Ditch the Boring—5 Tips for Running an Effective Board Meeting

It’s time to take back what should be the time to take action. But instead, we’ve all been sitting through board meetings trying to weed through the mess, and ultimately end up accomplishing little.

You all know what we’re talking about. Moments tick by as you’re watching the clock, wondering when the meeting will finally end.

But it’s time to stop dreading board meetings. Use these tips to help run an effective board meeting and get back on track toward achieving your mission.

Set a (Fun) Agenda

Yes, the words ‘agenda’ and ‘fun’ were both used in the same headline. Crazy, isn’t it? It almost doesn’t seem possible. But adding a little fun into the mix of your agenda could be just what your organization needs. (With an emphasis on agenda because you need that, but we’ll get there.)

You might’ve been skipping ‘fun’ because it seems like a waste of time. But it doesn’t have to be. Instead, it can be a team building exercise. Take this opportunity to find out things about each other that you didn’t know before. Even if it’s only for 10 minutes at the beginning of your meeting. Sure, it takes time. But it’ll pay off more in the long run.

Do activities that require people to share more about themselves. It’ll bring you closer together. Instead of just a group of people who have one thing in common (caring about the organization), you’ll be surprised to learn about other passions that people have. You might even have something else in common that you didn’t know about before.

And now, like promised, let’s get to that agenda part. If you don’t already have an agenda, that’s probably a big part of the reason why you’re not feeling like your board meetings are running effectively. Structure shouldn’t be optional, but too often we allow it to take a back seat.

And we’re not talking about asking what needs to be discussed at the beginning of the meeting. That’ll only take up more time and leave your meeting lagging. Plan what you’ll talk about at least a week in advance and add any last minute items as necessary.

Make Preparedness Mandatory

Since the agenda has been set, there’s no excuse for silence when it comes time to discuss that week’s issues. Make sure the board members know what’s expected of them. Then follow through with enforcing the rules.

Also, make sure you’re not relying on the same people every week to provide thought and insight. Each board member should feel valued for their input. Just because a member doesn’t offer their input doesn’t mean they don’t have an opinion. They might simply not feel comfortable sharing unless asked. Getting them out of their comfort zone is necessary for board cohesion.

Require Individual Meetings

Sometimes it can be difficult to really know how a person is feeling when they’re in a group setting. Which is why you shouldn’t underestimate the power of one-on-one time. It’s a time to really gauge how your board members are feeling and to find out if they’re the right fit for a certain role.

When board members hide their unhappiness with their role or hold in feelings about a certain decision, it can end up escalating into something much bigger than necessary. Individual meetings can help deflect those situations before they escalate.

Check Technology at the Door

I know what you’re thinking. At the Hub, we’re usually all on board with embracing technology. But this is one place that you should check technology at the door. Phones buzzing with text messages or email are an easy distraction for anyone (even those that think they’re good multi-taskers).

So make it a rule that phones are turned on silent and put away. Don’t allow other laptops to be used, unless you’re using one to project the agenda or do other exercises. We’re all adults, but even the most responsible can fall into the social media trap if a laptop is open. If you haven’t already, make it mandatory that technology gets checked at the door. Unless of course, it’s vital to your organization’s mission. Or, unless the secretary is taking notes on the meeting.

Keep Detailed Notes of Meetings

It all sounds great. That is, until you get out the door and completely forget everything that happened in the meeting. Make note of the key decisions that are made (yes, even if they’re unanimous).

You never know when you’ll need to come back to that decision and see why a decision was made a particular way. With the turnover rate on board members, you never know when you’ll need to revisit the decisions and find why something was decided on a certain way.

What has your organization done to ensure that board meetings run more efficiently and effectively?


Lyndsey Hrabik

Lyndsey is a former editor for Nonprofit Hub and Nonprofit Hub Magazine. She now serves as a guest contributor, writing on topics such as social media, technology, marketing and starting a nonprofit.

March 10, 2014

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