw on to inform their roles.
Digital technology can not only ensure your organization becomes a truly 21st-century concern but can also improve the performance and engagement of your board members so that they come to feel that their attendance at your board meetings is not only desirable but crucial for the success of the business.