Whether your concern is strategic planning for nonprofits, government body, large corporation or startup, boards face similar challenges when it comes to making meetings matter. When we say ‘matter,’ we mean making sure that board meetings are about action. It means being focused on items that are actually going to help move the organization forward versus being focused on items that should be left to the management team to handle. It means that time isn’t wasted looking for documentation and that the discussion stays on agenda.
For better board meeting management, you need to think beyond the boardroom and consider your board meetings in three parts:
Better Board Meeting Step One: Preparation
- This starts with setting an agenda that is primarily focused on the action items that will help achieve the goals of the board as they align with the vision, mission and values of the organization. Ideally, 50% or more of time in every board meeting should be focused on action items.
- Get board materials out in advance and make the consumption of the information in them as easy as possible. Board packets are time-consuming to prepare, expensive to disseminate and often overwhelming in terms of content. Board management and board meeting software can streamline this process saving time and money by providing members with online access to materials. Some board meeting software even links the agenda to the relevant pieces of content to make navigating board packets quick and easy.
- Encourage members to do their homework. By getting board materials out in advance and making them easy to access, there’s no excuse for board members not to come prepared to meetings with their discussion points ready to go.
Better Board Meeting Step Two: Attendance
- Stay focused on the agenda. You set it for a reason, so stick to it. Don’t let external events, organizational gossip and management minutia take you off track.
- Be present. This seems simple enough, but when board members haven’t prepared properly and are spending their time shuffling through paperwork and looking for information instead of participating in the discussion, the meeting is going to go off track and not remain laser-focused on the action items that matter.
- Taking minutes is an obligation of every board meeting, but don’t forget to capture action items. Every single discussion results in some type of follow-up item, so make sure those items are captured, assigned and shared in real time. Capturing actions is an important way to keep and hold the board and its members accountable. And don’t forget to include the action item list on the agenda of the next board meeting so you can follow up on progress.
Better Board Meeting Step Three: Collaboration
- While you should capture actions during the board meetings, it’s in between meetings that the real work happens. To keep enthusiasm and morale high, your members and executive team should be encouraged to share updates and engage with evidence and other materials that demonstrate momentum towards goal achievement. Some board meeting software allows you to capture the work and conversations between board members alongside the documents on which they are collaborating.
- If it feels like milestones and dates can sometimes be a little slippery, you can use board software to automate the process of setting and monitoring progress against goals and generate reports that clearly show progress against action items, making sure everyone is on the same page and increasing the accountability of everyone involved.