Board meetings can become pretty routine, but that does not mean that planning for them should be completely routine. Most meetings will tackle looming problems, identify future opportunities, and spark new ideas. While it’s important for a board meeting to have a solid structure, it should also have a little flexibility built into the agenda for tackling topics that are crucial or unanticipated. It’s easy to justify putting off doing a thorough preparation for a board meeting because of being too jam-packed with other tasks. It’s helpful for the board secretary to have a handy checklist for meeting preparation that is flexible enough to adjust for late additions and emergency matters. Here are some basic tasks to check off before your next board meeting:
Checklist for Before the Board Meeting
The Meeting Space
Decide when and where the meeting will take place. Confirm that the meeting space is available and that it has any equipment that is needed for the meeting including flip charts, easels, computers, whiteboards, projectors, or audio equipment. Make a request for any equipment that is not available.
Develop the Preliminary Agenda
Take a quick review of the previous meeting’s minutes. Check in with board members that were assigned follow-up matters to make sure they are prepared to make their reports for this meeting. Type out the preliminary agenda, which should include the meeting location, date, and time. Once members see the agenda, they may have items to add. Send the notice out to board members, the CEO, managers, and any other key individuals that will be attending the meeting. If the meeting requires a public notice, post the notice in a public place and on a website as required by the bylaws.
Check in with Board Chair, CEO, Executive Director About Urgent Matters
It’s possible that important or urgent matters have developed since the last board meeting. Check in with key individuals to see whether any of these items need to be added to the agenda.
Request Copies of Reports for the Meeting
Make a separate request for copies of reports from the executive director, treasurer, committee chairs, and anyone else who will be submitting a report.
Send Pre-Meeting Packets
Pre-meeting packets don’t have to be complete, but they should include any materials that board members need to pre-read so they are better prepared to partake in informed discussions. They should include any reports that committee chairs or others have prepared ahead of time. Include copies of the prior meeting’s minutes for correction and review, so that they can be voted on and approved at the upcoming meeting.
Prepare Meeting Handouts
Prepare extra copies of all handouts that were distributed in case someone forgets to bring them to the meeting or if unexpected guests arrive.
Prepare Outline for Minutes
It helps to have a template for taking minutes ready prior to the meeting that has the date, time, and location of the meeting already on it. Leave a space to write in the time that the meeting is called to order. Add sections for the major items of the agenda and room for extra note-taking.
Make Final Confirmations
Make final confirmations that any meeting equipment arrived. Confirm who will be opening the meeting space and that the person has access to the room including keys or security codes. Follow up with members that have still not turned in their reports and determine who will be responsible for making copies for attendees when reports are late.
Mentally Run Through the Meeting
Make a mental run-through of the agenda. It may help you remember other things that need to be done prior to the meeting.
Keep the Checklist Handy
Bring the checklist to the meeting. As the meeting ensues, you may think of other things to add that will help in planning future meetings.
The preparation is not finished when the meeting begins. Important tasks need to be performed after the meeting, so it’s a good idea to add them to your checklist as well. Check off these tasks after the board meeting:
Checklist for After the Board Meeting
Remove Meeting Notices
The day after the meeting, remove meeting notices from bulletin boards, building entrances, or wherever else they were placed. If applicable, delete the meeting notice from the website and add the date, location, and time of the next meeting.
Taking Care of Minutes
Make all changes, additions, and corrections to the previous meeting’s minutes as approved by the board. Ask the board chair and secretary to sign and date the approved meeting minutes. Write a draft of the current meeting’s minutes while they are fresh in your mind.
When meetings are well-prepared ahead of time, the board meetings are sure to move along productively and efficiently. When preparation is done well, the meeting should run so seamlessly, that board members will not even be aware of how much preparation has gone into the meeting. The board secretary is often the unsung hero, but board members appreciate arriving at a meeting that is well-prepared. Using a checklist will cut down the time that is needed to prepare for the next meeting. More importantly, it models the importance of meeting preparation to the other board members and encourages them to be equally as diligent.