Making Board Meetings Work

By Peter Gamache, Ph.D. & Jackie Sue Griffin, MBA, MS, Turnaround Life, Inc.

The best board meetings leave participants motivated and focused. To help your board get there, we’ve gathered these tips for running effective meetings, which often also increases board member attendance.

  • Rotate which board members or participants lead each part of the meeting. Listening to a new member speak can reengage board members, and being responsible for starting a discussion or sharing information can boost leadership skills.
  • Co-create the rules for the meetings, including sharing meeting expectations and norms. For example: do your meetings allow the use of cell phones? How many meetings can board members miss?
  • Send out the agenda before the meeting, so everyone knows what to expect and can prepare if necessary.
  • Give timely notice. Even if your meeting is scheduled at the same place on a recurring day and time, notify members well in advance, usually using email, about the meeting details. To keep them accountable, request a reply to ensure that the information is received.
  • Limit the time on each agenda topic. Sticking to the timeframes will show the meeting participants that their time is valued and respected.
  • Vote on noncontroversial items as part of a consent agenda to save time for more crucial discussions of strategic topics.
  • Gather RSVPs and be sure that enough people are planning to attend, or the meeting would be worth it.
  • Put off-agenda topics aside for a later discussion to ensure the priorities are addressed first and to get meeting participants to focus better.
  • Use periodic surveys, self-assessments or other tools to gather regular feedback on how well these meetings are working for the board. Use the feedback you get to improve meetings and help the board members be more effective.
  • Document all decisions. Meeting minutes are considered legal documents. Committee meeting minutes are also significant, documenting individual and committee commitments to the organization and becoming part of the institutional memory.
  • If your meeting is virtual, be sure to provide detailed instructions and time for everyone to test the technology before the meeting.
  • Promote healthy discussion during the meetings by allocating specific timeframes. If someone is talking for too long, politely call them out. Expect respectful behavior and discourse at all times.

Here at Turnaround Life, Inc., we aim to help organizations and programs that make it possible for people to turn their lives around. For more information about us, visit our website.

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