Board meeting success greatly depends on pre-meeting preparation. That’s why ensuring every participant receives board meeting materials and documents in advance and has enough time to study them is crucial.
However, about 26% of executives and board chairs report that their board members are never or rarely prepared for board meetings. This results in ineffective communication, frustration, and bad decision-making.
The guide below was created with the purpose of teaching secretaries the art of preparing board meetings because this is one of their primary responsibilities. However, board members and other regular board meeting participants can benefit from it, too.
Below you’ll find board meeting preparation best practices, advice, and checklists. There are also tips on what software to use to make preparation quick, easy, and effective.
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How board meeting preparation works
It seems like even though board members understand how important it is to prepare before the board meeting, few give it enough time and attention.
Here’s what Mark Suster, a managing partner at Upfront Ventures, thinks of typical board meeting of directors preparation.
- Board meetings are scheduled in advance, but the majority of board members don’t start preparing until a week or two before an upcoming meeting.
- Board members are often too focused on their daily tasks and regard preparation for a board meeting as a distraction. Furthermore, they often think they could easily do without having a meeting at all.
- Board chairs, investors, and other meeting participants rarely read meeting materials in full. They just quickly scan the most important pages and get familiar with the numbers.
- Very few board members come to a meeting with a clear understanding of what should be discussed and done.
- Board meetings usually start late, as many board members are coming from meetings.
- Board meetings often finish late as there are many unstructured and inconsistent discussions.
- Board members often leave meetings in a hurry because they have other scheduled meetings.
- Board members don’t agree on major points even if they were discussed.
Why do board members not prepare for meetings?
Despite such bad tendencies described above, a study shows that board members don’t mind board meetings — and even look forward to them — when they are fully prepared.
Then what are the reasons for such poor preparation?
- Lack of time. This may seem obvious — but many board members are overloaded with daily tasks which seem more urgent, so they give them higher priority.
- Lack of motivation. This reason is more fundamental — board members aren’t motivated to prepare for meetings. This is mostly because they don’t get why they should prepare in the first place if no one else is going to be prepared.
The importance of proper board meeting preparation
A quote by Abraham Lincoln perfectly describes the importance of preparation. It says, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Board meeting preparation is no exception. Board members should give it enough attention because:
- It ensures that everyone has the necessary information.
- It lays the foundation and makes sure everyone is on the same page.
- It prevents poor performance.
- It saves time during board meetings, usually wasted on inefficient discussions.
Tips on how to prepare for a board meeting
If you’re a secretary, business leader, board member, or CEO having trouble preparing for your next board meeting, using a board meeting preparation checklist like the one below can help.
1. Plan ahead and don’t procrastinate
Efficient board meeting planning should begin with a meeting checklist at the end of the previous meeting. This is when a secretary or board members take notes on what to include in the next meeting’s agenda.
Furthermore, do the following:
- Create a plan of what should be done before the next meeting.
- Block off time in a calendar that can be fully devoted to coping with board meeting preparation tasks.
- Avoid having to do everything at the last minute.
2. Read the bylaws and meeting protocols
Bylaws and meeting protocols are board documents designed to make sure all meeting participants follow the same rules, procedures, and etiquette.
“It is essential that boards conduct their meetings with a view to optimizing the use of the time and intellectual capital of their members.”, the Chartered Governance Institute states.
That’s why one of the most important board meeting preparation tasks is to send each board chair a copy of the bylaws so they can bring it to a board meeting for reference.
3. Develop a board meeting agenda
An effective board meeting is nearly impossible without an agenda. Use a board meeting agenda template and follow these tips to make it clearer and more helpful:
- Choose topics that involve all board members. Identify the most pressing matters that require the entire board to discuss or solve.
- Put the most important questions first. Start with discussing the most crucial issues as, according to the research, questions at the start of a meeting receive the most amount of time and attention, regardless of their importance.
- Identify the purpose of each topic. Specify whether it is to share information, seek input for a decision, or make a decision.
4. Use technology to simplify board meeting preparation
One of the greatest board meeting preparation tips is to use board management software. This is an effective tool for streamlining the preparation process because it is:
- Safe, so you can protect confidential information by storing it in an absolutely secure online repository.
- Accessible, so that you can access the board meeting materials anytime from anywhere.
- Environmentally-friendly, so you can help save the planet by holding paperless board meetings.
If you want to take your board meetings to the next level, make them more efficient, and, at the same time, save time and money on preparation and organization, try a board portal.
5. Organize a meeting
Make time to do the following:
- Schedule a meeting. Decide on a meeting date, time, and place. Consider online meetings for more convenience.
- Confirm attendance. Send RSVPs to board members. Contact or send reminders to those who haven’t confirmed yet.
- Complete any assigned tasks. Make sure you follow up on the tasks you were assigned at a previous board meeting.
6. Distribute board meeting materials
Prepare for a board meeting of directors by making sure all board members receive relevant materials at least one week before the meeting. This way, they have enough time to review it all. The materials may include:
- Finalized board agenda
- Financial reports
- Management reports
- Committee reports
- Prior meeting minutes
7. Prepare an outline for the minutes
Prepare a minutes template before the next board meeting. It should contain the following:
- Date and time of the meeting
- Names of the participants
- Purpose of the meeting
- Agenda items and topics discussed
- Made decisions and votes
8. Make final preparations
There are a few organizational tasks to complete to make sure a meeting runs smoothly:
- Check if the meeting space you booked is available so there’s no misunderstanding.
- Ensure you have all the audio or visual equipment needed for the meeting.
- Make test calls if some fellow board members participate via a conference call.
Board management software for easy board meeting setup
Preparing for a board of directors meeting can be much easier, faster, and more efficient due to modern meeting management solutions. Secretaries, executives, and board members can now digitize all paperwork for conducting virtual board meetings.
Here are the features that board management software offers its users:
- Collaboration tools, including private and group messaging, notes, activity dashboards, and document notifications.
- Scheduling management tools, including a calendar, agenda builder, and deadline management features.
- Meeting management tools, including voting, reminders, document annotation, electronic signature, information search, and automatic meeting minutes drafts.
- Security features, including user access permissions, two-factor authentication, and encryption of sensitive data.
The main advantages of board management software that users especially like include:
- Centralized storage. Store confidential documents in one secure space.
- Secure materials distribution. Share and update the agenda and board materials in advance to improve meeting preparation.
- Mobile app. Use your phone to stay updated and collaborate with board members anywhere, anytime.
- Customer support. Contact a support specialist 24/7 with requests or questions.
- User-friendliness. Start using a platform quickly, regardless of the level of your technical skills.
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How do you prepare for a board meeting?
The process is usually the following:
- Start preparing right after the last board meeting.
- Review bylaws and board meeting protocols.
- Develop and distribute a finalized agenda far enough in advance.
- Schedule a meeting, and confirm attendance.
- Complete any assigned tasks.
- Prepare an outline for the minutes.
- Ensure the required equipment is available and working well.
- Use board management software for more efficient meeting preparation.
What is board management software for board meeting preparation?
To prepare for a successful board meeting, secretaries and board members use board management solution software. A proper board portal has the necessary features for:
- Document storage and distribution
- Assigning tasks
- Signing documents