Five Ways to Get More From Your Board Meeting

Best Practices : Article

I go to over 200 Association Board meetings per year. Some are great. And some, well, a little less than great. As I think about what makes the great one’s work, a few simple rules come to mind:

  1. Know who’s driving. If you let go of the tiller of a sailboat, it turns into the wind and goes nowhere. The same is true for a Board meeting. Without someone whose job it is to keep the meeting on track, the meeting will not move forward. A strong facilitator—whether it be the Chair, ED or an outsider—is critical for keeping the meeting moving.
  2. Another strategy is something I already heard once today on this flight—put away and stow all portable electronic devices. I love my Blackberry. And my iPad. And my Droid. But when I’m in a meeting, I need to be in the meeting. Put another way, I shouldn’t be checking email, IM’ing with other meeting participants, or surfing the web. When I facilitate a meeting, I don’t start talking until we have everyone’s device switched “off” and their attention to their peers switched “on”.
  3. Remember what the Godfather said—it’s business, not personal. The paramount issue at a Board meeting is “what’s right for the organization?” As such, issues need to be de-personalized, and discussions need to reflect that.
  4. Death by PowerPoint. The mark of a successful Board meeting isn’t how many slides you’re showing, but how fast you’re getting the Board engaged. A well-structured agenda will have opportunities for the Board to get engaged early and often.
  5. Heed Mr. Loaf. My favorite Board slide quotes the wisdom of 70’s rocker Meat Loaf: “Baby we can talk all night, but that ain’t getting us nowhere…” Mr. Loaf would like many Board meetings—all talk, and getting us nowhere. These meetings bog down with Board members who restate what’s already been said, have “prepared statements” regardless of the topic, and, in general, don’t drive the discussion forward. That’s where the first strategy of a designated facilitator comes in—someone needs to step in to move the meeting along. Absent that, the meeting will end and you’ll have gotten nowhere.

There is one nuance to what’s stated above—every Board is different. What works well for one may fail for others. And I’m always hunting for new strategies.

Do you have some that work for your Board? Let me know in the comments section below.

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