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The Complete Board Meeting Preparation Checklist

See how Boardable's board software can help you better prepare for board meetings.

What comes to mind when you hear the words “meeting preparation”? First and foremost, you probably think of the basics. Of course, you need a time, place, and purpose for every meeting you host. But effective board meeting preparation goes much further than where, when, and why.

Good board meeting preparation makes the most of everyone being gathered together in the same room (virtual or physical). It also sets the tone for what will get done during the meeting and in the coming weeks. Ultimately, superior preparation leads to better meetings and greater outcomes for your organization over time.

This article will cover all the steps and tools needed to prepare your team for effective and engaging meetings. Feel free to skip to the tips or info you find most helpful, or read the entire article for a comprehensive view:

As a board member myself, I understand the frustration of attending meetings that seem to have been put together at the last minute or entirely improvised. With this guide, you can hopefully avoid those results when planning your own board meetings to make the experiences more engaging and useful for everyone involved. 

Want to conduct better meetings? Learn the basics of preparation, then download this free guide about holding better meetings. Could your meetings be better? Grab a free copy of this ebook from Boardable that shows you how to have effective meetings that have a clear purpose, outcome, and expectations for what to do next.

The first step for board meeting preparation is to pick the right tools for your organization.

Board Meeting Preparation Step #1: Select Effective Tools.

Before you start preparing for any meeting, ensure all board members are familiar with your communication and meeting tools. This is especially vital in the virtual era, when technology is meant to improve communication and information sharing. No more xeroxing or stapling committee reports to hand out right before a meeting!

Ideally, whatever planning and communication tools you select should be simple to use and minimize the effort needed to prepare. The more barriers you remove from preparation, the more likely your board members are to review all material before the next meeting.

Perhaps your organization needs a technology refresh to ensure you’re making the most of your digital tools. If that’s the case, make sure you have effective tools such as:

A Meeting Scheduler

Sometimes the hardest part of planning a meeting is finding a time that works best for all attendees. Busy work and family schedules make lining up even an hour when everyone is free extremely difficult.

Rather than sending a hundred “What about this time?” emails back and forth to the group, you can use an app. For example, the Meeting Scheduler tool in Boardable allows you to quickly pick the best option for all attendees. With the Meeting Scheduler, you can:

  • Propose multiple potential meeting times.
  • Receive a summary of attendees’ responses.
  • Select a time that works best for everyone.

Whatever method you use, make sure that it accomplishes scheduling tasks with minimum friction so you don’t lose the attention of your attendees (or worse, frustrate them).

A Meeting Center

If you are both a general board member and a part of multiple committees, you know that keeping track of all the meeting times and places can be a nightmare. So, once you have found the ideal date and time for the meeting, the next critical step is making sure everyone knows where to find the meeting details.

Be sure to distribute the meeting details using a variety of channels– email and your digital calendar are great places to start.

You can also use a more advanced meeting tool to keep members in the know. For example, using the Boardable Meeting Center, members can easily see a summary of all their upcoming meetings, including dates and times. Clicking on the individual meeting shows the location, attendee list, agenda, and related documents. Meeting times are integrated with personal calendars, so everyone knows where to go and when to be there.  

A Document Center

Probably the most impactful part of meeting preparation is the information board members must review before the meeting. This may include committee reports, financial spreadsheets, past minutes, and of course the meeting agenda. By providing these documents well in advance and in a central location, you increase the chance that board members will come to the meeting ready to discuss and vote on critical matters.

There are plenty of online storage options you can use to circulate your documents, such as Dropbox or Google Drive. But making sure that everyone knows where to find essential resources and has the necessary passwords or permissions to see them at any time can get complicated. I recommend instead researching robust board portals that combine meeting planning and document storage in one comprehensive platform.

Make sure your team is familiar with these tools by including a short tutorial in your board member orientation. As someone who’s served on a board, I’ve certainly seen some board members reluctant to admit they don’t understand how to use an app, so providing proactive resources can be a big help.

The second step to effective board meeting preparation is scheduling the meeting itself.

Board Meeting Preparation Step #2: Pay Attention to the Details.

Hashing out even the smallest details of your meeting is key to a successful planning process. For instance, not only do you need to find a date and time for everyone to attend, but you need to consider accessibility and decide how you’ll track RSVPs.

Prepare your meetings effectively so that they’re accessible, punctual, and well-attended.

ACCESSIBILITY CONSIDERATIONS

Your organization needs to be considerate of all kinds of accessibility concerns, whether your meeting is in-person or virtual. Avoid meeting locations that are difficult to access or have too much ambient noise or inadequate acoustics. Further, your meeting space should have adequate lighting and visual aids for shared documents.

Be sure to provide materials ahead of time so that meeting attendees can adapt all materials accordingly. Of course, always be mindful of the volume of the presenter and be sure to provide adequate breaks during long meetings.

MEETING RSVP RECORDING

You’ve carefully selected the meeting details, but there’s no point in meeting if you can’t reach a quorum or are missing key attendees. Finding a way to record RSVPs prior to the meeting not only helps avoid a poorly attended meeting but also provides feedback to board members about their performance.

For example, using the Reports feature in Boardable, an admin can compare board members’ RSVP trends with their attendance record. Busy board members may not realize they have a consistent habit of not showing up, so a clear record facilitates that important conversation.

Keep in mind you may need to send several reminders before the meeting to get an accurate count of who is planning to attend. Reminders encourage attendance and also prompt attendees to do their own meeting preparation. I generally recommend sending reminders one week as well as one day before your monthly meeting.

 

Your next task in your board meeting planning checklist is to complete tasks from the previous meeting.

Board Meeting Preparation Step #3: Complete Tasks from the Previous Meeting.

It seems counterintuitive that part of preparing for an upcoming meeting is reviewing takeaways from the last meeting, but it’s the best way to ensure progress between meetings. Not only do tasks assigned from the previous meeting need to be accounted for, but committee reports and decisions need to be resolved, too. Complete all outstanding assignments using these strategies: 

REVIEW MINUTES FOR ASSIGNED TASKS.

Part of the minutes from each meeting should include reviewing the assigned tasks from the previous meeting. Each member is responsible for completing what they commit to, but more complex projects may require the board chair to check in. This is less about policing productivity as it is helping board members overcome any obstacles to progress.

COMPLETE DECISIONS AND COMMITTEE REPORTS BETWEEN MEETINGS.

Meetings aren’t the only time your board members can make decisions! Speed up productivity by using a digital polling app to finalize smaller decisions that don’t require a formal board vote. The board chair should make sure all required members have weighed in on these matters and add the final decision to the agenda for the next meeting.

Similarly, committees should meet between board meetings with adequate timing to provide their committee reports to the board chair to include in the meeting prep documents. The goal is to have all unfinished business wrapped up before the next meeting so that board directors have all the information they need to guide your organization throughout their terms.

The fourth step of your meeting planning checklist is to create and review your agenda.

Board Meeting Preparation Step #4: Create and Review Your Agenda.

We all know that preparing an agenda is a necessary step to get ready for the next meeting, but the process includes more than just outlining discussion topics. Your agenda is the tool that your board will use to prepare for the meeting. To hold a productive and efficient meeting, you must create a dynamic agenda and share it in advance so everyone can actually use it. 

When crafting your agenda, be sure to: 

When preparing for a board meeting, be sure to prep agenda items such as assigning tasks to individuals and setting time limits.

DESIGNATE MEETING ITEMS BY PERSON.

Include the names of board members who will lead various parts of the agenda to keep everyone engaged. Within each item, identify the issue, the information available to address it, the steps to take, and who’s in charge of seeing the task through. Also, assign a start and finish time for each item. This way, your board members know when they’re running behind and can work to avoid excessive banter and tangents.

CIRCULATE THE AGENDA IN ADVANCE TO GET FEEDBACK FROM OTHERS.

Give your board chair, executive director, and any other presenters a chance to provide feedback on the order of items and how much time is needed for each topic. Then, distribute the agenda to the rest of the board at least a week before the meeting. The goal with this is to offer enough time ahead of the meeting to allow people to come prepared.

Your board meeting preparation should include compiling and preparing relevant documents.

Board Meeting Preparation Step #5: Compile and Distribute Board Documents.

As important as the agenda is, there are other board documents that members need to prepare adequately for a meeting. As with the agenda, it is important to distribute these needed documents with enough time for board members to review them before the meeting. These documents vary by organization and meeting type, of course, but here is a good list to start with:

Be sure to prepare for your meeting by gathering important documents, such as the agenda, financial reports, and the calendar of events.

BOARD DOCUMENT #1: AN AGENDA

Each agenda can be built from scratch or kickstarted by copying one from a similar previous meeting. Once you circulate the agenda, attendees will know exactly which items they are responsible for and how much time they’re allotted to discuss them.

The agenda’s usefulness doesn’t end when the meeting commences. Along with other members of the Boardable team, I’ve found that using the agenda is incredibly helpful for taking minutes. In fact, you can take minutes directly within any agenda you build within Boardable using the intuitive Minutes Maker tool

BOARD DOCUMENT #2: GOVERNING DOCUMENTS

Have governing documents on hand any time you meet. Chances are you will not need them every time, but when you do need them, you won’t waste time searching through reams of paper. If you need to settle a dispute or reach out for guidance, a copy of these important details will help ensure you stay on track. Storing these documents digitally makes it incredibly easy to pull them up anytime you need them.

BOARD DOCUMENT #3: FINANCIAL REPORTS

A broad look at finances can and should be presented to the board. However, having the fine details on paper that can easily be referred to is a must as well. Up-to-date reporting on your regular finances and cash flow makes it easy for your board to make informed decisions. 

BOARD DOCUMENT #4: CALENDAR OF UPCOMING EVENTS

Board members should be able to see at a glance what is coming up so they can plan their schedules accordingly. Moreover, this allows them to allocate time and resources effectively. Having a calendar that lists all upcoming events ensures you are prepared and that every topic makes it to the agenda. A calendar also prevents surprises and gives your members a chance to start getting excited for the initiatives they are most interested in.

BOARD DOCUMENT #5: IMPORTANT CORRESPONDENCE

From donor letters to shareholder communications, your board should receive copies of your most important emails and letters. This allows everyone to see where you stand at a glance. These documents can open up important decisions about strategy and the next steps to take.

Having the paperwork and documents your board needs is an essential part of meeting success. When your board can easily access the information they need to make wise decisions, it is easier for all involved to move forward.


Step six of the board meeting preparation checklist is to prepare to record meeting minutes.

Board Meeting Preparation Step #6: Prepare to Take Meeting Minutes.

A crucial part of providing important information to board members is capturing the events of the meeting in accurate meeting minutes. This essential document not only potentially protects your organization in legal or ethical matters, but also helps new board members understand your organization’s history. It also allows all members to prepare for the next meeting.

PLAN FOR TAKING MINUTES.

Designate someone ahead of time to take minutes — this is usually the board secretary. This person should pay attention to detail, but also know how to be impartial and concise.

Taking minutes during a meeting can require a lot of concentration. In order to allow the minutes taker to be as engaged as possible in the meeting proceedings, it is important to have a framework ahead of time for minutes. Like I mentioned earlier, some organizations simply use the agenda and add details. Others start from a blank page and record from scratch, since some items might get out of order during a live meeting.

Outside of the obvious outcomes of a typical meeting such as votes and budget reports, be sure to capture actionable details for your team. Assigned tasks with due dates, topics that need further research, requests for committee work, and so on should all be recorded.

Here are a few additional meeting planning resources.

Conclusion & Additional Free Resources

Board members who come ready to thoughtfully contribute to a meeting are its most influential participants. They vote with confidence and use the meeting to dive deeper into information they’re already familiar with. This keeps the discussion tight, informed, and focused.

You owe it to your busy and enthusiastic board colleagues to make preparation as simple as possible. These tips can make your meetings better than ever!

For more information on how to host better board meetings, review these additional resources:

Before you go, I have one more free resource to share with you! In this free guide created by the Boardable team, learn what you need to know to hold more engaging, productive, and fun meetings. 

This resource will teach you how to deal with people who ramble during meetings, board members who dominate the conversation, and discussions that go nowhere.

Grab a free copy of this ebook from Boardable that shows you how to have effective meetings that have a clear purpose, outcome, and expectations for what to do next.

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