Better board meetings – meeting preparation

This month we’re looking at effective board meetings and this week we’re focussing on meeting preparation. A bit of time invested in meeting preparation will pay off and provide for a better use of time for everyone involved. Try asking yourself:

What is this meeting for?

It may sound obvious, but the first step in having effective meetings is deciding if you really need one! It’s easy to fall in to the habit of having a monthly meeting, but make sure there are decisions to be taken at each meeting, or participants may see them as irrelevant.

Who should be there?

Every meeting needs a chair to oversee the proceedings, and participants to make decisions. If you are calling a board meeting, all board members should be there. The Chief Executive is a key person to invite to the meeting, and you may wish to hear from other senior managers, depending on what is on the agenda. If you have a Company Secretary, they may be in attendance, and you may also invite a minute-taker to record the discussion and decisions made. You may also wish to bring in advisers to input to thinking on specific agenda items.

When and where should the meeting be held?

As shown last week, it is important to set out your meeting dates in advance (with the caveat above of testing if the meeting is actually needed!). That way, people will have the dates in their diary and you will be more likely to achieve 100% attendance. The ‘where’ is important too. Sometimes a change of location can stimulate new thinking about issues, so it might be good to mix it up a bit, and try various locations. This is particularly important if the meeting is an ‘away day’ or planning meeting. Wherever your meeting is, be sure the room is laid out in a way that everyone can hear, see and participate in the meeting. Pay attention to heating and lighting, and be sure there are adequate refreshments. Depending on the length and timing of the meeting, this may be a glass of water, tea and biscuits or sandwiches. If you want to keep your board members engaged, don’t compete with rumbling stomachs.

Board papers

A board pack should be sent to all participants at least a week in advance of the meeting. We will spend more time next week discussing the papers needed by board members to allow them to prepare properly for the meeting.