Getting the Most from Board Meetings

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A successful organisation uses the time of its board and staff wisely. Keeping meetings focussed on outcomes is an important way to ensure time is not wasted. This requires careful planning and management before, during and after meetings.

What do I need to do to ensure meetings are effective?


Given that the bulk of board work is done in meetings, it is vital that you get the most out of your limited time together. We have developed some tips for Chairs which will help maximise the effectiveness of board meetings.

Before the meeting, the chair should:

  • Carefully think through and develop an agenda. This should include standing items and items which are specific to the work in hand. The chair may also wish to ask other board members if they have agenda items which they would like to be included. The agenda is usually developed with the CEO.
  • Discuss the agenda with the chief executive. This will help clarify what progress has been made on the items to be discussed, and will also help identify who should be in the room for each agenda item. It will also help identify if a meeting is needed. Time is precious to all involved and there is no need to have a meeting if there are no decisions to make. It may be that there is another mechanism which is more appropriate or cost-effective. For instance, if the agenda is only about providing information, might this be achieved by issuing a report?
  • Ensure that the relevant papers are circulated to board members at least a week in advance of the meeting, to give them a chance to read through them and plan their individual contributions to the meeting. The papers will include:
    • The meeting notice
    • Agenda
    • Minutes of the previous meeting
    • Any reports / papers required for each agenda item, including reports on performance and finance

During the meeting the chair should:

  • Welcome all attendees to the meeting. It is important that both board members and staff feel that their contribution to the meeting is valued, and a simple welcome is the first step in achieving this.
  • Outline the purpose of the meeting
  • Check for potential conflicts of interest
  • Facilitate the meeting by keeping all participants focussed on the agenda and meeting purpose.
  • Ensure all participants are encouraged to give their views. The board is a team of people, each with a unique set of skills, attributes and style. The chair must ensure that all members are engaged, understand the items being discussed, and contribute to the decision-making process.
  • Summarise the actions arising from each agenda item before moving on to the next item.

After the meeting the chair should:

  • Approve the accuracy of the minutes before they are distributed to all participants
  • Ensure the minutes and action plan arising from the meeting are circulated quickly, and certainly within two weeks. This will ensure that participants are enthusiastic and still have a fresh memory of what was discussed and agreed. This increases the likelihood of the action plan being achieved. Waiting until just before the next meeting often results in people forgetting the actions they have agreed.
  • Talk to meeting participants about what worked and didn’t work in the meeting. This is a good way to ensure continuous improvement.

Some useful reading –

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