As a board member myself, I’ve experienced my fair share of unproductive meetings, and let me tell you, there actually is a better way. It all depends on the planning you do before you ever step foot in the boardroom. Sure, that means making sure everyone finishes their assignments and thinking about what you want to cover, but the main thing is creating an effective board meeting agenda that puts all this info down in writing.
Your board meeting agendas are the foundation of every meeting you run. They set the tone for how engaged (or conversely disengaged) everyone will be. Yes, they include a list of everything you want to cover, but they’re much more than that. It takes more than just creating a simple governance checklist and calling it a day.
The roadmaps you create for your board meetings are so important to engagement and productivity. So I thought we’d take a step back and revisit the basics. I’ve even tossed in a few board meeting agenda templates to help you reimagine the structure you’re currently using. Here’s what you can find in this complete playbook:
Before getting started, I want to take a moment to highlight an awesome resource that our team here at Boardable put together. Why It’s Time for Modern Boards to Blow Up the Board Book gives advice for rethinking your entire approach to documentation and streamlining meeting prep. Go ahead and download the guide. It’ll be waiting for you as soon as you finish reading this board meeting agendas playbook.
Chances are, you’ve seen plenty of examples of poor preparation and badly chosen meeting topics to last you a lifetime. I know I have! Bad board meetings waste the time of your organization’s most valuable people. It should go without saying that that’s not something any organization should want.
The only sure way to avoid this is by creating dynamic board meeting agendas. But how?
I’ve narrowed it down to a few key steps that I think every board should know. Let’s take a look at a few steps that will help you create powerful board agendas that set your meetings up to be productive, collaborative, and engaging — regardless of if you’re meeting virtually or in-person.
I’ve come to realize that the agenda of a board meeting is the true driving force for everyone’s productivity. It helps you move between meeting subjects and address everything you need to, while not dwelling too long on things that may be better addressed by one of your board committees.
The organization of your board meeting agendas plays a big role in how well the meeting and conversation flow. Here are some things I’ve learned for organizing better board agendas:
Really put some thought into how you organize your meetings. A clearly organized board meeting agenda will help make sure the conversation flows, so you can cut down on side conversations and get down to business. Otherwise, everyone will be mentally clocked out before you know it.
From reviewing reports to completing next steps, there’s a lot of info that board members need to do their jobs efficiently. As leaders, we’re usually the ones doing the assigning. It can be easy to forget how easily information and tasks can pile up. Even when people enthusiastically take on new tasks, we have to keep in mind that they have other things they need to do outside of their work lives.
Here are a few tips I’ve seen work well to avoid information overload with board meeting agendas:
Respecting people’s time is something any leader should strive for. That includes your meetings! Show people that you value their time, and the energy in the room will be a lot higher!
Formatting means nothing without actionable agenda items. In other words, how the agenda looks matters much less than what you plan to cover. You should always plan the meeting well first and worry about the best way to communicate that plan later.
I suggest choosing and prioritizing board meeting agenda topics that affect multiple members. Topics that are relevant to everyone at the table will be much more meaningful. If you can’t find any topics that affect at least half of the group, you might have a deeper problem on your hands.
We’ve all heard the saying that two minds are greater than one. Gathering input is a great way to spark enthusiasm and make sure you don’t miss anything important.
I’ve seen board chairs start every meeting by going around the table and asking each member if he or she has anything to discuss. The same goes for each discussion topic. At the start and finish of each agenda item, ask everyone if they have anything to add.
Sometimes members might say that they do not have anything to add, which can be quite a meaningful message in itself. It essentially says that the person feels that the subject has been sufficiently covered and signals a readiness to move on. Tread lightly here though. If this happens too often, it might be a sign that your board meeting agenda is too long.
So you’ve created a board meeting agenda with actionable discussion points and key decision-making items. If you really want to get the most value out of your board agendas, you’ll want to go ahead and share it with everyone.
This gives everyone the opportunity to fully prepare and actively contribute when the time comes — especially if they’re assigned to cover one of the items. Your board meeting agenda can give attendees some level of detail about what they’ll be discussing and inspire questions they can share with the group to spark collaboration.
Attach anything they should review in addition to the board agenda, like reports and other documents. They can take a look at them at their leisure and use actual meeting time for discussion.
By sending your board meeting agendas out ahead of time, you’re saying, “Hey, I value your time and want you to have the chance to think about how you want to contribute to the conversation.” Everyone can relax knowing the meeting is under control and that all pressing issues will be addressed.
Accurate minute-taking is another piece of the agenda-making puzzle. Your secretary can take the board agenda and turn it into comprehensive notes for your team. This pre-written outline gives you a major head start on your board minutes. This makes it easy to thoroughly memorialize the board’s actions and explain the rationale behind them—an excellent reference point for future decision-making and for people who weren’t able to attend. Not only this, but it’s an official and legal record of your board meetings.
There’s a lot that relies on accurate minute keeping, making this the job of a consummate multitasker. Ask any effective minutes-taker, and they’ll tell you these are the common elements you’ll want to keep in mind:
Effective minutes undoubtedly start with a great board meeting agenda, but they’re more than just a fleshed-out outline. Minutes preserve the order of the board’s discussion, even if it reorders the agenda items. Here are some things you’ll want to bear in mind as you transform your board agendas into official minutes for your team to look back on.
Know who’s planning on attending your meetings. For in-person meetings, I’ve known some boards to list the names of everyone who’s expected to attend on a sign-in sheet. Go with a title like “WELCOME. PLEASE SIGN IN.” Then, place it near the door with a pen attached.
I realize this may look a bit different for virtual meetings, but with the right tech in place, taking attendance can be just as simple. Boardable comes fully equipped with dedicated meeting management tools that include attendance records to make this process a snap.
Put yourself in the shoes of a brand new board member 5 years down the line. You’re reviewing the minutes from a meeting where none of the other current board members were present. In other words, no one has any more insight than you. Maybe you’re trying to find out how a particular vote ended up going. Or maybe you’re just trying to figure out what success looks like in board meetings and want to use past meetings as a guide. What are the key discussions and decisions that you need to know to do your job effectively?
If it were me, I’d want to know key decisions, why people voted the way they did, and what the next steps were coming out of the meeting. I should be able to grasp what occurred without confusion. That doesn’t mean your minutes should be a complete transcript, but things like motions should be recorded verbatim. For official votes, you should record:
Additional discussion should not be recorded verbatim. What’s more, everything that’s written down should be completely objective and exclude inflammatory commentary. Stick to the facts! One tip I suggest is to avoid adjectives and adverbs whenever possible. Then, have someone who wasn’t able to attend double-check the writing to make sure it’s clear.
On a very similar note, include any pertinent information that arises during a board meeting. Your board has legal responsibility, and your minutes serve as an official and legal record. In a legal arena, meeting minutes are presumed to be correct. Any details you include should be clear and simple to avoid complications. Trust me when I say this isn’t a lesson you want to learn the hard way.
I recommend you use these guidelines as a starting point:
While this is by no means a comprehensive list, it should serve as a strong foundation as you start to develop your meeting minutes. For each agenda item, write a short statement of each action taken, along with the rationale behind key decisions, and you’ll be golden.
Bear in mind that you also don’t want to include a complete transcript of everything that was said, though. Too many details can be just as risky as too few details. I realize finding the perfect middle ground between too many and too few details may seem a bit ambiguous, but with a bit of practice, you can find the right balance.
So you follow all this advice and wind up with some great minutes. Now what? You need some immediate next actions to quickly finalize and distribute them. Try creating a checklist that keeps you on track.
I’ve seen a ton of boards put protocols in place like:
That’s really all you have to do. Knowing what you need to keep things moving forward makes it a lot easier to actually follow through.
One thing I’m sure we’ve all noticed over the past year and a half is that working from home requires a much more technological approach to keep everyone moving along. And I’ve come to believe that the way you use your technology is just as important as the technology itself.
It can be as simple as using your laptop to jot notes down and reorder them as you go when the discussion varies from the board agenda. Include keywords, brief sentences, and notations directly in the board meeting agenda. Then, outline any series of suggestions and comments in a bullet-point style for quick reference.
Going a step further means investing in a Minutes-Making tool. You can effectively take, store, and distribute minutes for future reference so that everyone is up-to-date on the latest information — even if they were unable to attend. Stay tuned to explore the solution in-depth later on.
So this whole creating board meeting agendas thing is new to you. No worries. It was new to all great board leaders at some point. Creating a format that your chair can automatically default to will go a long way to streamline meeting planning.
To help, the incredible team here at Boardable put together some awesome templates based on what we’ve seen work well for different boards. Just click on the graphics below to check out editable board meeting agenda templates that you can repurpose for your meetings:
Each of these board meeting agenda templates has a unique layout with elements you can edit to fit your next board meeting. Here’s what you can expect to find within each:
Template 1: Use this board meeting agenda template to set the main objective for your meeting, indicate how members should prepare, highlight which topics will be covered, and indicate what actionable next steps will be taken after the meeting.
Template 2: This board meeting agenda template is divided up into leadership reports, old business, and new business, so you can make sure everything gets covered.
Template 3: Make any necessary changes to the agenda and then cover officer reports, old and new business, announcements, and more with this board meeting agenda template.
Creating dynamic board meeting agendas doesn’t have to be difficult. Instead of leaving it up to chance, try out one of these board meeting agenda templates and see how they work for your organization. Adapt them to suit your needs, and you’ll be surprised at what your team can come up with!
Preparing for a board meeting can be time-consuming. This might not be super apparent to those who simply attend, but that doesn’t make it any easier for the person who has to actually plan it. This long laundry list of to-do items includes finding a date that works, communicating key details, and (of course) creating a dynamic board meeting agenda well in advance.
Let’s return to the idea of implementing technology to help you get the job done. Our team over here at Boardable has experienced the pain of meeting planning, with many of our team members being current and former board members themselves. That’s why we’ve developed our platform to efficiently accomplish everything your board needs to streamline meetings in one convenient place.
With Boardable, you can centralize board information and communications, making everything (and everyone) only a couple of clicks away. You’ll be able to create dynamic board agendas quickly and effectively with the Agenda Builder. Our tools make it easy for even the least tech-savvy board members to:
You can automate meeting scheduling, build dynamic agendas (the built-in board meeting agenda templates make it even easier), and keep track of meeting attendance and correspondence.
We founded Boardable on the principle of providing accessible tools that unify boards, committees, and organizations. Through the years, our product development team has spent countless hours ensuring that our board management software is easy for everyone to use.
Here’s a brief walkthrough of the Boardable Agenda Builder. In this short video, you’ll be able to gauge how well it will work for creating and sharing your own board meeting agendas:
After you create a meeting in the Meetings Center, start building out your agenda. You can either start from scratch to bring your own vision to life or get a headstart with a customizable default board meeting agenda template.
As you add items to your board meeting agenda, you can easily:
After spending time in the boardroom, you’ll notice that the most effective members take their own notes. Especially when your board is in the middle of thought-provoking discussions, members will want to jot down what’s going on along with their personal takeaways. That’s why we equipped Boardable with note-taking functionality.
During the meeting, each attendee has the option to take personal notes directly on the board meeting agenda. What a great way to make sure they’re fully engaged and know exactly what they need to do before the next meeting. Take a look at the attendee’s view:
Remember how I told you your board agenda serves as a great template for your meeting minutes? Don’t think I’ve forgotten to circle back around to that, and don’t think that we didn’t think of that when building out Boardable’s functionality!
Using the Minutes Maker, you can use the board agenda you already built to not miss a single detail. Simply pull up the board meeting agenda and add your notes directly to each agenda item, assign tasks, and record votes. Here’s a GIF to help you visualize what I mean:
With Boardable’s board software, you can centralize all communication into one convenient location and create powerful agendas that incite collaboration. Have any other ideas? I’m always open to suggestions! Just reach out to our team. Otherwise, go ahead and try out Boardable’s range of tools.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could be productive without writing down everything that needs to be covered and didn’t have to worry about mapping out our meetings? I know agenda-making sounds tedious (we did cover a lot), but it’s the only way you can keep your board focused and make sure they’re fulfilling expectations. Creating dynamic board meeting agendas before every meeting will become a habit soon enough, and you won’t have to think about it so much.
If you take anything away from this guide, let it be that your board agendas are incredibly important for boosting productivity in the boardroom (and that Boardable’s Agenda Builder is a great tool for streamlining prep).
If you’re not sure where to start, feel free to build out your next agenda with one of the board meeting agenda templates from earlier. Boardable’s intuitive Agenda Builder will streamline the process further and empower your board to be the best it possibly can be. In no time, you’ll be wondering how you ever ran meetings without a great agenda!
Want to continue learning? I don’t blame you. Try these great resources from the Boardable team:
Executive Committee: A Rundown of Its Purpose and Structure. Any board member knows that running an organization requires an exceptional leadership team. Here’s a guide to help out your executive committee.
The Ultimate Hybrid Board Meetings Playbook for Success. I’ve seen how difficult it is to wrangle attendees when they’re in different locations. Here’s some advice for unifying your remote and in-person attendees.
Corporate Meetings: What Your Company’s Leaders Need to Know. Work for a corporation that suffers from unproductive meetings? You’re not alone! Pair your newfound board agenda advice with the tips we cover in this guide to reduce inefficiency.
Wait, there’s one more thing! If you forgot to download Why It’s Time for Modern Boards to Blow Up The Board Book earlier, it’s not too late! grab your free copy and learn how you can get rid of the traditional paper board book. Share the PDF with your team and never create another cumbersome board book again.