Board Smarts: The Power of Video Communication

By / Dec 1, 2014
There’s no second-guessing when they arrive what I want to get out of the event, because I’ve placed priority on it by putting it in a video.

How short, simple videos help a board stay on track.

In late 2013, Chad Rummel became executive director of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP). He inherited a board of 12 people who were experts on human interaction—along with a tradition of board communication (long emails, hefty board books) that seemed to repel it.

“It’s very natural that their mode of communication is always in person,” he says. “And their secondary choice is always on the phone, where they can at least hear you.” And though he can’t always do both, Rummel has taken a step to get the word out on important issues and make meeting preparation more palatable: He shoots brief videos in which he narrates details about the most important items on the agenda.

The videos aren’t sophisticated; Rummel just narrates comments over a relevant document on his laptop screen. But giving the board something to see and hear, he says, makes important or complicated issues more memorable and helps the board arrive ready to engage.

“If I’m writing an email that’s going to take more than 30 seconds to read, I might as well say it, because I can say it in less than 30 seconds,” Rummel says. The process is quick—record, format, send it off—and the ­videos tend to deliver information more clearly, prompting fewer follow-up emails asking him to clarify points.

To date, Rummel has made about 10 such videos for the board, ranging from 30 seconds to two minutes. For SPSP’s spring board meeting, he assembled a 180-page agenda book, a 20-page “time saver” document for airplane reading, and a two-minute video highlighting the biggest issues to be discussed at the meeting.

The videos fulfill what Rummel says is his professional duty not to waste board members’ time. More subtly, they also allow him to put a personal stamp on what he considers the most important issues for the board to consider. “There’s no second-guessing when they arrive what I want to get out of the event, because I’ve placed priority on it by putting it in a video,” he says.

One positive side effect of the videos is that the board has had more time to raise other issues for conversation: The last board meeting wrapped up its two-and-a-half-day agenda in two days flat, leaving an extra half day for strategic discussions.

“That’s something we ought to do as leaders: Minimize the amount of attention being paid to minutiae, to give them more time to focus on the big issues,” Rummel says.

Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. More »


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