How to create a strategic board meeting agenda

7 min read
Jun 7, 2022 3:41:43 PM

So why a 'Strategic' Board Agenda?

A strategic agenda assists the Board to focus on making the choices that create the future for the communities they serve". A standard meeting agenda does not

Managing Director, Conscious Governance.

Chances are, you have sat through many board meetings with poor preparation and badly chosen meeting topics. Unproductive board meetings are a waste of both the organisation’s time as well as yours. So, it goes without saying – no one wants unproductive meetings.

Productive board meetings all depend on the planning prior to stepping foot in the boardroom. It takes time and effort to coordinate with all board members and make sure that everyone finishes their reports on time and brainstorms the topics that need to be covered. While this may seem like unnecessary admin, it’s worth it because what you get is an effective and productive meeting.

Strategic board meeting agendas are so much more than just a list of all the topics you want to cover in the meeting. They are the foundation of every meeting you have. The agenda set the atmosphere for how engaged your members will be, and it requires more than just writing a simple governance checklist.

These roadmaps you create for your board meetings are crucial for your board members' engagement and productivity, so let’s take a moment to explore the winning formula for a successful board meeting agenda. 

A board meeting agenda should be dynamic and strategic. We will go more into the details below, where we compiled a few tips and tricks for you to create powerful strategic board agendas that engender productive, collaborative and engaging board meetings, regardless of whether your meeting is virtual or in-person. 

Organise your board agendas practically

Through our meeting experiences, both the productive and the unproductive ones, we’ve realised that the board meeting agenda is the true driving force for everyone’s productivity. It helps keep the meeting dynamic and flowing between subjects and topics you need to address and helps minimise the time spent on irrelevant topics or minute details that can be handled by a board committee.

Therefore, the organisation of the strategic meeting agenda plays an important role in how fluidly the meeting and conversation flow. Here are a couple of things to consider to help organise your board meeting agendas more logically:

  1. Include the purpose of the agenda item. Let board members know whether they need to make a decision, offer their input or just sit there and listen to what you have to say about a subject. Knowing the end goal of each board meeting agenda item and what they have to offer, it helps guide the meeting, and the members’ thoughts and saves time for everyone involved. No more wasting time thinking about solutions that you don’t actually need.

  2. Set a time duration for each agenda item. From experience, you probably already know that your board doesn’t need to spend 30 minutes on each topic that you discuss. It would be helpful to include an estimated duration for each agenda item. And if you don’t reach the desired conclusion for a topic, just keep it on the board meeting agenda for next time. And instead, focus on solving all the problems that you can right now within the meeting.

Really put some thought into how you organise your meetings, as it can help boost your meeting efficiency. A clearly organised board meeting agenda will help direct conversations that flow smoothly so that you can minimise side conversations and focus on all the important subjects instead. 

Otherwise, everyone will be mentally clocked out before you know it.

Be careful of information flooding

Board members have a lot of responsibilities, from reviewing board reports to completing the next steps. And as leaders, we are usually the ones assigning and delegating tasks. Sometimes, it can be easy to forget how quickly information and tasks pile up. Even when other people enthusiastically take on new tasks, we need to be mindful that these people also have other things they need to do outside of their work lives.

Here are some tips that work well to avoid information overload when it comes to board meeting agendas:

  1. Limit the length of the board pack. A good rule of thumb is to limit your board back to 10 pages for an average board meeting. And for more important or special meetings, 20 pages. This should include attachments and reports. Your board members should be able to digest all the information from a high-level overview, or else you will be flooding your board members and committees with too much information. With minds clouded with information overload, the chances of distractions and disengagement from important details will be a lot higher.

  2. Minimise the time spent on routine items. It is best to spend only about a quarter of your meeting time on routine topics and items. This includes topics like approving the strategic agenda, going over prior meeting minutes, reviewing financial documents and information, etc. That way, you will still have 75% of the meeting to discuss the critical topics, such as strategy. 

  3. Don’t pile reports on your board meeting agendas. We’re all humans, and when we’re drowning in too much information and details, it can be easy for us to mentally check out. If your agenda has the word “report” on it more than two or three times, you have too many. Board members would rather you talk with them than at them, so be mindful of how many reports you are piling on them.

When you show that you respect and value your members’ time, they will show their appreciation by being more engaged and energised. So, show your members that you respect them by being considerate of their time!

Focus on substance

What matters most is the content on your board meeting agenda, so focus on the substance of the strategic agenda rather than spending time on formatting or other specifics. We recommend prioritising meeting topics that affect multiple members first, as these will be the most relevant and meaningful. If you can’t find any topics that involve at least half of the group, you might have a deeper problem on your hands.

Ask for input

Two minds are greater than one. Therefore, gathering input is a wonderful way to improve enthusiasm and engagement and to ensure you don’t miss anything critical.

One way to do so is by starting each meeting by asking everyone if they have something to discuss. Another way is to ask your members for input before and/or after discussing each agenda item.

Sometimes, when members say that there is nothing else to cover, it could mean that you have sufficiently covered the topic. However, if it happens too often, it could also mean that your board meeting agendas are too long and that your members may want to finish the meeting sooner.

Send out the agenda ahead of time

Once you have created a strategic board meeting agenda with actionable discussion points and key decision-making topics, send the agenda to your members ahead of time. This gives people the opportunity to fully prepare for the meeting so they can contribute fruitful ideas during the meeting. Sending out the agenda ahead of time can also inspire questions and spark collaboration during the meeting.

Additionally, attach anything members need to review, such as reports and other documents. This way, they can read over the attachments prior to the meeting and use actual meeting time to discuss important issues.

By sending your strategic board meeting agendas out ahead of time, you’re telling your members that you value their time and input because you want them to have a chance to think about how they can contribute to the conversation. This way, everyone can relax knowing the meeting is under control.

Use a well designed template

Creating and following a format that your board chair can automatically default to will go a long way to streamline meeting planning. Not only does this save time for you when it comes to formatting your board meeting agenda, but having a consistent format also makes it easier for your board members to follow along in subsequent meetings.

To help, the team at BoardPro has worked with Steven Bowman of Conscious Governance to put together a Strategic Agenda Template based on what we have seen work well for different boards around the world. You can download this template on the right hand side of this post.

Formulating dynamic, successful board meeting agendas shouldn’t be difficult. So instead of spending time and effort formatting your agenda on your own, try out our strategic board meeting agenda template and see how it works for your organisation and your meetings. By all means, modify the template to suit your needs, and you’ll be surprised at what your team can come up with!

How BoardPro can help with strategic meeting agendas

We know from experience that preparing for a board meeting can be time-consuming. There is a long laundry list of to-do items, including finding a date that works for everyone, communicating the key details, and, arguably the most important part of an efficient meeting, creating a dynamic strategic board meeting in advance.

To help speed things up, let’s return to the idea of implementing technology to help you get the important job of preparing for the board meeting done. Based on our experience of dealing with the pains of meeting planning, our team over here at BoardPro – many of whom are current and former board members themselves, have developed our platform to efficiently accomplish everything your board needs to streamline meetings in one convenient place.

Using BoardPro, you can centralise board information and communications all in one place, closing the distance gap and making everything (and everyone) only a couple of clicks away. With the BoardPro Agenda Builder, you will be able to create dynamic strategic board agendas in no time. And don’t worry, the function is easy to use, even for the least tech-savvy board members.

Using the BoardPro Agenda Builder, you can:

  • Design a board meeting agenda from scratch or save a template from a previous meeting
  • Share an interactive PDF of your board agenda with your entire board easily
  • Convert your board meeting agenda into a minutes-recording tool during the live meeting
  • Allow board members to review the agenda on their mobile devices and add notes during the meeting

Not only that, but you can also automate meeting scheduling, build dynamic agendas (the built-in board meeting agenda template makes it super simple), and keep track of meeting attendance and communications.

In conclusion

We understand that creating an agenda sounds tedious. But it’s a very necessary procedure to help keep your board focused on the important topics and make sure that they are fulfilling expectations. With enough practice, creating dynamic strategic board meeting agendas will soon become a familiar and simple habit for you!

The biggest takeaway from this article is that the strategic board meeting agendas are crucial to promoting productive conversations and effective meetings in the boardroom. And to help you get started, you can and should check out BoardPro’s Agenda Builder to streamline your meeting preparation.

To begin, register for a free trial of BoardPro. It’s simple, costs nothing, and no credit card is required. 


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