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‘To Skype or not to Skype’ - taking the fear out of virtual meetings

‘I have never used this technology before’; ‘How will I communicate with fellow Governors and the Chair’; ‘I may ‘drop’ out of the meeting and can’t get back in’; ‘I won’t be able to keep up with the flow of the meeting’; ‘I won’t be able to clerk the meeting effectively’.  These were just some of the thoughts around a primary school’s Governing Board as it faced up to it first Skype meeting to conduct governance-related business.

Documentation was made available to members via Governor Hub in advance of the meeting and the meeting went remote as a result of the school being closed as an educational establishment during the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Within 10 minutes of the Skype session starting many of these fears and concerns subsided as those members of the Governing Board who have professional experience of online meeting systems were able to introduce some best practice into the meeting:

·         The Chair took control of the meeting laying down the meeting protocols to be followed

·         The agenda was followed to the letter to mitigate against any ‘drift’.

·         Governors were asked to use the conversation icon to raise a question or ask for the opportunity to formally comment.

·         Documents were shared using the technology so Governors could see the same level of information at the same time.

·         Those responsible for agenda items kept their updates succinct.

·         Actions were effectively assigned to ensure momentum in governance was not lost.

Those Governors who perhaps may have been more subdued in face to face meetings suddenly seemed to find a voice.  The meeting finished after an hour and 50 minutes (10 minutes quicker than the usual two-hour slot).  Challenge was not diluted in any way and, if anything, the virtual environment seemed more conducive to clear and focused minute taking.

Will this school turn its back on this remote option?  Not likely, as many Governors felt the virtual experience was worth the effort and provides a useful alternative to the more traditional model.  There was even the opportunity for some good humour as members got used to the camera technology!

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