If you’re going to take time out of your day to attend a meeting, whether it’s a formal meeting or an informal meeting, you’ll want it to be as productive as possible. Meetings that lack a solid structure can easily get off track and amount to a lot of talk with no action. Brainstorming sessions and active discussions are good things, but when that’s all they are, it feels like a waste of valuable time for many people. As a meeting planner or facilitator, the last thing that you want is for meetings to be a waste of time or for meeting attendees to feel as if a meeting was a waste of time.
The most productive meetings are well-planned events that begin with an effective board meeting agenda that’s built around key objectives. A constructive agenda incorporates input from meeting attendees. An agenda is a valuable meeting tool that helps meeting facilitators keep meetings on track, so they start and stop on time while providing adequate time to address every item on the agenda. A solid agenda and a skilled meeting facilitator provide the backbone of a productive and efficient meeting. Meeting planners and facilitators may also need to provide some type of meeting follow-up so that all attendees are prepared ahead of time to make the next meeting just as productive as the last one.
If the mere thought of putting together a productive meeting agenda is causing you anxiety, it’s time to get some help from technology by using a board portal by BoardEffect. A board portal makes administering board meetings and board meeting information truly manageable. In addition, board management software helps board directors to fulfill their responsibilities of diligently leading their organization.
Five Keys to an Effective Board Meeting Agenda
In planning an effective board meeting, it helps to break down the duties into five separate and important steps. Following are the five keys to an effective board meeting agenda.
Pre-Plan the Meeting
Depending on the type of meeting and the wording of the bylaws, some meetings require advance notice. If so, you’ll need to post a proper notice with the proper information in the proper locations in accordance with the timeframe indicated in the bylaws.
You’ll also need to carefully think through the strategic flow of the meeting. Include items that were designated as unfinished business from the previous agenda and prioritize the agenda so that the board will address the most important issues first.
Put out the word to the attendees and ask if they have any items to add or suggestions for changes. By providing an opportunity for attendees to be involved in planning the agenda, you can be assured that the board will cover all the important topics and that board members will plan well for the meeting. Give them time to get the meeting on their calendar and respond with feedback on the agenda.
Think through the strategic flow of the meeting. Add a note to each agenda item about who will speak on that agenda item and approximately how much time the board will be able to spend addressing or discussing it.
Write a Well-Planned Agenda
Start writing the agenda by deciding what the board needs to accomplish during the meeting. What are the goals and objectives they hope to achieve by the meeting’s end?
Most effective board meeting agendas have a similar format that includes a call to order, officer reports, unfinished business, new business and adjournment. Add a list of attendees to the agenda so that everyone knows who will be attending ahead of time. Remind those who will be making presentations or announcements of where they appear on the agenda. They’ll be sure to come to the meeting prepared and they’ll be ready to present at the proper time, which will enhance the flow of the meeting.
Ensure That the Meeting Has a Good Facilitator
The best-laid plans for an agenda are of little use when you don’t have a good meeting facilitator. A skilled board chair or meeting facilitator will be able to stick to the agenda and not allow extra items to be added to it once the meeting has started. The board chair will be able to follow the time limits listed on the agenda or make a decision to handle the item by setting a formal time limit, tabling the item, postponing the item or delegating the item to a committee for further research and review.
Every attendee’s input is important at board meetings. A seasoned board chair knows how to draw out all perspectives on the issues and encourages full board engagement in discussions. Board chairs should be familiar with Robert’s Rules of Order, including the order and precedence of motions and how to handle them.
Invite the Right People
To be productive, it’s important to get all the right people to the board meeting. This entails identifying the key decision-makers and stakeholders who need to be present. It’s not very efficient to plan a careful agenda and then not be able to discuss one or more items because one of the key people isn’t able to attend the meeting. Think through whether you need to invite experts, guests or members of the organization. Confirm that key decision-makers will be able to be present.
Follow Up and Follow Through
How well one meeting ends can set the stage for how well the next meeting begins. Some boards make it a practice to do a short debriefing after their meetings end. This carves out time for the board to talk about the issue of governance. It’s a chance for board members to discuss what worked well, what didn’t work so well, whether they accomplished what they’d hoped to and how well the meeting flowed. Suggestions for improvement may seek to improve the next board meeting even more.
To sum up: Take time to do a little pre-planning, use the prior agenda and board minutes to develop the new agenda, get a good facilitator, invite the right people, and be sure to follow up after the meeting ends.
As soon as possible after the meeting, and ideally within 24 hours, meeting facilitators should prepare a list of meeting notes and action items to send out to all attendees and follow up to remind them of action items they agreed to address prior to the next meeting.
It’s also helpful to encourage the board secretary to send out a copy of the meeting minutes as soon as possible after the meeting.
Implement a Board Management Software Program for an Effective Board Meeting Agenda
The fastest, easiest and most efficient way to develop an effective board agenda is to implement a board portal software management system by BoardEffect. BoardEffect offers an electronic platform that automates much of the work for meeting planners. The software pre-fills meeting times, locations, dates and attendees, which makes putting together board books a snap. Meeting planners can easily make last-minute changes in real time and notify all attendees right away. In addition, the program makes it easy to attach documents electronically and to link electronically to informative websites.
A board portal system essentially saves much time and money for boards when planning an effective board meeting agenda.
Most people don’t relish the idea of meetings very much. That may be because they haven’t attended a well-run meeting yet. Board management software can truly make a difference between meetings that board members dread and those that they’re eager to attend.