Effective Management

What It Takes to Run a Great Hybrid Board Meeting

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Hosting a hybrid board meeting can be a complex undertaking, but if you do it well, you provide an inclusive experience for both in-person and virtual participants. Four best practices can make your hybrid board meetings more effective.

Just as associations mastered how to run virtual board meetings, they need a high level of expertise for hosting effective hybrid ones. The hybrid format often brings more challenges than meeting in person or virtually. Here’s some advice for hosting inclusive and effective hybrid board meetings from two associations that were successful.

Prioritize Culture and Purpose

American Academy of Neurology (AAN) CEO Mary Post, CAE, who helped plan a hybrid board retreat last spring, said it’s important to focus on board culture and the meeting’s purpose.

“Some key things they need to think about when they come together: What is the culture? What are the governing norms?” Post said. “How do they ensure, in this hybrid environment, that the setup is good to provide the right outcome for the purpose of that meeting? It all has to come into consideration in terms of how you intentionally engage those who are virtual [participants] meaningfully in the same way that you are engaging those that are there in person.”

Make Sure Technology Is a Help, Not a Hindrance

When some people are in the room and others are online, virtual participants can sometimes feel left out. Jason Yusko, CAE, director of information technology at the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), has helped shepherd several hybrid board meetings and says using cameras correctly can make virtual participants feel more included.

“In my mind, it’s pointless to have a wide angle. When you have someone speaking, you really can’t tell who it is,” Yusko said. “We try to handle that human aspect of it by—as people are speaking—zooming in on them.”

“It’s about everyone being aware that they’re a part of making the remote audience feel part of the process.” — Jason Yusko, CAE, American Traffic Safety Services Association

Post agreed. “You have to test, so everybody feels like they’re in the same space,” she said. “You can see them, you can hear them, whether you are virtual or in person.”

Both recommend providing external speakers and microphones for those participating in person, so they can hear and be heard by virtual participants. Yusko also suggests that one staffer log into the virtual meeting to keep an eye on what remote attendees are experiencing.

“Sometimes, when you share a screen, the person is not sharing the right thing, or they thought they shared and it didn’t happen,” he said. “I can monitor what the virtual attendees are actually seeing to make sure that we get it right.”

Another important tech suggestion is to use a wired internet connection to transmit video from the onsite portion of the meeting. “I do not rely on any kind of Wi-Fi connection,” he said.

Provide “Airtime” to Virtual Attendees

When in-person attendees are running the meeting, they should check to see if virtual participants have comments before moving on to new agenda items. “It’s about everyone being aware that they’re a part of making the remote audience feel part of the process,” Yusko said.

Train both the board and staff on this. If the person running the meeting forgets to check in with remote participants, staff can interject. And don’t force virtual attendees to participate only through their keyboards—that’s a lesson Post learned through trial and error.

At one meeting, “a board member would raise their hand in the virtual environment or put their questions or thoughts in the chat,” he said. “Initially, I was asking the question for them. I would say, ‘Oh Dr. So-and-So asked, blah blah blah blah.’”

But it didn’t feel right. “Within that first hour, I realized, this isn’t my question,” Post said. “They have a voice. Then, I started saying, ‘There’s a question from a virtual participant,’ and they asked their question. A lot of times they would add additional narrative or context to their questions. So, it was really important not to be their voice, but to make sure, intentionally, that they had their own voice.”

Get to Know Your Meeting Space

Neither Post nor Yusko hosted the in-person component of their hybrid meetings in their office. ATSSA’s board had to move to a bigger space to accommodate social distancing, while AAN’s hybrid retreat was held primarily outdoors, which meant there were some challenges they hadn’t anticipated.

“I wish I would have known our space ahead of time,” Post said. “The sun moves throughout the day, so what was a perfect setup in the morning was not so perfect in the afternoon. And noise. You’re meeting, and then you realize they’re mowing the yard today.”

Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a former editor at Associations Now.

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