3 Key Tools for DSM Boards of Directors Communicating During COVID-19
Many boards of directors are currently faced with operating in a remote fashion in the COVID-19 environment. There is no doubt that boards function best when everyone is in the same room; however, given the times we are in, this is no longer feasible or wise. For those of you faced with managing a board remotely, here are three key tools you can leverage immediately: a video conference product, a communications portal and a task manager. Please note that there are many alternatives to the following recommended products:
Zoom — meetings via video
- Slack — non-meeting communications
- Microsoft ToDo — task management
All three of these tools are available for smartphones, tablet computers and PCs/Macs.
Conducting board meetings with everyone in remote locations is challenging. Zoom is a popular tool for holding video conference meetings that can help bridge this challenge. A single “Pro” Zoom license costs less than $200 per month, supports up to 100 meeting attendees and contains all of the tools you will need to run your board meetings. Here are a few pointers to help you get started. First, when on a video call, it is considered good practice to always mute your microphone when not speaking. It is also essential to use a headset. Using the speaker and microphone on a PC or a tablet computer will result in terrible feedback and echo for the other users. When I am on Zoom, I use a headset and use both my phone and my PC. I use the PC for video and my phone for audio. The earbuds I received with my phone include a microphone and work great on a video call.
There are several tools in Zoom you should take advantage of in your board meetings. There are excellent how-to videos on Zoom’s YouTube how-to channel you can review. I have highlighted a few here.
To help manage multiple people talking at once, Zoom includes a chat window feature which is great for asking questions or just “raising your hand”.
- There is a voting function built into Zoom which is useful if you are dealing with a large number of voters.
- There is a simple scheduling tool to set meetings and add them to peoples’ calendars.
- Zoom meetings can be recorded and shared with others after the call. This is great for board members who are unable to attend a meeting.
- For more information on managing a video conference using Zoom, please see Managing a Professional Video Conference.
Boards need to communicate beyond actual board meetings and many have committees that function outside of the main board meetings. To facilitate this process, consider using Slack. Slack is a communications tool that will remind you of text messaging. Slack is free for smaller groups and can be set up in a matter of minutes. I recommend you start with a main or general channel for all board members to communicate. Like texting, everyone in a group can see the other’s communications. Even if a board member is unavailable for a few days, they can see all of the conversations that took place while they were absent. Slack will even indicate where each person last stopped reading, making it very easy to catch up with communications. I recommend creating an additional channel for each committee. This will allow the committees to work remotely as needed. There are a number of great getting started videos on Slack’s YouTube channel.
There are many excellent task managers available for use by a group of people. Microsoft offers the ToDo task manager. This product is very easy to use, available on many platforms and is free. Key features for board of directors include setting up multiple task lists, inviting specific board members to specific lists and assigning tasks to specific people included on a task list. As with the other tools, there are many YouTube Videos available on using Microsoft ToDo. Here is one video that provides a complete overview in under 15 minutes.
As stated earlier, there are multiple alternatives to each of the products mentioned above. The use of a video conference product, a communications portal and a task manager will allow you to bring your board together virtually and get back to work.
You can count on The Partnership to continue to share accurate and fact-based updates as well. See more on COVID-19 here.
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As executive director of entrepreneurial initiatives of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, Mike Colwell leads works with startups to build their business model, financial model, marketing strategies and capitalization plan. He is also co-manager of Plains Angels, a group of Iowa-based Midwest angel investors. Mike spends his days coaching, mentoring, consulting and asking tough questions to help entrepreneurs reach their full potential. Mike assists with business strategy, business planning, business plan execution, business model development and capital acquisition strategies.