What are paperless board meetings?
As the name indicates, paperless board meetings are those that, well, do without paper. Rather than thumbing through reams upon reams of documents soon to be bulking up your archives (or creating potential security liabilities as office waste), directors access meeting information digitally, on laptops, tablets, or even their phones.
This is made easy by board meeting software, which brings in a handy stack of tools to help board members access information easily, synchronize their work, and conduct a series of other meeting-related tasks.
Flexible, agile, and waste-reducing, paperless board meetings help shorten the gap between planning and action, allowing board members to collect signatures, conduct surveys or polls, and create meeting-based assignments, among other possibilities.
Are paperless board meetings the same as virtual board meetings?
Some people think that a paperless board meeting is the same thing as a virtual one. While in both cases organizations use software to share content and communicate, the two are not the same thing. Virtual meetings are conducted remotely, whereas paperless meetings can be either remote or presential — the emphasis is on the use of software, rather than physical documents.
How does paperless board meeting software increase meeting efficiency?
Paperless meeting solutions are trendy for good reason. Where classic, paper-heavy meetings originate agenda items to be filed away, paperless board meeting information takes up zero office space. Where a traditional meeting stalls because board members can’t find a document, board documents are just a keyword search away.
Benefits of using board portal software
Board members can benefit in many ways from using board software. Security, economy, flexibility, integration, speed — digital tools do better than their traditional counterparts in every respect.
Comparing traditional vs paperless options
Let’s take a look at how the two possibilities stack up against each other in criteria such as security, economy, flexibility, integration ability, and speed.
Traditional, paper-based meetings
Paper board meetings carry a number of disadvantages that can slow down the decision-making process and disrupt board organization. Besides the issue of paper use, having to often generate hard copies of sensitive material can present organizations with serious security issues.
As a board member, you should be aware of these and other issues that can impact effective board management:
- Hard copies of files are hard to keep track of and can be lost, misplaced, or stolen
- It takes longer to prepare an agenda with paper documents
- The costs of paper and printing, as well as sending and storing material, add up over time.
- Working with physical files makes it hard to integrate meetings with a mix of present and remote attendees.
- Tasks and activities originating from meetings have to be created separately
- Preparing the board meeting documents takes more time, as does finding and sharing content
Paperless board meetings
On the other side of the equation, we have paperless board meetings. For most boards, this will require some type of board management software or board portal.
As opposed to the traditional format, paperless meetings are more eco-friendly, bring greater time savings, and make it easier for the board management to go through each agenda item and make sure they are integrated with the corresponding actions and that no forgotten tasks are left behind.
Among the benefits of paperless board meetings, we can note:
- Meeting materials are encrypted and can only be accessed by board members.
- Storage and sharing are included in your paperless boardroom.
- Paperless meeting solutions allow remote board members to view files and papers of all kinds, including media and graphics as if they were participants at the actual board meeting.
- Collaboration is made easier through surveys, polls, meeting minutes, and other tasks that are easily integrated by any member with admin access to the board management software.
- Pre-meeting tasks such as inviting members and sharing important meeting materials are made more efficient. Members can also retrieve any document during meetings.
- Obviously, a paperless meeting demands fewer paper products and as such is more eco-friendly.
Good for the environment
Have you ever thought about the environmental cost of every document companies print? This may not be the most practical argument for making the switch to paperless, but it might just be the most ethically compelling. Paperless software is not only practical — it’s also effortlessly green.
How do board members benefit from paperless meetings?
At this point, it’s not hard to understand the appeal of paperless meetings over their paper counterparts.
- Meetings save money since there is no printing cost.
- Board directors save time — technology provides just the right tools for a more efficient and speedy discussion.
- A user-friendly board portal streamlines the whole collaboration process, enabling an environment where boards can reach the right decisions with a smaller cost in time and money.
- Technology provides the right tools to reduce the cost of post-meeting integration, which renders the whole board meeting process significantly more efficient.
- And last, but not least: Going paperless is good for the environment. Hence, paperless meetings are good for boards of directors as a whole.
How to find good paperless meeting software?
Many businesses struggle with finding the right paperless meeting solution for their needs. Companies are faced with obvious questions of organization, cost, and making the switch to the paperless meeting format — something that not all organizations navigate easily.
With that in mind, how do you find the right board portal for your organization?
Let’s take a look at a few things to keep in mind when looking for the ideal paperless meeting software.
Understand the priorities of your board
Think about the past few meetings of your board of directors. Ask yourself:
- Which aspects of our board meetings seem slow or cumbersome?
- What tools do we seem to need right now in order to become more efficient?
- How technology savvy are our administrative staff and other members? Will they find it easy to make the switch from paper-intensive meetings to paperless meeting software?
These and other questions will point you in the right direction when looking for the perfect paperless board software.
Other aspects to consider
Think about the kinds of tools you’ll need — resources such as minute and agenda generators, polls, etc. Also have in mind the number of directors your paperless meeting solution will need to accommodate. If your company has a large number of directors, or if some of your board reunions are open to other people engaged in your company such as investors or auditors, your software needs will change accordingly.
Find the best pricing for your use case
Next up, you have to account for the price your company is willing to pay.
Not all paperless meeting software is created equal — some solutions are rather pricey, but costlier doesn’t necessarily mean better. Depending on the level of your requirements and size of your enterprise, you can find excellent solutions at a relatively low cost.
If your needs in terms of storage capacity are not that high, for instance, you can benefit from a board portal software with pricing tiered according to data usage. If your company needs a lot of storage, but has few users, then user-based pricing is the obvious way to go.
Ask for a demo or free trial version
Most board meeting portals will provide you with a demo or free trial version if you ask for it. This can be a great way to test the waters and find out in actual practice whether the chosen software works for you and your team.
Tips for conducting paperless board meetings
Good paperless meeting management starts long before your board gathers in the meeting room. It’s true that working in the digital world saves time, but you’ll still need to do your homework for paperless meetings, collect all the relevant documents, ensure a stable internet connection, and so on.
A few things to have in mind for your paperless board meetings
- Employ a reliable paperless meeting solution. The options for paperless meeting management software are many, but with some research, you’ll be able to home in on a solution matching your needs and budget (see the previous section).
- Make sure all participants are registered and have access to the board materials. For that, you can send out automatic RSVPs before the meeting, asking board members to log in to the portal and check if there are no problems with their access to the meeting material.
- Share paperless board books well in advance. You can always make changes or add more content, as the board software will synchronize files across all user accounts.
- If any documents need to be digitized for the meeting, remember to do so ahead of time.
- For document-intensive meetings, prepare a special folder beforehand so you can retrieve all relevant files easily, from one place.
- Use the minute-generating function.
- Make sure there are no issues with internet access and speed in the meeting room.
Some of the best paperless software solutions will also allow you to use meeting templates, collect signatures, conduct surveys, generate automatic minutes, and more. With a little practice, you’ll soon be deploying these and many other handy, time-saving features — all with a few clicks (or taps).
Going paperless can be a great way to boost your team’s efficiency — but it’s the right thing to do for the environment, too.
As the Adobe sustainability strategist Vince Digneo says, “the greenest paper is no paper at all”. And as you can see, the eco-friendliness of the paperless movement is just one of the many reasons why it’s high time for your board to go paperless.