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.