The UK needs more effective board meetings as more directors struggle with their duties. An average British board conducts 9.7 meetings yearly, while 65% of its non-executive directors have other commitments that often involve meeting management issues.
Fortunately, UK boards can boost their efficiency with a well-organised agenda for a board meeting.
In this article we’ll discuss the best board meeting structure, the best practices for creating meeting agendas, and some common challenges to avoid when having board meetings. At the end of the article, you’ll find board meeting template examples with timestamps and meeting minutes.
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The structure of the board meeting agenda for UK businesses
The UK law doesn’t define specific rules regarding board meetings and agenda templates. Corporate boards choose the meeting structure that fits their goals the most. That said, many companies use the following agenda format for regular board meetings:
The board meeting header (or headline) provides general information about the meeting and contains organisational info:
- Company’s name, primary, and additional addresses (if applicable)
- The meeting location, date, and time
This section may include a link to a virtual meeting.
Call to order
The call to order officially opens the meeting. The chairman welcomes the participants while the secretary begins taking meeting minutes. Please note that the UK Companies Act 2006 requires corporate board directors to record detailed minutes of each meeting to comply with the law.
|Check the comprehensive board meeting minutes template to fulfill your legal responsibility.
Roll call is when the board chair checks the meeting attendance and establishes the quorum.
The UK Parliament defines the quorum as the minimum number of members required for legally valid voting decisions during the meeting.
According to the Companies Act 2006, at least two board members must constitute the quorum.
Approval of the agenda
At the beginning of the meeting, the chairman checks whether the board directors agree on the meeting agenda.
The participants approve the agenda under general consent by a majority vote. Board members can also introduce changes to the meeting structure at this stage.
Approval of prior meeting minutes
Board members review and approve the previous meeting minutes at the beginning of the meeting. Directors can change the meeting minutes for accuracy and approve amended versions.
Board and company reports
The board proceeds to reports after approving the previous meeting minutes. Business board members may review several reports:
- The chief executive director report (CED or CEO)
- The chief financial officer (CFO) report
- The chief technology officer (CTO) report
- Standing and special committee report
- Chairman report
These agenda items may require additional time as they often generate discussion. Thus, understanding financial reports helps board members to identify potential financial threats and map positive and negative trends in the company’s finances.
Decision on past business items
Old business items are topics of the previous agenda, including unresolved matters, issues that require extra discussion, or items assigned as new.
Some old business matters may originate from spontaneous issues at the end of the previous meeting.
Discussion on new business matters
New business matters can be planned or spontaneous, occurring during the discussion or at the end of the meeting. Depending on the priorities, boards reserve should seize potential opportunities for discussion in this section.
Directors proceed to announcements when critical matters need no further discussion. Boards may include the following announcements:
- Reminders, upcoming events, and policy changes
- Company news, critical hires, promotions, achievements, or leadership changes
- Industry updates, shareholder news, and project updates
- Other special announcements
Adjournment is the formal closing of the meeting. The board chair summarises key decisions and sets the next meeting date.
|Note: You can create meeting agendas, add tasks, and assign attendees on the go in secure board portals.
Best practices for creating a board meeting agenda for UK businesses
Check the five best approaches for creating meeting agendas.
1. Define the objectives and goals of the meeting
Accenture, a global consulting firm, emphasises the importance of clear objectives for board meeting agendas.
A meeting should revolve around a central idea to be productive. Its business items, such as reports, meeting minutes, and old and new business matters, should support this objective.
When preparing for a meeting, decide on its goals with the board chair, CEO, and other board directors.
|Check how to prepare for a board meeting with eight effective practices.
2. Identify the essential information that should be included in the agenda
Successful boards use agenda templates for various meetings. Your corporate board meeting agenda template must contain items relevant to the meeting objective. If the board meeting centers around the annual budget, it includes relevant reports from the CEO, CFO, and respective committees.
Based on our experience, the most productive meetings come from board directors’ collaborative efforts at the agenda-planning stage. Sharing expectations helps directors focus on the business items that matter the most for the upcoming appointment.
|Note: You can circulate the agenda through the board meeting notice and ask the board directors to approve the business items a week before the meeting.
3. Use clear and concise language
You should communicate the agenda in a clear and concise format so that board directors know what to expect during the next board meeting.
According to Harvard Business Review, the perfect agenda items address questions to be answered, not just out-of-context topics.
Therefore, you should consider desired outcomes when listing items on the agenda. You can describe the business matters with a few lines, exemplified in the table below.
|Sample agenda item
|Sample questions to be answered
|Annual budget issues
|“How can we cut our annual budget spending by 25%?”
|Cybersecurity risk in the boardroom
|“How can we protect login information in our workspace?”
|Supply chain management
|“How can we reduce our supply chain costs by 15%?
4. Prioritise the agenda items based on their importance and urgency
Directors conduct meetings more efficiently if they prioritise agenda items by urgency and importance. Drawing on our observations, successful boards put matters on the agenda in the following order.
|Order of the board meeting agenda items
Sample business items
|Low urgency and low importance / High urgency and low importance
| Non-controversial items
Prior meeting’s minutes
Procedural decisionsInformation-only items
Minor policy revisions
Non-controversial decisions waiting for official approval
|High urgency and high importance
| Items that require immediate attention
Significant financial decisions
Key strategic decisions
Crisis management initiatives
Principal financial reports
|Low urgency and high importance
| Important old and new business items that can be postponed
Stakeholder engagement matters
Board succession planning
Successful boards modify the standard meeting structure by grouping non-controversial items in consent agendas. Consent agendas can be passed quickly in one motion. They help directors allocate as much time to crucial matters as possible.
5. Set realistic time limits for each agenda item
Jon Dwoskin, Business Coach/Executive Advisor, says timed agendas help avoid run-on meetings. That said, it’s also easy to underestimate the time commitment for particular topics. So follow these tips to set realistic time limits for each agenda item:
- Judge from previous experience. Revise previous minutes with similar agenda items to estimate the time for the next meeting’s agenda.
- Consider the number of speakers. The more directors speak for one item, the more time it requires.
- Consider topics’ importance and complexity. Allocate more time to matters where you anticipate key discussions.
- Reserve extra time. If you expect an item to take ten minutes, plan for 15 minutes, as distractions and other human factors may derail tight-scheduled meetings.
6. Use helpful technology
Cyber attacks are the primary concern for 67% of corporate boards in the UK. Using a board portal is today’s most reliable choice for simplifying agenda preparations and securing communications. A board portal is a digital workspace designed for non-executive directors and offers the following benefits:
- Straightforward agenda. Fill out agenda templates, drag & drop documents, and assign attendees using a digital agenda builder.
- Digital board minutes. Record digital meeting minutes with automatic timestamps.
- Secure file-sharing. Share an encrypted meeting notice with reports and other documents in one click.
Sample board meeting agenda template: UK business perspective
Check this UK board meeting agenda template with the best practices considered.
|Board meeting agenda template
|Conference Hall 23, Success Centre
|To review and approve the annual budget for the upcoming fiscal year, incorporating a strategic cost-saving target of 25%.
|Call to order
|Consent agenda approval
|Annual budget presentation
|Review of the cost-saving strategies and their impact on budget components
|Treasurer, CEO, finance director
|Identification of the cost reduction areas to achieve a target reduction of 25%
|Review of the legal and operational implications of the proposed budget modifications
|Treasurer, audit committee chair
|Approval of the modified annual budget
You can also check the following board meeting agenda examples:
- The UK board meeting agenda template with explanations
- A sample board meeting agenda template with meeting minutes
- A sample of the nonprofit board meeting agenda with meeting minutes
- An advisory board agenda template with meeting minutes
Challenges when creating board meeting agendas
Today’s UK companies face several challenges that indirectly interfere with agenda-planning processes. These relate to stakeholder communications, succession planning, and diversity dilemmas. Let’s take a closer look.
Today’s investors, shareholders, and stakeholders insist on higher ESG transparency driven by tightening regulations. However, many current ESG practices don’t often align with stakeholder and shareholder financial expectations.
So directors have to choose between ESG practices and financial returns to stakeholders on their agendas.
The UK’s nine-year-term rule for board directors disrupts their succession planning agendas. Decreasing director salaries and diversity regulations complicate board succession planning meetings as well.
Diversity vs. experience dilemma
The Financial Conduct Authority’s new diversity rules help new business board members incorporate desired skills and experiences.
Many chairs have succeeded with gender and age diversity yet struggled with racial and ethnic quotas. To some board chairs, diversity is “more about the skill set, not defined by gender or ethnicity.”
This discrepancy forces boards to balance diversity requirements and the quality of strategic oversight on their agendas.
- The board meeting agenda consists of the header, call to order, roll call, approval of the agenda and meeting minutes, reports, old business, new business, announcements, and adjournment.
- Successful boards set clear meeting objectives, collaborate on business topics, prioritise agenda items, and set time limits.
- Boards often have difficulties finding the right balance in shareholder communications, succession planning, and diversity on their agendas.
- Directors can use board portals to enhance many aspects of the agenda creation and board meeting processes.
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Who sets the agenda for a board meeting?
The board secretary typically sets the meeting agenda. Experienced secretaries seek feedback from board members while approving meeting agendas.
How can I ensure that my board meeting agenda template complies with UK legal and regulatory requirements?
There are no legal requirements for the board meeting agenda. However, the law requires corporate boards to take meeting minutes.
Are there common mistakes to avoid when creating a board meeting agenda template for a UK business?
Not having a clear meeting objective, not circulating agenda in advance, and making vague agenda item descriptions are the most common mistakes you should avoid while preparing board meeting agendas.