When was the last time you got together with colleagues for an in-person association meeting or event? For me, it was last month. We had a three-day meeting with a board of directors – a group which hasn’t gotten together in the flesh since before the pandemic. Some association board members hadn’t even met each other yet. There were some hesitancies and reservations, but overall, the directors were thrilled to be meeting again for the first time in almost two years.

Board formalities were still front of mind, but it was still important to incorporate some team building activities and other business into the meeting. We wanted to make the most of the fact that everyone was going to be in the same meeting space. In-person meetings eliminate most outside distractions. They provide an environment where board members are more encouraged to be present and focus on the tasks at hand, whether that be the board meeting or a fun activity. These in-person opportunities ultimately create a stronger, more cohesive board, and in turn, a stronger association.

So, what are some of the things you can do as a board? Invite a guest speaker or facilitator. Plan a social outing. Schedule a board dinner. These are just a few great ways to make the most out of your next in-person meeting. Here is how we incorporated those same activities at our recent board meeting:

Invite a Guest to Speak to the Board

As I mentioned above, when the board is together in the same room, there are less distractions and meetings tend to be more productive. For this reason, it is a good idea to coincide the board meeting with other important business which could involve inviting a guest expert to speak. This is what we decided to do last month, and we dove deep into the strategic plan. The board brought in an external facilitator to lead the meeting and was done the day before the formal board meeting. The board was able to participate in hands-on breakout sessions, engage in a DiSC Assessment and develop next steps to continue to fulfil the association’s goals, vision, and mission statement. All this occurred face-to-face and was very productive. The board agreed that this should continue every few years, with an internal review of the strategic plan annually. Other possible meetings could include bringing in an expert on marketing, financial planning, or Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI) training.

Read more on DEI training in my colleague’s latest article: Teach Your Association Board How to FISH! The Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion Argument.  

Plan a Social Outing

Participating in an interactive group activity is the perfect addition to an in-person board meeting, especially since the pandemic has left us meeting virtual in front of computer screens for so long. At our board meeting last month, we stayed at a resort just outside of a major city. We were away from the hustle and bustle, able to appreciate the great outdoors. It was a bit too cold to enjoy the walking paths, golf course, and open fields; however, they did have an indoor miniature golf course that we just had to take advantage of. Here, the board experienced some healthy competition and a ton of laughs. All the while, everyone was upright on two feet and away from a computer screen.

If you haven’t yet planned an in-person meeting but have a virtual one coming up, be sure to read my previous article: How To Keep Virtual Board Meetings Engaging


Schedule a Board Dinner

After a long day of meetings, winding down with a nice dinner is a great way to wrap things up. It gives everyone a chance to connect on a different level and dive into each other’s personal matters and interests. This really helps to solidify relationships and bring the board members even closer together. You can use this time to play yet another game, albeit a little less physical, before the food arrives.

For a fun icebreaker during our dinner together, we paired up with the person sitting beside us and identified five things we had in common. This was an entertaining way to get to know each other even better. It also steered us away from discussions relating to work. Whether it’s a formal sit-down dinner or a casual takeout meal from a local restaurant, taking the time to schedule an evening to enjoy good food and company can be a highlight at your next in-person meeting.

We can all agree that the last two years have been difficult on businesses, associations, and our personal lives. However, we are coming out of the thick of it and I think we’re coming out even stronger than before. These initiatives I shared are important to continue even once meeting face-to-face becomes a regular part of our lives again.