Good telephone board meetings

April 6, 2012

Filed under: Board Development — Tags: — jonathanpoisner @ 10:30 am

I previously wrote about how not to run a board meeting.

That post presumed it was an in-person meeting.

What about telephone meetings?

Occasionally, boards must meet by phone either because of geographic challenges or urgency.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Do have a very clear agenda with decision points.  A phone meeting should ideally be no more than one hour and shouldn’t be overpacked with agenda items.  Even better if you can keep the meeting agenda to 30-45 minutes.
  • Do a reality check before the meeting with board members to identify if any of the issues are likely to be contentious.  Unless absolutely necessary, contentious issues should be moved to a meeting that will be in-person instead of via phone.  And if you do have a contentious issue, consider making that the sole agenda item so it doesn’t have to be rushed.
  • Do have a good conference phone system, so that people can hear and avoid background noise.
  • Do share any supporting material before hand
  • Do have a strong facilitator who keeps the agenda on time, but also goes out of the way to make sure that people participate.  Silence should not be taken as assent,  but rather assent/opinions should be more affirmatively sought out by a facilitator, even if that means randomly calling on participants to let us know what they think if a question is asked and silence ensues.
  • Another idea for getting people to participate is to develop assignments in setting up the agenda so it’s not only the chair/staff who’re presenting items or framing them for discussion.
  • Do be clear about any action items/assignments coming out of the meeting.
  • Unless the group knows each other very well, encourage those talking to say their name the first several times they speak during the call so that people will come to know their voice.
  • If several people are gathered in one room and then a handful are on the phone, assign somebody the role of speaking up for the sentiment in the room (e.g. making comments like, “everyone here in the room is nodding their head yes.”).
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