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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.

How to run an effective board meeting

As the CEO, you are responsible for making sure board meetings run smoothly. From keeping the group on task to managing and resolving conflict, following a few best practices can help you get the most out of each meeting.

1. Keep meetings structured

You are responsible for keeping meetings focused and on task. The best way to do this is to set a detailed and clear agenda ahead of time. Follow the agenda closely during your meeting and do your best to stick to the amount of time you allotted.

If a conversation is running long, consider whether it’s the best use of your time to continue it. You don’t want to spend too much time on a single topic, but you also don’t want to arbitrarily cut a productive discussion short. In some cases, it may be worth adjusting your agenda to allow for an unexpected, but fruitful conversation. Other times, you may need to politely redirect the group back to the task at hand. You can always pin a topic for later, add it to a future agenda, or follow up asynchronously.

2. Establish rules of engagement

Rules of engagement provide formal, shared expectations for how you expect your board to show up during meetings. While some things may seem obvious, the more direction you give, the less uncertainty you and your board will have to navigate.

You can include any guidelines you find useful in your board’s rules of engagement. Think about whether you want people to wait for scheduled breaks, or if it’s okay for them to excuse themselves whenever they need to. Are you comfortable with people using phones and laptops during meetings or should they keep them tucked away?

You should also consider how you plan to manage remote vs. in-person meetings. Remote board meetings are much more common than they used to be, but some people are still hesitant about this transition. Clear rules of engagement can help you make remote meetings just as engaging and productive as in-person ones. For example, you can ask meeting attendees to raise their hand when they have something to say, or prompt people to respond to questions in the chat box so everyone has an equal chance to weigh in.

🌟 Pro tip: If you choose to hold remote board meetings, you should consider scheduling at least one annual in-person meeting. Include dinner in the agenda and carve out dedicated social time. This will help you and your board members cultivate valuable relationships and take your board collaboration to the next level.

3. Discuss, don’t present

Most people default to presenting a slide deck during the meeting (usually the same slide deck they shared in the board materials before the meeting). But the most productive meetings prioritize discussion over presentation.

If you’ve shared all of the important information with your board before the meeting, they should already be prepared to discuss each topic. Rely on your meeting agenda and ditch slides altogether, or only use slides when visual references are truly necessary. This will encourage everyone in the meeting to focus on each other, instead of staring at a screen. Knowing you won’t go through slides during the meeting will also motivate your board members to show up prepared every time.

You can also verbally frame the meeting as a conversation by explicitly requesting feedback from your board members or asking follow up questions to their comments. In response, your board is more likely to be fully present and engaged throughout the meeting.

4. Differentiate between discussion and decision items

In any board meeting, you’ll have discussion items and decision items:

A discussion item is any topic you want to bring to your board for input or feedback

A decision item is a formal issue you want an official board decision on

It is extremely important to differentiate between the two. While your board will weigh in on discussion items, the CEO maintains final decision-making authority. Once you ask your board for a decision, you give your decision-making power to your board.

To avoid potential confusion over whether something is a discussion item or decision item, it can be helpful to explicitly separate these topics in your agenda. Clearly communicate when you’re just looking for input and when you want to bring something to a formal vote.

🌟 Pro tip: Consider front-loading decision items in your meeting agenda. You don’t want to run out of time before finalizing necessary decisions.

5. Take and organize meeting minutes

Minutes are a formal record of what took place during a board meeting, including motions, votes, and approvals. You are required by law to create minutes for any official board meeting.

Taking minutes while focusing on the current conversation can be difficult. Ideally, this is a task you should delegate. If you’ve appointed a board secretary, they are typically responsible for taking minutes. In some cases, in-house or external legal counsel may also take minutes.

Make sure you’re clear on how much detail you want recorded. Some topics (like voting issues) need to be recorded in more granular detail. More routine board activities and conversations should be noted, but don’t need extensive documentation.

To help keep minutes organized (and make it easier to record minutes during the meeting), it’s helpful to create a minutes outline based on your meeting agenda. You’ll also want to develop a system for organizing your minutes after each meeting. Everyone on your board should be able to access minutes, and you’ll need to compile them as part of the due diligence process when you’re fundraising or going through an acquisition process.

6. Resolve conflict swiftly

Disagreement among board members is healthy and, in most cases, you should be able to resolve disputes quickly.

But in some cases, disagreement can lead to outright conflict, which you will need to resolve in order to move forward productively. Continuous, open, and constructive discussion is the best way to work through these issues. Try to lead these conversations by making sure everyone has the opportunity to speak and be heard.

If an issue is lingering, there are two paths forward:


If resolution isn’t necessary to moving the meeting forward, put a pin in the conversation. You can address and resolve the issue privately outside of the meeting.


If a conflict is preventing you from moving forward, follow formal board procedures, resolve the issue with a vote, and move on.

Generally speaking, if board members are unable to resolve conflict through constructive dialogue, you have bigger issues to address. You may need to take a step back and evaluate your board dynamics. Consider how you can cultivate a more collaborative culture or establish rules to prevent future conflicts from arising.