Updated October 2021
Board meetings in 2021 can be innovative and energizing. No more b-o-r-e-d meeting jokes that inevitably appear when talking about board meetings. Now, with a clear agenda and new board meeting software, board members attendees feel heard and motivated to carry out the company’s mission.
But what exactly are board meetings? Who should attend, and what is the purpose? What makes a successful board meeting in 2021?
This article will explore everything you need to know about how to run a board meeting in 2021.
What Are Board Meetings?
Let’s face it; some meetings could be an email. Some people see meetings as a time for the dissemination of information to a team.
But this cannot be true for board meetings.
Board meetings are for the governing body of the company or organization to take a look at the company at a higher level. Policies, issues, and strategies are often on the agenda for the board of directors to discuss and, ultimately, decide on the best path forward.
There are several varieties of board meetings, including corporate, non-profit, and community board meetings. Let’s take a look at a few of these different types of board meetings.
Corporate and Non-Profit Board of Directors Meeting
There is no clear standard for how many people are on a board of directors for a business or non-profit organization. Some boards have three people, and others have thirty. Some board of directors are for family-run companies, while others are for Fortune 500s.
Essentially, a board of directors are an elected group of individuals that represent shareholders. It is a requirement for all public companies to have a board of directors to provide transparency to its shareholders. Private and non-profit companies decide to elect board members to help the business run efficiently and effectively.
No matter the company or organization, the board of directors is the group that provides oversight to increase the business’s success. Their authority includes hiring and firing senior-level executives, fiduciary responsibilities on behalf of shareholders, and overseeing company policies and strategies.
Community and School Board Meetings
Community board of directors are typically civil groups and organizations. Two examples of community boards are a school board and a neighborhood board (think Homeowners Association).
School board meetings are usually at the county level to provide support for the residents in a particular area. However, you can also have a local school board for an individual school, neighborhood, or state school board that governs the policy and curriculum statewide.
A neighborhood board is typically required when a Homeowners Association requires its residences to abide by certain neighborhood rules.
Voters elect community board members during semi-regular elections. The residents of the community, or districts, determine who will represent them at the county or neighborhood meetings. A community board aims to make decisions based on the priorities and values of its constituents.
How To Prepare For a Board Meeting
Whether you are part of a corporate board of directors, non-profit, or even community board, you must know how to prepare for a board meeting. Board meetings are not spontaneous or impromptu. The leader of the board, or chairperson, needs to have a set agenda and make the necessary preparations for a successful board meeting.
Have a Board Meeting Agenda
Having an agenda sets the pace and topics for the meeting. It’s best to follow a similar framework each time you meet, so that board members know what to expect.
- An example of a board meeting agenda includes:
- Calling the meeting to order
- Roll call to determine if there is a quorum
- Approve the previous meeting’s minutes and the current meeting’s agenda
- Follow-up on old business
- Address new concerns
The chairperson and board members should remember that the meeting’s purpose is not to get through the agenda. The purpose is to address the company’s needs, and the agenda is a tool to guide conversations to the wants and needs of the shareholders. If there is an agenda item not addressed during a board meeting, add it to the next session’s agenda and continue to work towards progress for its growth.
Determine Time & Place
The next step to preparing for a board meeting is to determine a time and place. This step is essential because it takes a lot of planning, especially if you have a large board of directors.
Since 2020, the next question is likely, “are we meeting online or in-person?” It is possible to have a virtual board of directors meeting as long as everyone has a clear connection and the ability to voice their ideas and concerns. You also want to make sure the link is secure so as not to have unwanted visitors dropping in on the call.
The chairperson (or leader of the board) will also need to determine the frequency of the board meetings. You don’t want to meet too often, such as once a week, or not enough, such as once a year. Anything between four to eight times a year seems to be the best rhythm for successful board meetings.
Assign Someone to Take Notes
The last step in preparing for a successful board meeting is to make sure you assign someone to take notes. This assignment plays a critical role in ensuring that nothing from the meeting is missed.
When you ask someone to take the board meeting minutes, make sure they understand the agenda, purpose of the meeting, and their responsibility. This person is typically not an active board member participating in the meeting. Instead, they are a spectator taking notes for later.
The chairperson may want to ask this person to use a board meeting minutes template to make it easier for taking notes and sharing later with board members.
How to Conduct a Board Meeting
Once you have a board meeting agenda, meeting time and place, and someone to take notes, it’s time to call the meeting to order. Conducting a board meeting typically falls to the chairperson of the board. The chairperson is elected by the board and holds the title for a predetermined time, again, determined by the board.
Meet the Quorum
The first requirement of conducting a board meeting is to make sure the quorum is met.
A quorum is the minimum number of board members required to conduct the meeting. This idea is part of Robert’s Rules of Order that helps meetings to be fair and orderly. If not enough people are present at the meeting, board members cannot judiciously decide the best course of action for the company.
Typically a quorum is determined by how many members are on the board. Therefore, usually, there must be a majority of members present to meet the quorum.
Determine Success or Key Performance Indicators (KPI)
Now that you’re ready to start the meeting, first determine what defines success. The board should determine the success of the company, as well as the success of the actual meetings.
Without a vision or goal, it’s hard for anyone to know if what you’re doing is working. Therefore, the board of directors should know (or determine) the key performance indicators (KPIs) and strategies to reach these goals.
Having clear metrics and SMART goals will determine if the company is thriving or struggling. The success of the company is determined by the goals and strategies set by the board. During the board of director meetings, members discuss, determine, and review KPIs. Members will then decide if the company needs a different course or path to meet key metrics.
Examples of KPIs for the company include sales numbers, employee churn, and customer satisfaction. Success metrics for a board meeting includes regularly meeting, starting and ending on time, and member participation.
Follow-up on Previous Business
As board members conduct the “business of the business,” the chairperson may want to take this opportunity to discuss previous business or follow-up on company issues.
As mentioned, not everything may be covered in prior meetings, and the current meeting is a great time to attend to what was missed on a previous agenda.
If there was a lively discussion that was tabled due to time restraints, jump back in to conclude the talks and determine the best course of action.
The chairperson should not spend too much time on a topic (there’s no need for dead horses in a board meeting), but you will want to make sure everyone has had a chance to offer input. This also allows members to update others on any action items taken between meetings.
Address Problems or Opportunities
Speaking of opportunities, board members often also identify problems and opportunities during a meeting. These can be shareholder issues, staffing problems, or resource opportunities.
Identifying, addressing, and resolving problems falls under the purview of the board of directors. The members are responsible for doing their due diligence in providing the best possible solution to any issues.
Essentially, the board meeting is a time for members to identify and present solutions to resolve issues within the company.
Look Ahead to Future Business or Concerns
Board members may also look for innovative ideas to grow the business. While discussing the company’s issues may bring the energy of the meeting down, this is the time to brighten things up and induce some positive vibes into the session.
Getting people excited about possibilities and opportunities is the mark of a great board of directors. Especially if board members are also company employees, they’ll be able to share the board’s vision with first-person knowledge of upcoming goals.
New and innovative plans energize some people, and the board meeting is a great time to dream big with those most invested in the business’s success.
Decide Action Steps
After identifying problems and recognizing potential opportunities, board members can now decide action steps and the best path for growth.
This is when every board member should be heard so that the best action step is decided and agreed upon.
A board member will typically suggest action steps via a motion, which another member will “second” or agree. Once confirmed, the action item is assigned to certain members to enact.
It’s generally not a successful board meeting if there is no movement or action steps taking place. A healthy and thriving board of directors meeting will see improvements and action steps to reach the company’s goals.
Successfully Run a Board Meeting in 2021
Board meetings in 2021 have come a long way in the past few decades. New technology and software provide new ways to plan, meet, and refer to board meeting minutes at a later date to track or share the board’s decisions.
The introduction of video conferencing gives board members the opportunity to travel without missing an essential meeting. Virtual meetings also allow for people in different cities or time zones to join a board that was previously unattainable.
There are several board meeting software options to help collaborate and document essential decisions. These tools allow board members to make and track decisions in real-time with accountability.
Board Meeting Software
As members discuss the issues and potential opportunities, board meeting software tools help track, store, and share ideas and documents.
For example, Sizle.io provides safe and secure document management and sharing. The board meeting minutes are safely stored on the cloud, and board members can access the documents at any time to determine the next steps.
Before COVID-19, video conferencing was not standard practice for board meetings. Since the pandemic, it is more common.
The chairperson or board members had to learn how to run a board meeting while staying safe during the pandemic. Luckily the technology was there to provide means for board meetings to continue. Some of the best video conferencing software includes Teams, Webex, and, of course, Zoom.
Digital whiteboards are also becoming more common in the boardroom. The digital whiteboard captures brainstorming ideas and converts the data to a virtual space for board members to collaborate.
Digital whiteboards are excellent tools for board meetings, especially if you have fellow board members joining virtually.
Ideas For a Successful Board Meeting
No one wants to attend a board meeting and be bored. Finding new ways to innovate and excite members is the responsibility of the chairperson. If you can bring new life and ideas to the board meeting, it’s possible to inject that same life and ideas into the company. Giving fellow board members ample time to prepare any meeting materials, discussion points and other contributions is a great start, below are some examples of other ways to improve your board meeting.
Here are some ideas to consider for conducting a successful board meeting.
The Amazon (Bezos) 6-Page Memo
Before leaving Amazon, Jeff Bezos started asking executive members to write a 6-page memo instead of preparing a PowerPoint presentation. The memo is read at the start of the meeting, with everyone sitting silently and reading. This time ensures that everyone has the opportunity to read and (quite literally) be on the same page.
Bezos says that the memo should be held in high-standard and written over the course of weeks. The thought is that a presenter could make a bad idea sound great, or vice versa. But if you take the presenter out of the equation, then the facts sell themselves.
What exactly is in the Amazon 6-page memos has yet to be discovered. Imagine what your meeting could look like if all board members are on the same page with the same stats and metrics at their fingertips.
Another idea to boost some energy into a board meeting is an annual retreat. Of course, this is not a typical board meeting with a set plan and motions, but more of an opportunity for relational growth among members.
Whether you are in the finance, hospitality, or medical industry, time away in a new location can bring fresh ideas for solutions or investments.
You don’t have to travel the world or even go far away for an annual retreat. Instead, spend the weekend at a local bed and breakfast or take a short flight to the coast. Of course, you will still want to plan intentional times to meet and gather to discuss business. But otherwise, plan a golf game, fishing trip, or some activity that encourages time and space to build relationships
Everyone Gives Input
Getting every board member involved is another excellent way to attain a memorable and successful meeting.
The chairperson will need to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to give input and either solidify the proposed motion or give voice to potential setbacks. Either way, board members will feel valued, and you may discover a solution that was otherwise hidden.
A successful board meeting should lead to success for the business and engage fellow board members. Using Sizle and other board meeting software tools to track meeting minutes and ideas will help the company stay organized and on track.
Similar to how innovation is a key to success, staying organized is equally as important.