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How to Nail Your Board Meeting
Posted on 31st August 2017 in Business
Written by Freya Hughes
As with social engagements, there are rules for running an effective meeting. Taking into consideration people’s travel will make the day go smoother for them, so perhaps don’t schedule a meeting on the other side of the country at 8am. Being respectful of people’s responsibilities and needs will start you off on the right foot for your meeting. Your board of directors play a crucial role in the management of your business, so don’t underestimate their importance. They can make or break your business, as their presence affects your access to resources, advice and cash.
One of the most important things an entrepreneur can do is learn to run a board meeting. The board members are there to provide you with feedback about how you’re running your company, and as these are experienced business heavyweights, their opinions are vitally important. Inc Magazine sat down with serial board member John Sculley, whose number one piece of advice is to not use a Powerpoint presentation: these people are more experienced than you are, so you’ll be wasting their time. Lead your meeting with the things that are important, and don’t mess around with visual aids as you’ll already have a captive audience. Just speak to them and ask for their opinions and advice. You’ll find this will set out a level of trust between you and them, which is ultimately what you need.
DO: Schedule meetings with plenty of time
Many members of your board are going to have investments or ties to other businesses, so will appreciate you respecting their busy diaries. To score favour with them, schedule meetings at the end of meet ups. Even if booking in a meeting a year in advance seems a bit much, it’s likely to really help some of the board members.
Planning ahead – and it doesn’t have to be a year, of course – is going to help you structure your work too. Say you’re about to rebrand or similar, and you want to update your board members on your progress, you can schedule its launch in plenty of time to start getting feedback from customers and peers. Time is money, as they say, so keep it in mind.
DO: Get your materials out to people in advance
There’s nothing worse than wasting time in a meeting. Especially if your meeting is with busy, professional people. If you, the CEO, can’t be bothered to prepare in advance, why should your investors and board members bother showing up at all? Even spending 10 minutes faffing about will tick at least one person off, so spend a day during the week prior and get everything you want to say prepared. Business Insider suggest getting the materials out at least three to four days prior to the meeting. Consider sending out a personalised email to each attendee, that way you’ll have broken the ice, can confirm plans, and show you’re taking your meeting seriously.
Your board members should already have on-demand access to the figures they need, presented in the way they want to see. Here at FUTRLI, our board want see the figures in different ways, so we have created bespoke dashboards to suit them. When it comes to your monthly board meeting, you’ll be able to bring up all of the latest figures instantly, saving a load of time and energy.
Use presentation mode to maintain the focus on the figures. A full screen view will keep distractions at bay, and you’ll find there are fewer deviations from the goal of the meeting. Dashboards are designed to provide a clear view of the performance of your business, surfacing the answers you and your board need quickly. The visual impact will also show how professional you are.
Sharing your figures in a real-time dashboard means board members can log in and check it all out when they have time. People are more receptive to information if they’ve had the chance to mull it over, so you’ll likely get better responses to ideas and questions.
DO: Let everyone speak
While it might feel like it’s up to you to do the talking in your board meeting, remember these people are there with you for a reason. Be it their creativity, experience, or investment, each and every one of them will have great ideas which will likely benefit your company. New ideas don’t form from the imagination of just one person; usually a collaborative effort will result in a creative and unique idea, so don’t try and make it all about yourself. Small Business Chronicle puts it simply: “without transparency the board will not have an idea of how to properly supervise the company’s operations and strategy.”
As is the norm in social situations, allowing the board members to get to know each other in a comfortable setting is going to lead to a more relaxed atmosphere. If everyone feels welcome and at ease, the meeting will run more efficiently.
DO: Try out unconventional methods
The Huffington Post wrote an interesting post a couple of years back that’s still relevant today. In it, they suggest a funny trick of keeping everyone engaged and entertained: they suggest removing the chairs in your meeting room. The author, Anna Almendrala, writes that people standing up were “likely to be more engaged and creative together than teams who sat at the table.” Those standing were also more likely to be collaborative, so it’s definitely worth considering. Read more about the study here.
DON’T: Be greedy with their time
Getting everyone together for a meeting during working hours is great. However, it may be tempting to woo your guests with a dinner and drinks. You must be conscious of the fact that while you might work late into the evening, these board members have probably had their time of doing such. They’re likely to have long days of meetings, and a family waiting for them at home, so try and keep the meeting to working hours if you can. When you’re first going at this, it would be nice to send them all invites to your launch or anniversary, but make sure that’s optional. Nobody likes being forced to socialise!
Be flexible. If there’s a long commute for board members, suggest a video call. The offer may not be taken up, but your consideration will present you in a positive light.
DON’T: Bore them with historical information
While planning your meeting you may feel inclined to include some of your data that shows high performance. Don’t do it: people are bored by information that won’t impact them or cannot be changed. Mentioning how you managed a great month of sales will be interesting, and you’ll probably get great suggestions on how to replicate that, but generally speaking keep it in the present and future.
You’ll really set yourself apart as an SME if you can bring up a forecast of your figures in the meeting. Not only will this show you’ve done your homework on what software and services will benefit their investment, it’ll save them pondering if you actually know what you’re doing or not. Forecasting will also enable you to show the areas of your business you’re looking to improve, and having the ability to identify and act on them will make you look like a determined and successful and, above all, worthy partner.
DON’T: Be disheartened afterwards
Sometimes the most productive and effective board meetings are the most brutal, writes board member extraordinaire, Penny Herscher, for Inc Magazine. If your board members are telling you the honest truth, your time and money is well spent. Pick yourself up, and start implementing those changes.