Even if you have worked with boards for some time, running a board meeting can be stressful. There is usually a lot of work to get through in a limited amount of time, and board members may vary widely in their knowledge base, background, and experience level. Board meetings are also an incredible opportunity for the people responsible for an organization’s vision and direction to work together collaboratively, though, and it is important to get the most out of them. Here are a few tips for doing so.
1. Make The Board Book Accessible
The work of a board meeting begins long before the directors gather in the conference room. In order to have a productive, informed discussion about the needs of their organization, board members need to have the reports, memos, and data that will give them an accurate sense of the state of that organization’s finances, position, and mission. Once this information has been compiled, the board manager’s first task is to make it as accessible to the directors as possible.
While many boards still have the board book couriered to each member, tools like board portal software are now available to help facilitate information sharing and discussion between members. There’s lots of information online to help understand how board software helps streamline board communications without compromising security.
2. Facilitate Discussions in Advance
Once directors have digested the board book, they will probably have questions. Providing a forum for conversation to happen before the board meeting actually takes place not only allows members to come with a better command of the data, it also makes it easier to keep the meeting itself focused on the important issues.
Board portal software can come in useful here as well. Many board portals include tools to help directors annotate and discuss documents remotely, which can save a lot of time.
3. Focus On The Priorities
One of the great dangers in any meeting is that valuable time will be wasted in long, unnecessary digressions into the minutiae of issues that don’t actually need the full attention of the board itself. Time is your board’s most precious resource, and leveraging that time to focus on the most important priorities will guarantee that the issues that need to be dealt with are adequately covered.
For this reason, board managers should present a clear agenda that lays out how much time will be spent on each particular item. Not only does this serve as a valuable road map for the meeting itself, it also indicates to directors which concerns are the most pressing.
As important as board meetings are, the work that gets done in between meetings is just as, if not more, vital to the success of your organization. Make sure that at the end of the meeting, every board member has a clear sense of what their follow-through responsibilities are. Delegating tasks and making sure there are clear timelines and deliverables will ensure that the best ideas and insights that come out of your board meeting get picked up.
Running a board meeting is a fine art. But by planning ahead, choosing the right tools, and empowering board members to connect as much as possible beforehand, you can guarantee a productive and efficient meeting that serves the needs of your organization.