Running a board meeting can be demanding. Whether you are the board chair trying to keep the meeting on schedule and draw in disengaged directors, or the board administrator consumed with the responsibility of creating board books, board meetings involve many carefully managed parts. This guide simplifies the process of wrapping up a successful board meeting by breaking it down into 4 helpful steps.
Most boards follow The Robert’s Rules motion for adjourning a meeting. It’s simple but to the point: “I declare the meeting adjourned.”
How do you know it’s the right time to adjourn? The clock and the agenda will tell you. You’ll either have covered all the topics on the agenda, or hit the end of the scheduled time for the meeting. Both should happen at the same time – for tips on that, read on.
Just before closing the meeting, the chair may ask board members if there’s any more business to discuss. If directors raise a topic, the chair has the choice to discuss it immediately or state it will be added to the next meeting’s agenda. Then, the chair can declare the meeting adjourned.
Wait! But what if the boardroom is on fire and everyone has to evacuate? In special circumstances where it’s not wise to proceed with the meeting, a board member can chime in: “I move to adjourn and to meet again tomorrow at 8 a.m.” Or, suggest adjourning to reconvene at a time to be chosen in the future.
The most appreciated board chairs run meetings that get through the topics on the agenda in the time reserved. Ask any board chair how to end a board meeting well and they’ll answer: “do it on schedule!” They’ll also tell you that it’s not always easy to do so.
Here are 4 steps to guide productive board meetings and how to close a board meeting on schedule.
Board meeting agendas include the meeting start and end time. The trick is to plan how to split that time appropriately for topics on the agenda and for productive use of the board’s time.
It’s a common trap to use board meeting time to present information. Instead, share board materials in advance of the meetings to be pre-reviewed by board members, and then the meeting focus can be on debate and decisions, not review.
Expect forming the agenda to take some time, so start this process a few weeks before the agenda needs to be circulated. The board chair should ask committee leads and executives if they require time on the agenda for key topics in addition to any regulated topics like financial review. Develop a draft agenda – and give it a reality check. Add up the requested time for each agenda item and see if it fits the meeting schedule. Validate that the schedule will give some air time to all the board members likely to attend.
It’s common that a first draft agenda will exceed the time available. Identify which topics really must be addressed and push others to committee work or later agendas. Tuning the agenda until the timing and topics both work is the cornerstone of the board meeting preparation checklist.
The board meeting agenda is the chair’s roadmap for how to guide the meeting, while allowing appropriate focus on different topics. An effective chairperson leads the meeting in a manner that is firm and fair and ensures board members know their role and how to contribute effectively.
The board chair needs to expertly steer discussion to be productive and time efficient. This is where great board chairs shine! They know how to facilitate discussion, draw each board member in at some point, and gently and respectfully avoid giving too much air time to any one director, or on a conversation that repeats comments already tabled. As boards attract diverse members and strive for inclusion, chairs need to become even more skilled at engaging board members.
What if a topic proves a “hot topic”? If the board chair observes that the time planned to cover a topic really isn’t adequate, she can make the call to table further discussion to the next meeting or ask board members to motion to move other agenda items to a later date. Remember, the board chair’s focus should remain on how to close the board meeting on time.
On board director evaluation surveys, a common complaint is that they aren’t given what they need to prepare well for board meetings. Either board meeting materials arrive late, or they’re delivered in a manner that’s difficult to absorb.
Depending on your bylaws, send out the board materials to directors at least a week in advance of each meeting so that they have sufficient time to review and compile questions or form an informed perspective on a decision. The board package should include the finalized agenda, financial and/or management reports, committee reports, prior meeting minutes, and any other relevant information.
From the board agenda or in a chair summary one pager, make it clear which decisions need to be made at the board meeting and the meeting’s focus.
We mentioned earlier that directors expect to receive board meeting materials in a way that’s easy to absorb. The chair and the board administrator have an obligation to make preparation convenient if they wish for board members to arrive at meetings prepared and engaged.
In our modern world, supporting efficient board meeting preparation generally requires that board materials are easy to access online and on mobile devices – all while protecting data security. Most directors today also expect to be able to search rapidly for information in past meeting minutes or materials and to mark up board documents with their own annotated notes, or annotations they wish to share. Some also expect to do board evaluations and vote on resolutions online.
If you are a board struggling to have directors arrive at board meetings prepared, you need to consider if the lack of technology is playing a role.
Wrapping up on schedule is one part of a well-run board meeting. When we ask board members how to close a board meeting with all members feeling united, we hear two more things are also required: a sense of valued contribution and accountability to carry out commitments.
The non-profit governance advisor Joan Garry advises board chairs to express sincere thanks to directors at the wrap of every meeting and in a follow up email the next day.
Some chairs include a few minutes on the agenda to tie the board’s work back to the organization’s goals. That’s easy when decisions on strategic investments, leadership hires, or new projects were made in the meeting. If the meeting was more administrative, chairs can always highlight some recent organization accomplishments and thank the board for their contributions which made those achievements possible.
It’s also important to enforce organizational and director accountability. At the bottom of meeting minutes, note the commitments to actions made by leadership and directors. Keep track of the list and have the board chair hold directors accountable.
There is only so much time in the day. Boards looking to level up their board meetings often need to find more time to focus on developing a great agenda, chairing great meetings, and engaging directors. Board portal software helps to provide that time by helping board administrators, board chairs, and executives save hours on preparing board meeting materials and communicating with board directors.
Aprio board portal software is purpose built to support well-run board meetings and efficient board meeting preparation. Features include an at-a-glance dashboard view of meeting dates and committee activities, a centralized and secure places to access board information, and easy online access to board agendas and meeting documents from multiple devices.
Aprio’s features are convenient and easy to use, and play an important role in driving board engagement and closing meetings on time. Let us give you a tour.
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