Some Board Meetings Return in Person, but Uncertainty Persists

Author: Michelle Russell       

Board Meeting

A recent Bloomberg article about how venture capitalists are navigating the COVID environment made clear the lack of uniformity about the return to in-person board meetings — and lack of protocol around acceptable greetings. (Christina @ wocintechchat.com/Unsplash)

“It feels like a bad middle school dance where no one is sure how close to get to the other person.” That’s how Liza Landsman, a general partner at venture capital firm NEA, described her experience at a recent in-person board meeting. The health protocols at the meeting were clear — every participant was vaccinated and had to take a rapid COVID-19 test earlier in the morning — but the social etiquette less so.

In a Bloomberg article about the return to in-person board meetings (available to subscribers only), Landsman said the proper COVID etiquette around masking and greetings is confusing. At one in-person meeting she attended, people masked up in the elevator and common spaces, but removed their masks in the conference room. Some people shook hands, she told Bloomberg. Others bumped elbows or waved from across the room. And some actually hugged.

One investor interviewed in the story has not seen a return to in-person gatherings. It was a common practice in pre-pandemic times for investors to visit startups around the country. “But now, many startups have renegotiated or exited their leases,” Chris Farmer, founder and CEO of SignalFire, said in the story. “One thing the Delta variant made clear is that nobody has a clear idea of what the world might look like in a few months.”

Farmer sits on about dozen company boards, all of which continue to be conducted virtually over Zoom. But another investor interviewed in the article, like Landsman, is seeing in-person board meetings coming back. Scott Jacobson, managing director at Madrona Venture Group, said he attended an in-person board meeting in early October. Held in a conference room where everyone — all fully vaccinated — was physically distanced around the table, the meeting did not include meals, and no one wore a mask.

Jacobson said people shook hands and gave each other fist bumps, but he didn’t see any hugging. Despite the fact that the in-person board meeting wasn’t the same as in pre-pandemic times, he said it was “way better than Zoom.”