The business world is a constant storm of challenges. Artificial intelligence affects companies, geopolitical conflicts raise cybersecurity concerns, and environmental demands take center stage. In such circumstances, making the right decisions is more important than ever.

The advisory board is exactly that force navigating these challenges and shaping the organization’s direction. New research from the Advisory Board Centre shows a sustainable 20% growth in the number of advisory boards established worldwide between 2021 and 2023. Consequently, there is an increasing acknowledgment of the important guidance and expertise that boards offer to both established businesses and startup projects.

However, just creating an advisory board isn’t enough. After all, leaders must guarantee good communication and teamwork within the advisory committee to achieve their greatest potential.

This article provides useful tips and effective strategies for successfully running an advisory board meeting and explains the role of a clear agenda.

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Preparations: how to run an advisory board of directors meeting?

Thorough preparation is essential for productive advisory board sessions. But how to take those preparations one step further and elevate your meeting from productive to exceptional? Here are four steps to improve the advisory board experience:

1. Define the purpose of an advisory board meeting

The first stage is to establish a clear purpose and objectives for the meeting. Is it a strategic planning session, a deep dive into a specific topic, or an update on current initiatives? Knowing the target objective allows you to shape the agenda and lead discussions better.

2. Craft a compelling agenda

To achieve your purpose, it’s important to create a well-crafted agenda that covers key topics for discussion. The agenda should strike a balance between providing adequate information. As per the Deloitte Board Practices report, in 2022, 24% of boards successfully adapted their agendas to allocate more time for strategic decision-making.

Consider adding the following elements to your agenda:

  • Presentations from relevant stakeholders
  • Break-out sessions for brainstorming
  • Ample time for Q&A
  • Decision points 
  • Meeting minutes from the previous session

3. Identify key discussion points

Once you have the agenda set, take the time to identify specific discussion points within each topic. This will enable you to prepare thought-provoking questions, relevant data, and necessary background materials for the board members.   

4. Set clear expectations for the advisory committee

Effective communication is a two-way street, and successful advisory board meetings hinge on active participation from your board members. Here’s how to cultivate that engagement:

  • Clearly outline expectations. Before the meeting, distribute a document outlining what you expect from them in terms of preparation.
  • Tailor expectations to agenda items. For progress updates, encourage the board members to review pre-circulated reports and arrive with specific questions for clarification.
  • Leverage individual expertise. Anticipate where specific board members’ expertise can be most valuable.   

The structure of the advisory board meeting agenda

Within the board governance models, an advisory board’s effectiveness hinges on a well-defined meeting structure. In turn, it should leverage the board’s composition to maximize the value of its diverse perspectives. 

Advisory boards work best when they have 3-5 members with diverse viewpoints and industry expertise. Unlike a hierarchical board of directors, the role of the advisory board focuses on providing strategic guidance and independent perspectives rather than direct decision-making or oversight. 

There’s a specific set of items to consider for an advisor panel meeting, even though the overall structure of the meeting agenda remains relatively similar. This type of meeting includes the following stages.

1. Strategic discussions (top priority) 

This part of the meeting is crucial as it focuses on the most essential matters of the organization. The usual duration is approximately 45 minutes to ensure enough time to discuss the topic thoroughly. For example, it includes strategic planning initiatives, where a group of advisors delves into the organization’s long-term goals and growth strategies.

2. Decision-making and action items (high priority)

In this stage, the insights take the form of actionable steps. It is important to identify decisions requiring input or board approval and to ensure all relevant information is presented. The estimated time ranges from 20 to 30 minutes. 

3. Updates and reports (medium priority)

This stage keeps the board informed on key performance areas. However, to fit within 30 minutes, updates should be brief and relevant to decision-making:

  • Focus on key metrics
  • Highlight trends
  • Keep the presentation concise

Advisory board meeting agenda template

This agenda template is your starting point. However, you can download and adjust it to the specific needs of your organization. For this, the number of sections and topics should mirror the unique goals of each meeting. 

Consider the agenda as chapters in a story. Naturally, each section, like introductions and strategic discussions, needs a clear purpose. By the way, this is also relevant to CAB meetings.

Then, highlight decision points within strategic discussions, serving as the turning points in the conversation. Time is of the essence, so allocate realistic slots for each section to avoid rushing the meeting flow.

As the meeting progresses, record action items in a designated area. This transparency guarantees that everyone understands their roles and the timeframes for follow-up. 

Other than that, supplement committee reports by adding relevant metrics and updates from the agenda itself. Full reports can be supplied as separate papers for those who crave deeper dives.

In general, the key benefits of the advisory meeting agenda template can be characterized as follows:

  • Consistent use of a template creates a comfortable rhythm for meetings. Board members know where to find key information and anticipate the flow of discussions.
  • Including template sections for brainstorming and open forum discussions encourages all members to actively participate.
  • A template saves precious time by providing a standardized format. No more starting from scratch – board members can dive right in, customizing the content for the specific meeting. 

DOWNLOAD the advisory board meetings agenda template

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The role of active engagement and communication at advisory board meetings

Research indicates that a worrisome pattern exists whereby over 75% of meeting participants lose focus during the gathering. This raises important questions about the efficacy of current meeting protocols. 

A primary cause of this underperformance may be a lack of active engagement from attendees, especially board members.

However, passive participation in traditional board meetings can be transformed into active engagement. Let’s find out how to improve engagement within the board:

  1. Structure the sections. If it’s necessary, divide the advisory board members into smaller groups to tackle specific issues or brainstorm solutions.
  2. Provide respectful discourse. During the meeting, the advisory board chairman should create an atmosphere where everyone’s opinions are valued and heard.
  3. Ensure active listening. Encourage board members to build upon each other’s ideas.
  4. Share pre-meeting materials. Distribute discussion topics and relevant reports in advance, at least 3 days beforehand.
  5. Use technologies. Utilize online polls or anonymous feedback tools to gather real-time input and ensure all voices are heard. Board portal software is a great solution to do it securely.

Tips and best practices for effective advisory board meeting

Advisory board meetings hold immense potential for strategic guidance and valuable insights. But how do we ensure these discussions translate into concrete action plans? Let’s dive into the advisory board’s best practices to make the most of these gatherings:

  1. Meeting minutes with clear action items. After each meeting, designate a person (often the secretary) to document key points, decisions made, and next steps.
  2. Brainstorm and prioritize. Utilize whiteboarding or online collaboration tools to brainstorm and prioritize solutions. 
  3. Match expertise with action items. Leverage each board member’s strengths by assigning action items that align with their knowledge and experience. Consider using a board effectiveness checklist to simplify the process.
  4. Set regular check-ins. Schedule regular check-ins (via email, video conference, or another agreed-upon method) to discuss progress on action items and get feedback.
  5. Remember about key metrics. Establish clear KPIs so that board members can keep track of how well the initiatives are doing and make sure they are successful.

Measuring advisory board meeting success

As a facilitator, you may find that traditional metrics such as attendance and agenda compliance fall short of capturing the true value of a successful meeting. While they provide a baseline for assessing meeting logistics, they fail to measure the impact of the gathering. 

Organizations often use traditional metrics to evaluate board meeting effectiveness. Instead, let’s take a closer look at more comprehensive approaches:

  1. Engagement. Track participation levels during discussions. Did everyone feel heard? Were there balanced contributions from all members?
  2. Actionable insights. Evaluate the number of concrete recommendations and ideas generated.
  3. Decision-making. Assess the progress made on pre-defined goals. Were key decisions reached or next steps identified?
  4. Member satisfaction. Measure board member satisfaction through surveys or feedback forms.

Key takeaways

Let’s quickly summarize the main information from the article and learn how to run an advisory board meeting:

  1. Define clear objectives for the meeting to shape the agenda effectively. Craft a compelling agenda that balances context, Q&A sessions, and decision points.
  2. Establish clear guidelines for the involvement and preparedness of the company boards. Tailor expectations to agenda topics and draw on individual knowledge.
  3. A structured agenda template should prioritize agenda items, decisions, and updates and be tailored to the specific goal of each meeting.
  4. Structure sections, promote respect, and active listening, and share pre-meeting materials to keep everyone engaged. Consider using technologies like board portal software for real-time input and secure collaboration.
  5. Document meeting minutes with specific action items, discuss and prioritize ideas, connect expertise to action items, schedule regular check-ins, develop clear KPIs for measuring performance, and run an effective advisory board.

This article describes some helpful tips and strategies that organizations can use to make their advisory board meetings more effective. We recommend exploring our overview of top board portal providers for streamlined advisory board meetings. 

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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.
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