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Reading the Room - how to involve everyone on the governing board in virtual meetings

Reading the Room

This is a short article on how to involve everyone on the governing board in virtual meetings.

Let's think about how you hold your governing board meetings at the moment. how you answer this depends on when you're reading this article! Are your board meetings;

If you are considering continuing with virtual meetings here are some tips to think about doing sure that everybody round the table is fully and actively involved. 

Camera on or camera off?

Some Chairs like to be able to see everybody around the virtual table whilst others don't mind if cameras are off. Think about what the norm on your board is? If everybody is routinely ‘camera off’ how do you know that everybody is listening? How do you know that your meetings remain confidential and secure? How do you know that you're meeting is still quorate - after all people could be camera off and not in the room?

Listen to everyone

If you are the Chair how do you actively hear from every governor - do you individually ask them questions? Do you ask each individual governor for their opinion? When you reflect back are there some governors who have never spoken at all or shared an opinion? Are these the same people who didn't participate before we went virtual? Do you have governors who don't feel very confident about sharing their opinions? One successful strategy which can be easily employed is to ask governors to submit the questions in advance. Make sure your clerk has copies! Give everyone equal time to speak – that way the quieter governors perhaps won’t feel so overwhelmed.

To chat or not to chat?

The chat box is a really useful function but shouldn't be used to hold conversations instead of asking them in the meeting, especially for example if one governor is directly messaging the Headteacher or Chair. This is a bit like talking at the back of the class! If you routinely use the chat function, when the messages should form part of the meeting minutes the clerk should have full access… 

Meetings should be engaging and interesting

– that way people feel involved. Whilst not everyone enjoys finance meetings making sure the information is easy to understand is a great way to keep everyone engaged.

Watch this space

Do you have governors who in a virtual meeting look like they are not paying attention? There may be many reasons for this - it could be taking notes, they could be looking something up to help them, they could have lost their internet connection or they could be struggling to follow the conversation. It is really good idea for the Chair to stop the meeting occasionally and do a spot of perception testing - asking if there are any additional questions, checking everybody can keep up, checking all the papers for the upcoming items have been read etc.

Are you sitting comfortably?

A good Chair will check that everyone is, metaphorically speaking, sitting comfortably before the meeting begins and that everybody has internet connection, can they can hear everybody else for example? Do you think that because we are meeting virtually meeting engagement has increased? Anecdotally speaking this seems to be the case.

All of the above points are good meeting etiquette, but it is really important that we make sure that we have the room with us at all times. Perhaps now is a good time to double check our virtual meeting protocols – do they need refreshing? Have they worked in the way we intended them to? Does every governor feel that they have been given every chance to participate fully? 

And finally, remember ‘be kind’; there may be some very genuine reasons why governors are not fully engaged; and it is our responsibility to look after each other.

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