A board meeting is one of those bureaucratic rituals that can either be really tedious or vitally important for getting all your team members on the same page.
Whether you’re a non-profit, a startup, or a homeowners’ association, having a board meeting every year may even be a legal requirement. It can be a quick and straightforward meeting to check all the boxes, or it may be an opportunity to hash out any differences of opinion between board members.
Either way, it’s important to run an effective board meeting to meet your obligations and have a record of any decisions that you make for future reference.
How to run a board meeting successfully
Here’s what you need to know about how to run a board meeting that won’t make your fellow board members struggle to keep their eyes open. After all, it's called a board meeting, not a bored meeting.
Get clear on the structure of your organization
Different organizations have different bylaws, so board meetings are like snowflakes: no two are exactly alike. Some teams may be active year-round and only have a formal board meeting once per year, while others may meet more regularly.
If this is your first time acting as facilitator or board chair, you can start by looking over previous meeting notes and putting together a list of agenda items. This might include setting a budget, electing officers, or reviewing last year’s financial reports.
Set the time and place
If your company or organization has a physical office, then you may be able to hold your meeting in a boardroom on-site. But these days, it’s common for the board of directors to be located all over the country, or even the world, in which case a virtual meeting is the way to go.
Before you send out your meeting invites, brush up on the dos and don'ts of virtual meeting etiquette and do a tech check to make sure everything’s in working order before the executive director shows up.
Call the meeting to order
Next, it’s time to call the meeting to order! But what kind of order, exactly? Will you be following parliamentary procedure or Robert’s Rules of Order?
In most cases, you’ll start with a roll call to see whether you have quorum. This is the number of board members — specified in your bylaws — that you need present in order to take a vote on major decisions.
If you don’t have a quorum, then you may have to reschedule the meeting — or use it as an opportunity to get something else done instead.
Approve the board meeting agenda
The first order of business at any board meeting is to approve the agenda, that way you’re all on the same page about which topics are going to be discussed.
Some nonprofits use a consent agenda, which presents all the straightforward items up-front for a single vote. For example, you can agree on a date for the next meeting and approve the meeting minutes from the previous meeting all in one go, saving time for weightier topics.
In other cases, you may need to make corrections or amendments to the agenda or minutes, which may require more time and a formal vote.
Make time for committee reports
Set aside the next part of the meeting for committee reports. Have an officer or member of each committee provide an update to the board on their activities.
This could take the form of a financial report or another relevant update. This isn’t time for discussion, though: If any committee reports raise a point that needs to be discussed in more detail, save it for the next section.
Discuss old and new business
This section makes up the bulk of the board meeting. Some boards separate discussion topics into old business and new business to keep things moving quickly.
Old business includes topics that were brought up at a previous meeting and can be approved without much debate.
New business items are those that are introduced for the first time and may require a lot of discussion. If you have a lot of new business items on the agenda, set a time limit for each one so you don’t run out of time.
Wrap up the meeting
Now that you know how to run a board meeting, it’s time to learn how to end it. After you’ve gotten through all the agenda items, you’re almost done.
Before wrapping up, make sure there’s enough time for announcements and other items that you want to get on the board’s radar for a future meeting. Then, the chairperson can make a motion to adjourn the meeting and call it a day.
Be sure to send out the board meeting minutes ASAP so that everyone can review them and follow up if they need to be corrected. If you use an automated note-taking tool like Anchor.AI, you’ll already have a transcript of the meeting that you can send out to the board members right away.
It will be time-stamped and everything, saving you the trouble of having to type them up and annotate them before the next meeting.
More tips and best practices
The most successful board meetings follow a template, but they don’t have to be boring. As long as you abide by the bylaws, you can do what works for your organization.
Here are a few other tips on how to run a board meeting that the board chair should consider:
Have a virtual meeting
There’s nothing wrong with holding a virtual board meeting or even a meeting with both in-person and remote participants. This is especially useful if you’ve been having trouble reaching quorum because too many board members are absent.
A virtual meeting format can make it easier for far-flung team members to participate without having to make a long journey.
Start on time
The best way to encourage attendance and participation at your board meeting is to start on time and have a clear agenda.
As the chair, it’s your job to ensure that everyone gets a chance to speak and sticks as closely as possible to the time allowed for each agenda item.
It’s also important that you record the date and time of the meeting, who’s in attendance, and what organization the meeting is for.
Know your roles
Just because you’re the meeting facilitator or board chair doesn’t mean you have any special decision-making power. In fact, an effective board chair should know when to step back and abstain from voting on agenda items.
Different types of board meetings also involve different roles and responsibilities. Some meetings, such as a board of directors meeting, may be more in-depth than a meeting that’s open to all stakeholders and non-voting members.
Likewise, there may be special rules for an executive session, in which only a select few participants are invited to discuss more confidential matters. Knowing everyone’s roles and responsibilities up front can prevent conflict and avoid confusion.
Make it easy to take notes at your board meeting
Not only are notes useful for board members who couldn’t make it to the meeting, but your bylaws may require taking minutes.
If you don’t want to entrust a participant with the note-taking process, you can use a tool like Anchor.AI to take notes for you. That way, everyone can focus on what’s being said, and you’ll have an accurate record of your meeting to look back on.
Plus, Anchor.AI can highlight action items so you don’t have to worry about important agenda items getting lost in the conversation.
Whether you already know how to run a board meeting or this is your first time as chair, sign up for Anchor AI to add Anchor AI to your toolkit!