A survey of 182 senior managers showed that 71% said that meetings are inefficient and unproductive. If your board meeting follows suit, no one will listen to your message — they’ll only be looking at the clock. Wasted time wastes money in the boardroom. In fact, Atlassian estimates that $37 billion is wasted annually in meetings.
So how do you get from Point A — boring, useless meetings — to Point B — efficient, productive meetings? Is it as simple as old business, new business, and other business? How can you create more engaging, interactive experiences?
If you’re looking for help with strategic planning for your next board meeting or want to ramp up your board meeting acumen, follow these five essentials. You’ll get to the point faster and get out before the entire team loses focus.
1. Create a tighter agenda
Anyone planning a meeting knows you need an agenda — without it, you’re taking a cross-country trip without a map. According to MPI (Meeting Professionals International), a focused agenda can help reduce meeting times up to 80%. But is your board meeting agenda clear and concise? Does your agenda get to the point, leave room for collaborative discussion, and then end with workable action items?
If not, you’re wasting valuable time with a wandering, unfocused agenda. According to a report by Jabra, 19% of people say meetings without effective agendas aren’t productive. To keep your agenda as tight as possible, include these key topics.
Summarize company performance
Before any meaningful discussions can take place, you need to know where the organization stands right now. But you don’t have to dwell on any one item. Summarize your company's performance and limit it to just the important questions:
What went right?
What went wrong?
What can be improved?
Discuss the future of the company
Now that you know how your company is doing, you should have a general discussion about where you’re going. This is important for two reasons:
If the company is doing poorly, a discussion of future plans gives attendees hope.
If your company is doing well, future plans create excitement and overall employee satisfaction — which may bring you 21% higher profitability, according to a recent Gallup report.
This agenda item presents a perspective on where the company would like to see itself in the next six to 12 months. This discussion should include an overall vision into future growth, which you’ll achieve by discussing and acting on the next agenda item: Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
Focus KPI discussions on important problems and opportunities
We need KPIs to measure progress. You can’t just tell the attendees, “We have to reduce costs,” without offering where and how that will happen. You have to narrow your focus on which KPIs are essential for discussion because there are hundreds to choose from. You could end up going down a KPI rabbit hole.
Instead, choose KPIs that give an overall impression of what your company needs to focus on in the next 12 months. For managers and board directors, the most commonly used KPIs are:
Gross margin — can we do better?
Operating margin — do we need to reduce/balance?
Customer acquisition cost — how can we reduce/balance CAC?
NPS, CSAT, and CES scores — what are customers saying about us?
Sales targets — can we hit them better?
Employee satisfaction rating — how can we reduce turnover?
2. Choose your technology wisely
Whether in-person or remote, it’s vital to be knowledgeable and selective about the technology you’ll need to conduct a successful board meeting. The last thing you want is to be floundering around trying to make it work in the moment — In one report, 34% of people listed technical issues as their biggest pet peeves during meetings. Carefully consider the following:
How have you structured your presentation?
What visuals will you need?
How will you facilitate your meeting?
Video conferencing is a powerful way to bring teams together globally — 94% of businesses said video conferencing increases productivity. Using the correct video conferencing tools while maintaininga collaborative spirit is a challenge, however. And that’s why meeting facilitation is such an important skill.
A recent report finds that 17% of people say that one of a meeting's main problems is time limits not being observed. A good board meeting facilitator knows when to invite further discussion and when to move to the next agenda item. They also know that starting a meeting on time is essential to a meeting's focus.
How long should a board meeting be?
Unfortunately, board meetings can go from one hour to several days, depending on the agenda and scope of items being discussed. Even with the tightest agenda, a Fortune 500 company’s discussions might require more than an hour. One suggestion from an expert at MIT says to “plan on a minimum of 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours, more typically 3 to 4 hours.”
How long should each speaker talk?
In order to keep a meeting moving along, set time limits for each speaker. Some MURAL templates have a Timer facilitator superpower that allows you to time the speakers, which helps keep meetings focused and on track.
How often should you have a board meeting?
Depending on what needs to be discussed, board meetings can occur anywhere from once a year, quarterly, or once a month. Board meetings are based on a company’s executive review of profit/loss/milestones, so the frequency will vary for your company. Note: Sometimes, the regularity of board meetings is set by the bylaws in individual states. Check the laws in your state for any required rules of board meeting frequency.
4. Choose a practiced minute-taker
Meeting notes are your record of what happened in the meeting. They are needed to recap any discussions on the meeting’s agenda. Future meetings and committee reports will reference the board meeting minutes, so they have to be on point.
The minute-taker should be skilled at summarizing discussions, note what was decided (and the result), what was tabled, and when the next meeting will be. If you are doubling as the facilitator and minute-taker, you could use this template from MURAL, which will help facilitate better note-taking.
5. Ask for specific feedback
Feedback will help you craft better meetings in the future. Make sure you gather feedback before the meeting and ask for further feedback at the conclusion of the meeting. Note: Be sure to give specific guidelines for feedback, so that you discussions can remain to the point and not bogged down by distractions or items that are outside the scope of the meeting.
Before the meeting
Speak to other board members to receive their input on what subjects are being discussed, and consider their suggestions for alternate agenda items. Sending out the agenda two to three hours before a meeting gives other board members a chance to comment on the agenda, make improvements or changes, and invite discussions on what can be improved.
After the meeting
If you need suggestions on the shape or direction of your next board meeting, you should hold a post-mortem discussion for your last board meeting. A post-mortem can help shape the tone and direction of future meetings.
Speak with attendees after the meeting to see if there were any missed agenda items, or ask for ways in which the meeting could be more time-efficient, participation increased, or the direction or tone of future meetings changed.
Board meetings don’t have to be tedious
A board meeting may be an essential component of a company’s business structure, but it doesn’t have to be a waste of time. Use your board meeting as an effective tool to relay essential company information to your teams by employing structure and focus.
About the author
About the authors
Content Marketing Manager
Bryan is a Content Marketing Manager @ MURAL. When he's not writing or working on content strategy, you can usually find him outdoors.