Board meeting preparation: Key steps for success
The success of board meetings is shaped heavily by the organiser’s contribution. This article gives the steps to follow in order to master board meeting preparation and ultimately drive your organisation forward.
The roles of a meeting organiser are significant and many. After all, a great deal of responsibility rests on your shoulders — and the overall success of the meeting is shaped heavily by your contribution. And when it comes to board meetings, the stakes are even higher.
Board meeting preparation can be done by a number of different individuals — ranging from the corporate secretary (or their assistant), to the chairperson of the board. However, regardless of who fulfils this responsibility, the organisation of board meetings is central to their success.
As the organiser of a board meeting, you need to fulfil your duties — many of which, well in advance of the meeting — in order to successfully create a meeting that leads to real and meaningful action.
This article gives meeting organisers — whoever they are — the steps to follow in order to master their board meeting preparation and ultimately drive their organisations forward.
Subscribe to Sherpany newsletter and access the articles, interviews and product updates.
Simple steps for board meeting preparation
Like all processes, organising a board meeting relies on a series of steps or stages which can be planned for well in advance. This means that you can assemble a framework to follow, which will help to save time and increase efficiency, given the cyclical and predictable rhythm of board meetings.
Step one: Scheduling
The scheduling of board meetings is a vital first step, and one that should be completed as far in advance as possible. Board members, whether composed of non-exec or exec directors, are busy groups of people, and it's safe to say that their calendars fill up quickly.
Therefore, by scheduling your board meetings well in advance, you can be sure to receive acceptances from everyone as soon as possible. This can require some (perhaps uncomfortable) chasing, but liaising with individuals and their assistants if necessary, to get confirmation is of paramount importance.
Once your date is confirmed, be sure to put it in everyone’s calendars immediately to confirm the slot, and be mindful of acceptances here, too. If individuals fail to accept the invite within a week, it is worth sending another reminder. While this process can feel hugely administrative and frustrating, you want to avoid last-minute drop-outs at all costs.
As soon as you receive the meeting materials, it is important to share them with all participants in a timely manner.
Step two: Outcomes
The second important step on your journey toward a successful board meeting is to clearly define the required meeting outcomes. And this should apply to every meeting, not just when the board convenes.
While board meetings can be somewhat formulaic, each will be nuanced in terms of the subject matter that is to be discussed. Starting with the minutes from the last board meeting is a great idea, as it will remind you of what was discussed, and — most importantly — what was left to be discussed.
Using this information, you should determine exactly what this board meeting needs to achieve, as not only should every meeting have a clear, defined purpose, but this will also help you to shape the agenda of the meeting — which brings us on to step three.
Step three: The Agenda
With outcomes clearly defined and participants confirmed, you are ready to and ask for contributions early. Here’s how to create an agenda for a board meeting:
- Include discrete, standalone items, phrased as questions.
- Add a description of each item, including an objective.
- Identify an overall meeting leader, as well as a leader for each agenda item.
- Give clear timings for each agenda item.
- Include all necessary materials associated with each item.
These steps are very important — and the simple steps can have a wide-reaching impact. For example, phrasing your agenda items as questions — ‘Review of progress against plan’ is far less action-oriented than ‘What actions should we take to achieve our annual revenue target?’ Therefore, including this as you organise your board meetings will ensure that you drive towards action-orientation from the outset.
Once your draft meeting agenda is ready, it is important to socialise it with the other participants of the board meeting, giving them the opportunity to propose agenda items of their own, and enabling them to ask clarifying questions early in the preparation process.
Step four: Gathering materials
Now that your meeting agenda is defined and shared with meeting participants, it is time to begin collecting all relevant meeting materials. It will likely be the case that you need to request documents from different stakeholders in order to do this, and so it is — once again — important to begin as early as possible here. When asking others for their contributions, you should set clear deadlines.
As soon as you receive the meeting materials, it is important to share them with all participants in a timely manner. The earlier that meeting participants can review these documents, the sooner that they can begin preparing for the meeting, which is a key requirement for a successful meeting.
Step five: Preparation and asynchronous communication
With the agenda defined and meeting materials circulated, it is time for meeting participants to begin preparing for the meeting. As a meeting organiser, it is vital that you have created open channels for asynchronous communication, which will enable participants to ask clarifying questions, and begin collaborating before the meeting even begins.
An important distinction to make here is that this channel should not be email. Ideally, you should avoid sharing information for your board meeting over email at all costs. Which brings us on to an important consideration — technology.
Step six: The minutes
The final step for you as a meeting organiser before the meeting begins is to prepare to take meeting minutes. are a vital component of every board meeting — and in many jurisdictions and industries, they are even a legal requirement. Therefore, ensuring that you have a dedicated minutes taker for the meeting is an important item on your meeting organiser’s checklist. In many cases, this could even be your responsibility.
Using a solution like Sherpany enables meeting minutes to be taken directly against each agenda item, in a centralised, self-contained digital environment, ensuring that everything is aligned and that the minutes are easy to follow.
You meeting minutes should include:
- An overview of discussions for each agenda item,
- A record of the outcomes of votes and decisions, and
- A clear overview of action items, with roles and responsibilities — with deadlines.
Before the meeting, you should ensure that everything is in place for meeting minutes to be taken effectively — including making sure that there is a designated minutes taker, if you will not be present.
The role of technology in board meeting preparation
The tools that you choose to use when organising a board meeting have significant and wide-reaching implications. Not only are there vital security considerations, but there are also practical implications which can make or break the efficiency and overall success of your board meeting.
For example, relying on email to share documents and coordinate is not only a huge risk from an information security standpoint, but it is also hugely inefficient as emails are easily missed and are difficult to search through when the time comes for participants to prepare. And this is even more pronounced as we continue to embrace remote and hybrid working models — where the propensity for misalignment increases, as does the risk to security.
A positive step beyond this is using a collaboration tool such as G-suite or Microsoft Teams, both of which are hugely useful in certain arenas, but are definitely sub-optimal when it comes to formal meetings.
Using a purpose-built solution like Sherpany to replace a patchwork of sub-standard systems is definitely something to consider. This will enable you to manage the process of organising board meetings from end to end in one easy-to-use, secure, and effective software.
Removing the pressure from board meeting preparation
Preparing a board meeting can feel stressful and chaotic, with stakeholders to manage and timelines to adhere to. However, by following a pre-defined structure and utilising the right tools along the way, it's possible to reduce the pressure and optimise the experience for everyone involved. We hope that this step-by-step article will help guide you along the way.