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.

Discover effective management tool for your board

Rely on our choice – iDeals Board

Visit Website

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Very few board members come to a meeting with a clear understanding of what should be discussed and done.
  5. Board meetings usually start late, as many board members are coming from meetings.
  6. Board meetings often finish late as there are many unstructured and inconsistent discussions.
  7. Board members often leave meetings in a hurry because they have other scheduled meetings.
  8. 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:

  1. Create a plan of what should be done before the next meeting.
  2. Block off time in a calendar that can be fully devoted to coping with board meeting preparation tasks.
  3. 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:

  1. Choose topics that involve all board members. Identify the most pressing matters that require the entire board to discuss or solve. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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:

  1. Safe, so you can protect confidential information by storing it in an absolutely secure online repository.
  2. Accessible, so that you can access the board meeting materials anytime from anywhere.
  3. 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:

  1. Schedule a meeting. Decide on a meeting date, time, and place. Consider online meetings for more convenience.
  2. Confirm attendance. Send RSVPs to board members. Contact or send reminders to those who haven’t confirmed yet.
  3. 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:

  1. Check if the meeting space you booked is available so there’s no misunderstanding. 
  2. Ensure you have all the audio or visual equipment needed for the meeting.
  3. Make test calls if some fellow board members participate via a conference call.

However, to ensure the effectiveness of your meeting, consider using a board meeting checklist. It’s one of the most important resources for board meeting preparation.

Bring your meeting preparations to the next level!

Download the board meeting checklist now!


A quick guide on how to prepare board meeting minutes

Meetings are a cornerstone of teamwork, but without proper documentation, those discussions can vanish very quickly. Meeting minutes, while sometimes disregarded, are an important tool that may be useful in an unexpected circumstance and even save the company!

As well as reports, meeting minutes offer a multitude of advantages that enhance team productivity and transparency. If you ever wondered how to create them, please read our dedicated article on how to write a board report as a secretary.

Here’s a quick rundown of the key benefits:

  • Improved focus and accountability. Keeping track of meeting minutes provides a comprehensive record of all the decisions made and tasks assigned.
  • Enhanced recall and continuity. Serving as a reference, meeting minutes allow board members to refresh their memory if needed.
  • Bridging the information gap. Minutes keep everyone updated on what happened during a meeting, even if they were absent.
  • Potential legal safeguard. Meeting minutes are helpful if there’s ever a disagreement or dispute about what was decided.
  • Streamlined workflows. Clear allocation of responsibilities in the minutes allows for efficient use of time.

While this section focuses on creating good minutes, knowing how to chair a board meeting script may help ensure a well-documented session.

So, let’s delve into the practices to consider when writing meeting minutes. 

  1. Create or download a template. Make use of a standardized template outlining key sections like meeting type, date, time, location, attendees, and agenda items.
  2. Review previous minutes. This allows for a better understanding of the final result and how it should look.
  3. Write down motions and decisions. Note any motions presented, who made them, and the outcome.
  4. Maintain neutrality. The minutes should be neutral and factual. Avoid expressing personal thoughts or interpretations.
  5. Finalize the minutes. Transcribe your notes into a clean and concise text, using the template.

Preparing an agenda for a board meeting

Jacqueline Whitmore, in her article in Entrepreneur magazine, emphasizes the importance of not leaving the most crucial topics for the last in a board meeting. A well-planned and structured agenda for a board meeting ensures that the most critical discussions are given the necessary focus and time.

In this regard, let’s delve into best practices to guide you on how to prepare an agenda for a board meeting.

  1. Save time. Respect the time of board members by prioritizing the most crucial topics first. If time becomes limited, you’ll still have covered the essential topics.
  2. Chunk information strategically. Don’t overwhelm board members with information overload. Break difficult concepts into smaller, easier sections.
  3. Share board packs and be open for discussion. Consider the possible points for each agenda item. Pre-circulate relevant reports or data to board members beforehand.
  4. Leave room for new business. Reserve a time slot for unforeseen but important matters. Thus, the board may address important issues that arise at the last minute without disrupting the entire agenda.
  5. Post-meeting follow-up. The agenda does not stop after the meeting’s finishing. Briefly summarize key decisions and action items within 24 hours.

Prepare a sample agenda for a board meeting

A well-structured agenda is required for an effective board meeting. It keeps everyone engaged, ensures crucial topics are covered, and uses valuable time well. Thus, this sample agenda offers a structure that you may customize to meet the unique demands of your board meeting.

Agenda itemDescriptionEstimated  time
Introductions and welcoming Call to order, make a brief introduction5 minutes
Approval of previous meeting minutesReview and discussion of minutes, motion to approve5 minutes
Officer reports1. CEO report (company performance, strategy, challenges)2. CFO report (financial performance, budget)20 minutes
Old businessDiscuss and take action on follow-up items from previous meetings20 minutes
New businessTopic №1:[presentation, Q&A, voting, decisions, next steps]30 minutes
Committee reportsBrief updates from standing committees10 minutes
Next steps and action itemsReview key action items and assign responsibilities5 minutes
AdjournmentSet date and time for next meeting, motion to adjourn5 minutes

Post-board meeting checklist

Organizing a successful post-meeting procedure is just as crucial as hosting the board meeting itself. This checklist will help you follow up on the meeting outcomes:

  • Review and finalize the meeting minutes.
  • Distribute the minutes to all board members and relevant parties for review and approval.
  • Define each action item with a responsible person and due date.
  • Consider using technologies, such as board portals to track progress on action items.
  • Schedule follow-ups or reviews as needed.
  • Consider sending a short survey to board members to gather feedback on the meeting’s effectiveness, agenda coverage, and overall experience.
  • File the approved meeting minutes and any related materials in a secure and easily accessible location, such as the board portal.
  • For leadership teams, consider a quick debrief to discuss key takeaways from the meeting and the next steps.

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:

  1. Collaboration tools, including private and group messaging, notes, activity dashboards, and document notifications.
  2. Scheduling management tools, including a calendar, agenda builder, and deadline management features.
  3. Meeting management tools, including voting, reminders, document annotation, electronic signature, information search, and automatic meeting minutes drafts.
  4. 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:

  1. Centralized storage. Store confidential documents in one secure space.
  2. Secure materials distribution. Share and update the agenda and board materials in advance to improve meeting preparation.
  3. Mobile app. Use your phone to stay updated and collaborate with board members anywhere, anytime.
  4. Customer support. Contact a support specialist 24/7 with requests or questions.
  5. User-friendliness. Start using a platform quickly, regardless of the level of your technical skills.

If you’re looking for a convenient, cost-effective, and secure solution for board management, the board portal by iDeals would be the best choice. This is a TOP-1 choice of our experts. 

Time to use the modern board management software!

iDeals Board serves board of directors, committee members with a comprehensive suite for governance tools

Visit Website
Average rating: 4.3 | 49 votes
Casey Johnson Marketing strategist
Casey Johnson is a seasoned marketing strategist specializing in board portals. With over a decade of experience, she spearheads comprehensive marketing campaigns to enhance brand visibility and drive growth. Casey orchestrates content plans, conducts market research, and collaborates with content creators to ensure impactful marketing strategies.
Download the board meeting checklist now!
Please fill in the required field
Please enter the correct phone number
Please enter a corporate email
Thank You for Your Interest!
If the download does not start, click the button below to download the White Paper.
Download White Paper