Startups · Venture capital

What's the best process for running board meetings?

Lucas Jaz

June 4th, 2015

Been in on board meetings before but I'd love to hear best practices for running board meetings - agendas, staying on track and also do you prep board members (and how much) before a board meeting. Feels like this should be done and not a lot of new information is actually given at the board meeting. Also, how to do deal with overly talkative/disruptive board members not adding to the agenda.

Mamie Stewart Founder & CEO at Meeteor, Speaker, Change-maker

June 5th, 2015

Great suggestions so far. Just a few other things to add:
  • Remember that most board members aren't as close to your company as you are so you'll need to bring them back "in to the room" - you may want to provide a summary of whats happened since the last board meeting to remind them of where you left off and key changes (in the company and market). This can also help reduce the reviewing and circling back conversations that often happen when people dont remember prior meetings.
  • Be clear about what you need from the board meeting - approval, strategic help, keeping board members informed and engaged, etc. 
  • When you create your agenda, figure out how much time you want to allocate to each topic and what materials (as pre-reading or in-meeting) you'll need so that you'll be totally prepared. 
  • Send pre-reading materials in advance AND include directions - what do you want them to do with this information - is it context for an upcoming conversation? Are there specific questions they can start thinking about in advance? Is it simply an update with no action needed? Should they skim it or really read and analyze it?
  • Establish norms/guidelines for behavior at the beginning of the meeting. You can say things like: Our time together is limited and we've got a lot to cover, so I'l like to suggest we use the following guidelines to help us have a productive meeting. (Then offer a list of behaviors - message me if you want some specific norms. I've got a long list.)
  • Use a visible Parking Lot or Back-burner to capture off-agenda ideas or table conversations for later. When people visibly see that their idea is being captured, they feel more acknowledged and comfortable moving on, believing it will be addressed in the future. (You can do this on a google doc if you're meeting virtually.) It works better than just noting it in your personal notes. (Using a parking lot can be one of your norms which you can later refer to - "I'd like to suggest we follow our norm and table this conversation for a follow up meeting since its not on the agenda and its not critical to moving forward.")
  • Do a check in and check out at the beginning and end of the meeting. Taking 5 minutes when you start to just ask everyone whats on their mind can help people put aside their distractions and also enable them to use their voice and raise any burning issues. At the end, a check out can help the meeting come to a purposeful close - again, asking everyone if there is anything they want to add on any topic before the meeting adjourns will enable people to raise any unfinished business. 

Jennifer Hinkel Biotech and Pharma Industry Analytics and Strategy

June 4th, 2015

Agenda should be developed 3 to 6 weeks prior. Keep agenda very high level/not a lot of detail. You should have individual conversations with each board member about each aspect of agenda 1 to 2 weeks prior to meeting with these goals: answer questions/shore up your information and make sure you will have things on hand if needed to respond to questions, identify anyone who is not going to "go with the flow" and who may disagree or disrupt so that you can manage that prior to the meeting, and to determine how certain things will go if there is a vote, if anyone feels something is left off agenda, etc. Correct that you should not be delivering any new information at a board meeting. If you have a talkative or disruptive board member (first, why is that person on the board??) that you must deal with, the best way is to make sure that they are being heard/acknowledged. So maybe you need to spend even more extra time with this person prior to the meeting to make sure his/her concerns are being heard. In the meeting, make sure to acknowledge, and then don't be afraid to say "Larry, thanks, we've heard that point from you and I've noted it down, and in the interest of time, can we move to the next part of the agenda? We'll make sure that your question is addressed." Most of the time when people "hijack" a meeting, it's because they feel that it's not being run efficiently and that they aren't being heard, so make sure that you cover that.

Andrew Lockley Investments & consulting for tech startups

June 5th, 2015

Send papers in advance Crowdsource agenda and key points If people don't add value, warn then remove them.