Everything you need to know about board management.
Learn how to build a board, master best practices for working with board members, and unlock your board’s most valuable resources and expertise.
A board meeting is an opportunity for a company’s board and leadership team to review progress, outline future objectives, and develop the strategic direction of the company.
While board meeting agendas may differ depending on the company's needs, the general format is largely consistent.
First, the board chair will call the meeting to order. Then, the CEO will provide an update on the company’s performance for the last quarter, and present the objectives for the upcoming quarter. Other members of the leadership team might also give updates (like demos of upcoming product features or plans for marketing campaigns).
After updates, the board will discuss a handful of important issues. This portion of the meeting provides an important opportunity to share ideas and collect feedback.
At the end of the meeting, all board observers and team members (other than the CEO) leave the room so the board can have an executive session. This provides an opportunity for the board to speak freely on more confidential topics.
Finally, the board may hold a closed session, during which the CEO will also leave the room. During this session, the board will review the company's progress, address any concerns, and collect feedback on the CEO and the management team. This feedback will be shared with the CEO after the session.
Board meetings are typically held quarterly, usually after the end of each quarter in April, July, October, and January. However, you can adjust the schedule to fit your company's fiscal year calendar and the availability of your board members. Special board meetings can also be arranged in response to urgent or important topics that need to be discussed.
A typical board meeting lasts between 1 to 4 hours, depending on the number of topics to discuss and the current needs of the company. Early-stage companies with smaller boards typically meet for 1 to 2 hours, while growth-stage companies with larger boards usually meet for 3 to 4 hours.
Board meetings tend to be highly standardized, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. If you look at a typical board meeting format, routine updates are usually allotted the most time. This may be the case because business leaders feel pressure to prove how much work they’ve done over the last quarter. Or because board members habitually show up to meetings unprepared. Or simply because that’s “how it’s always been done.”
This practice is terribly inefficient and a huge waste of time. Your board members bring an impressive amount of experience and expertise to your company, but you can’t access that expertise through single-direction updates.
Key business updates should be communicated to the board asynchronously as they happen—not saved for the quarterly meeting. Meeting time, on the other hand, can become your opportunity to discuss high-impact business decisions with your most valuable advisors. You can, of course, allot a small amount of time for the most important updates, but keep this portion of the meeting to a minimum.
The majority of your meeting time should be spent digging into topics where you could benefit from feedback and input. Choose a few key areas to focus on and open them up to your board for discussion. Ideally, these topics should be specifically outlined in your agenda, so you have the necessary time to tackle them. Ask direct questions and give each of your board members the opportunity to weigh in.
To help make it clear that the session is a conversation, not a presentation, don’t use slides unless you absolutely have to. Slide presentations set the tone that people should sit and listen, not actively participate. You can present visual aids when they’re particularly useful, but in most cases, your board members will have all of the information they need in their board meeting materials.
Ultimately, the best board meetings look like collaborative working sessions. Everyone in the room should actively engage in conversation and work together to solve complex problems. At the end of the meeting, you should have a strategic plan of attack for any roadblocks and clear goals for the coming quarter.