6 tips for planning and executing a productive board meeting

5 min read
Mar 8, 2023 8:33:57 PM

A recent survey shows that up to 43% of board members find virtual meetings to be less engaging than in-person discussions. While they recognise that the virtual format is efficient, they find that directors are less involved, Boards are less effective, and Boardroom culture is impacted. This means that time and resources are being wasted, drawing the focus from crucial discussions of key company issues.

The business world today is competitive, with organisations struggling against each other as well as global issues – such as supply chains – that limit company resources. Board meetings need to be restructured to support unique company goals, keeping in mind available resources and the expertise of their members. Great Boards harness their members' backgrounds and value-productive discussions that further company goals.

"The highest-performing companies have extremely contentious boards that regard dissent as an obligation and that treat no subject as undiscussable," explains Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld, a senior associate dean for executive programs at the Yale School of Management to Harvard Business Review.

We have identified several strategies to help you transform your board meetings into a platform for growth, innovation and strategy. 

6 tips for planning an effective board meeting

Planning a successful board meeting does not require an overly formal approach. The main goal is to accomplish the tasks at hand. However, what constitutes successful completion varies from one board to another. Although there are no hard and fast rules to plan a board meeting, adhering to best practices can assist boards in prioritising crucial objectives and making the best use of the limited time of board members.

Each company must identify a meeting format that best suits its needs. Consistency in format helps maintain focus, productivity, and organisation, ensuring that everyone is on the same page.

As Sonnenfeld explains, "what distinguishes exemplary boards is that they are robust, effective social systems".

Here are 6 tips to ensure your board meetings are on point!

1. Opt for a suitable venue

If feasible, conduct meetings at the company's office. This gives board members a better picture of the organisation and helps them feel that they are part of the team.

2. Optimise board meetings by focusing on two key topics

To keep board meetings productive and efficient, focus on two critical topics per meeting. Start with the most pressing issues and allocate up to 30 minutes for each topic. Meetings should address key issues rather than just providing updates, which are better communicated through pre-meeting board books.

3. Simplify board meeting preparation with a consistent board pack

An informative board pack is essential. Boards should adopt a standard board pack template so that packs are easy to create and distribute to the team. Board packs let directors know what to expect in each meeting. Pro tip: including visuals such as graphs can be a useful way of communicating information. And, if you are open to upgrading from a traditional paper format, digital board packs bring version control, real-time editing, heightened security and easy accessibility to your fingertips.

4. Timely delivery of board materials

Timing is everything when distributing board packs. If sent too early, the reports may be forgotten, and information may become outdated. If sent too late, the board may not have enough time to review the material. Give your directors adequate time to prepare by sending out the board pack at least two or three days before the meeting. Directors should also review the material at least 24 hours prior to the meeting.

5. Make board meetings productive and engaging

Board meetings run the risk of being boring, but if scheduled correctly, they can be productive and engaging. Focus on current issues and avoid excessive socialising. If you like, you can schedule meetings in the afternoon and plan for a post-meeting social dinner to give everyone a chance to catch up once business has been taken care of. Using board management software can speed up meetings as it lets directors annotate agendas and share notes in real time.

6. Set up meetings well in advance

Planning meetings ahead of time can increase the likelihood of having all directors in attendance. Having all board members present unites the team and means that you are making full use of the wealth of perspectives on your board. If a proposed meeting time does not work for any board member, you should try to find an alternative time that works for everyone.

How to manage meetings as a chair

The board chair is responsible for making sure that meetings run smoothly. Here are tips they can use to help facilitate productive board meetings:

  • Do not look for validation or support from the board during meetings. Instead, prioritise an effective use of your time by making sound decisions in a timely manner.
  • Keep discussions focused and redirect conversations back to the agenda if members get off-topic.
  • Encourage equal participation from all board members in the discussion. Clarify important matters before the meeting so that everyone is equipped with the tools they need. 
  • If a board member seems disconnected from the group during the meeting, try new approaches to build team spirit between members outside of the meeting.
  • Be open with the board about any challenges or problems the company is facing. The Board is there to help find solutions, and prompt communication is key to resolving issues.
  • Avoid getting into heated arguments with board members. Maintain a professional and respectful tone, even in the face of disagreement, and promote a healthy debate culture.
  • Express your passion and enthusiasm for the work that you do. Let the board know that you are committed to driving the organisation forward and that their support is crucial to achieving company success.

The importance of team work

The quality of your organisation's success depends on how the board functions as a team. The building blocks of this team are formed within the boardroom, but the level of preparation each member undertakes before the meeting can greatly impact its success.

Be well-prepared for each meeting and ensure that other board members are as well. As you gain an understanding of how your board communicates, you will be able to tailor your meetings and the overall direction of the company towards your goals.

Taking the time to plan and prepare for your meeting will help it run smoothly. When the day comes, you and your fellow board members will be set up to discuss your shared goals and put those dreams into action. Making a few small adjustments to your work pre-, during and post-meeting can drastically improve company performance, enhance boardroom participation and cultivate a team-first attitude.

Where to next?

An easy way to keep your board on track is to incorporate board management software (aka board portal software) into your meetings. Board management software – like BoardPro's system – helps streamline board meetings for members, assisting with cumbersome tasks like meeting minutes and meeting agendas. They free up board members so that you have time to focus on the real issues at hand.

No more worrying about administrative tasks mid-discussion, now all members can participate actively in each meeting, confident that an accurate and helpful record is being kept of their decisions. Board management software helps keep everything accessible and organised in one place for easy use by the whole team. Added to that, it enhances security, protecting your company's future.

Interested in bringing technology on Board to support you and your team? Reach out below to one of our specialist team members, and let's get you started.

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