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Paperless Board Meeting

Paperless Board Meetings: When It Comes to Paper, Less is More

In much of life, less is more. This is true when it comes to the length of speeches, weeks of winter, consumption of natural resources, and strokes in golf (to name only a few examples). This is also true in regards to paper in the board room. This prior BoardEffect post offers a valuable framework and lays out some of the key considerations for HOW to manage the transition to Becoming a Paperless Board. In this post, we’ll take a step back and pause to consider WHY a board would want to hold paperless meetings in the first place.

Why hold Paperless Board Meetings?

Clearly, becoming a paperless board is good for the planet; and that is reason enough to do so. Beyond the environmental benefits, though, there are many more immediate-term advantages. Cost savings are key: one BoardEffect client reported saving over $100,000 annually on paper-related usage, book assembly, and global shipping expenses. Digitally resourced meetings also mean content can be more timely & flexible. Information can be made available to the board on a more real-time basis, as opposed to requiring days or even weeks of lead-time for production and distribution. Likewise, outdated information can be swapped out quickly and easily be replaced with the latest intelligence. These points are broadly understood and acknowledged by even staunch advocates for paper.

One BoardEffect client reported saving over $100,000 annually on paper-related usage, book assembly, and global shipping expenses.

Even more compelling, though, are the many things that can be done very well in a digital environment and which paper will simply never be able to do. With paper:


Boards have no way to cross-reference and link topics together in a tangible way. In their role as the sense-makers for an organization, governing bodies must connect complex concepts and information in an agile way. Digital technology makes this possible, whereas it simply cannot be achieved to the same degree in paper form.


Paper does not allow for quick searches to be conducted. Meanwhile, information proliferation and acceleration mean that boards have access to more information than ever before; and fast, thorough search capabilities are critically important to their ability to manage. Directors need to filter through vast amounts of materials to access and act upon the most important information quickly and confidently. Digital search helps immensely.


Paper offers no usage trail to facilitate trend-spotting. Digital materials, on the other hand, provide many forms of “data exhaust” which allows for analysis to be performed on board materials and on how those materials support the work of the board.

Many Words

A picture is worth a thousand words; and a video is worth a million. Unfortunately, there is no way to accommodate non-text / graphic information such as audio, video, or animation in paper. As these communication formats become increasingly ubiquitous for boards, digital management of those materials is a must.

In Conclusion

All of these examples can be woven into a digital board book to facilitate paperless meetings. In turn, these use cases serve as examples for how paperless meetings can loosen the constraints on boards and actually change the way they THINK – by changing how they manage, store, distribute, digest, and analyze information. This is the real answer to why one would consider moving to paperless board meetings.

Todd Gibby

Todd Gibby is the Chief Executive Officer of BoardEffect, with a primary focus on supporting client organizations in achieving their governance goals. Todd joined BoardEffect in early 2014, after having previously served as the president of Hobsons’ higher education division. Todd became part of Hobsons in 2011 through the acquisition of Intelliworks, where he was CEO. Earlier, Todd held numerous executive leadership positions at Blackboard, playing an instrumental role in the company’s trajectory from a start-up software company to the global leader in digital education.

Todd sits on the board of directors for Compass of Greater Philadelphia and the Rassias Center at Dartmouth College. He also serves as the Network Officer for the Washington DC Chapter of Young Presidents Organization and advises several early-stage companies. He is a frequent public speaker, social media writer, and a contributor to Wharton Entrepreneurship blog.

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