Board meetings can be incredibly important for your company. They are an essential time to make crucial decisions, decide on company strategy, and plan ahead for the future. Board meetings can be when some of the biggest choices and changes are made that will influence the direction of the company.
However, without preparation in advance and a clear plan for the meeting, board meetings can be unproductive. Discussion can become stale, concentration wanes, and the same issues are rehashed again and again with no clear actionable takeaways. Why waste that valuable time in meetings that aren’t accomplishing anything?
Even if you feel like you are having effective board meetings, there’s always room to improve. The key is to optimize your board meetings as much as possible, so you can use the time effectively to accomplish something.
This will lead to more productivity in the company as a whole. Your team will have more time to focus on other things; they will make better decisions and will generally feel more inspired.
So, how can you hold more effective board meetings? Here are five innovative ways.
Make an agenda
All effective board meetings should have a clear agenda. Making a plan for what you will discuss will help you stay on track throughout the board meeting. It will also help you quickly identify when the meeting has gone off track, and the discussion is no longer productive.
A solid board meeting agenda should include the purpose of the meeting, the items to be discussed, and the overall schedule and order of the meeting. The most important part of the agenda is the meeting goal — the outcome or decision you are hoping to reach at the end.
You should also allow time at the end of your meeting agenda to discuss anything off-topic that comes up during the meeting yet needs to be addressed. You may also need to budget in time for questions and follow up questions — which always take more time than you’d expect.
It’s really important to keep things flexible. Sometimes if you stick to a meeting agenda that is too rigid, you lose the ability to adjust and adapt. If you’re going through a time when change is happening quickly, it can be critical to allow for agility and dynamism in your meetings.
It doesn’t really matter whether your meeting agenda is created within a specific app designed for that purpose, or is simply written in a notebook or a Word doc. What matters is that you have a plan!
Brief participants in advance so they can prepare
It’s really helpful to tell everyone about the problem you are trying to solve in advance of the meeting, which allows them time to brainstorm and prepare ideas to present.
Netflix does this very successfully with their board meetings. Board members receive a memo a few days prior to board meetings, and they take the time to review the material. The directors state they spend approximately 4-6 hours in preparation for the board meetings.
The directors may even pose questions or ask for clarification directly within the digital memo. Senior management responds to these questions prior to the meeting, and any misunderstandings are cleared up.
Because everyone in the board meeting is extensively prepared, these meetings are much more efficient. There is no time wasted presenting the ideas or challenges, as they are able to skip right to the questions and discussion. This leads to incredibly effective board meetings and very little time wasted.
In fact, this process means that board meetings at Netflix are only 3-4 hours long, compared to the full day or multiple-day meetings of other corporations. Netflix is an innovative company with a lot of inspiring practices, and short board meetings are no exception.
Take the time to prepare your board members in advance of the next meeting and see what a difference it makes.
Make the meeting smaller
You can also make meetings more effective by only inviting people who are absolutely necessary and can add value. This might even mean reducing the size of your board itself.
Having too many people in a board meeting can result in conversations going around in circles and nothing getting accomplished. By scaling down your meeting, you’ll really be able to focus on the most important people who need to be there.
Everyone involved on the board of your company should be invested in the outcome and dedicated to an informed discussion. The key is to make it about quality discussion — not quantity.
Many innovative companies have been singing the praises of smaller boards. A study from GMI Ratings showed most companies with smaller boards are more collaborative and outperform companies with larger boards. The companies in the study who had smaller boards produced better returns over a three year period, compared with companies of a similar size with larger boards.
A smaller meeting tends to go faster and be more constructive, with fewer voices to be heard. You may be able to come out of the meeting with actionable results much more quickly. It is also possible for your directors to know each other better so that relationships can be more cohesive and meaningful — with a sense of common purpose.
Keep it short
In addition to reducing the attendee list — consider reducing the time as well.
When it comes to meetings, shorter is actually better. The average person can only focus on complex decision-making tasks for 45-50 minutes at a time without losing clarity of thought.
In fact, a study by DeskTime found that 52 minutes of concentration was ideal, followed by a 17-minute break. If your meeting starts to last longer than an hour, everyone will start to get distracted and tired. They won’t be able to listen to each other, make coherent and helpful points, or progress toward a common goal.
Meetings that are scheduled for longer will expand to fill the time, will result in long-winded, wandering tangents. This is known as Parkinson’s Law — the law that states any task will expand to fill the time available for its completion.
If you feel that the meeting is starting to stretch on too long, you may need to break it up and schedule a follow up for another day. You may actually save time by planning another meeting, rather than letting things drag on if everyone has lost their productivity.
Also, by following the second suggestion on this list and sending important information to your board members before the meeting — you can also make the meeting time a lot shorter. There will be no need for long-winded reports and explanations to get everyone up to speed. Everyone will arrive perfectly primed and ready to concisely discuss the issue at hand and make a decision.
Use innovative technology
When it comes to making your board meetings more effective, one of the best things you can do is to be open to using innovative technology. There are many great work productivity tools that you can use during your meetings to help make them more actionable.
For example, tools like Doodle can allow you to set up board meetings quickly and efficiently. It comes in handy when you need to find the best time to schedule the board meeting as you can quickly compare the availability of each board member instead of endless back-and-forth emails.
Leveraging project management apps, such as Trello and Asana, can help make your meetings more actionable. You can quickly and easily delegate the next steps to specific people and collaborate in real-time. Simply jot down tasks as you think of them and assign them right away.
You can also take advantage of AI to improve the quality of your meetings. For example, Otter.ai is a great app that uses AI to generate rich notes from your voice conversations. There’s also Krisp, an app that uses noise cancellation to mute background noise — so you can make sure your voice is coming through clearly during your remote board meetings.
It’s also important to focus your meetings by visualizing your meeting time. An app like Less Meeting has a countdown timer that will show you how many minutes are left on the agenda. Besides, you can add in bullet-style notes, images, action items, and documents.
From assisting in scheduling meetings to productive collaboration, using innovative tools can increase the effectiveness of your board meetings.
Time is valuable
When it comes to running a company, time is money. There are only so many hours in the day, so you need to focus your attention on what matters most.
Every board meeting should move you further towards accomplishing your goals and should end with actionable results. Each participant should contribute to the discussion and leave with a sense of purpose and a clear idea of what to work on next.
By preparing and planning, streamlining the time of your meetings, and the number of attendees and choosing the right tools, you’ll be able to use your meeting time as effectively as possible. With these tips, you’ll be prepared to have the most effective board meetings ever.
To get your board meetings scheduled faster – and avoid delays in critical business decisions – get started with Doodle.