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The Right (and Wrong) Way to Run a Board Meeting

Board meetings are an extremely valuable, strategic activity for your business — but only if done right.

The Right (and Wrong) Way to Run a Board Meeting

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Or so the saying goes. Too often, however, organizations get stuck doing things the same way they’ve always been done.

In some cases, this lack of creativity really holds them back.

Why does this happen? Two common reasons are:

  1. Familiar patterns don’t attract attention
  2. People hesitate to challenge formal processes

Unfortunately, board meetings tend to fall under both of these categories. Both familiar and formal, many board directors show up to these meetings, go through the motions, and call it a day.

Maybe you’re looking for the right way to run a board meeting because your current method isn’t working. Or perhaps you’re simply new to board meetings and want to start off on the right foot.

Either way, you’re in the right place.

Board Meetings Have Evolved

Historically, board meetings have been built around Robert’s Rules of Order. That agenda structure looks something like this:

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Approval of Minutes
  • Officer’s Reports
  • Other Reports
  • Motions
  • Announcements
  • Adjournment

Robert’s Rules of Order is a great starting place for building effective board meeting agendas and practices. However, using the rules can sometimes feel stiff and overly formal. That’s probably because they were written over 100 years ago!

As business models and organizational structures evolve, so too should the way directors run their meetings. Holding on to traditional agendas may be the right move for traditional companies. Modern and innovative companies, however, may be better served by a more creative approach to meetings.

Today, many organizations put their own spin on the standard board meeting agenda. The rise in virtual meetings had only increased this trend. It’s important to consider which meeting traditions help your organization and which hold you back.

The best board meeting structure will depend on your organization’s unique needs, goals, and directors. Check out our answers to the common questions below to narrow down what works best for your company.

What happens at a board meeting?

Common Questions About Board Meetings

Professionals who are new to board meetings often have many questions. Knowing what to expect and how to plan a meeting puts nerves at ease. To that end, here are some answers to frequently asked questions.

What is the purpose of a board meeting?

The purpose of a board meeting is to gather an organization’s board directors together to discuss company-wide issues. This can include things like:

  • business strategy
  • company trajectory
  • overall performance review
  • new policies

...and more.

Board meetings tend to happen on a regular schedule. For example, they may occur quarterly or biannually. Because these meetings tend to happen less frequently and are a rare opportunity to have all board directors in the same room, it’s important to manage meeting time well.

Ultimately, you want everyone to walk away from a board meeting with a clear understanding of where the organization stands, where it’s going, and what each attendee is expected to contribute to that journey.

What do you say to open a board meeting?

To open a board meeting, the chair needs to call the meeting to order. A traditional script for this is:

“Good morning (or afternoon), everyone. It’s ____(time) on _____(day, month, year), and I’d like to call this meeting to order.”

You can adjust this script as needed for a less formal feel. The important parts are the greeting, time and date, and making it clear that you’re opening the meeting. For example, you might try:

“Afternoon everyone! Thanks for being here. We’re right on schedule to start this meeting, so let’s go ahead and dive in.”

Even though this less formal version doesn’t explicitly state the time and date, it’s implied by “right on schedule”. If the meeting is starting late, simply say that instead. The recorder or note-taker should include the time and date in the meeting minutes.

After opening a board meeting, the chair can quickly address housekeeping items, share inspiring stories or data, welcome visitors and new members, and acknowledge changes like retiring members of the board.

Free, 15-minute guide to shorter, fewer, better meetings.

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—Nick Valuri, Zapier
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What should be included in board meeting minutes?

Besides the time and date, there are many important things to include in board meeting minutes. This includes:

  • type of meeting
  • meeting location
  • list of attendees
  • nonvoting participants (if present)
  • reasons for presence of nonvoting participants
  • motions, seconds, and whether a motion passes
  • time of call to order and adjournment

Meeting minutes serve as a record of what happened in the meeting. They also capture action items and agreed-upon goals. For some organizations, keeping meeting minutes is even required by law.

Thorough meeting minutes make it easy to share information to non-attendees and hold board directors accountable. To ensure you record good minutes, use your board meeting’s agenda as a template. This will make it easy to organize minutes for future reference.

Minutes should include every agenda item that gets addressed. This means details on motions, voting, presentations, and action items. Record all this in an objective voice, with focus on important details.

Check out our piece on how to write meeting minutes for more information. It even comes with free templates!

Nail Board Meetings With an App Built for Meeting Notes

Running great board meetings requires juggling many parts. From opening to adjournment, and the agenda to meeting minutes, it’s helpful to use tools that bring everything together.

With free board meeting agenda templates and a notes app that makes minute-taking a breeze, Hugo is designed to keep meetings on-task and efficient.
Linked to your calendar for easy access, our software organizes notes, agendas, and tasks based on attendees and type of meeting. Try it for free to see how Hugo can help you run your board meetings right.

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