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How To Run Effective Board Meetings

Published: 29th Mar 18

Categories: Planning, Success

How To Run Effective Board Meetings

How To Run Effective Board Meetings

A board meeting can be a really productive and effective asset to any company. However, without planning and strategy, board meetings can be ineffective, lacking direction and not meet the purposes they are set up to achieve.

So how can board meetings be effective and meet a company’s requirements?

Make sure the board understand the information produced

When producing board reports, information needs to be clearly explained and broken down. Board members who are engaged and understand company data, competitors and processes are much more likely to be able to make informed decisions.

Board members need to be able to understand the processes a company goes through to make decisions, so they can support or divert these where necessary.

Managers need to be open and transparent about their decision making, and this will help them receive the insight and experience the board has to offer.

Set a joint agenda

An agenda should be a two-way process between the board and senior management. Issues discussed need to be around increasing efficiency and effectiveness, as well as key operational and strategic senior management issues.

Managers need to be sharing their concerns, the successes of the company, what management is reporting internally to help the board understand the state of the company day-to-day.

Strategic developments need to be discussed at an early point to allow the right decisions to be made.

Keep reporting methodology consistent

What board members see in reports needs to make sense on a rolling period. Reporting methodology should be kept the same, otherwise, the board can feel they are comparing apples with pears. The board can be concerned if reporting methodology changes meeting to meeting, as it can highlight problems.

Good practice is to share the management reports that managers use themselves to assess performance and undertake resource allocation. These reports mean that managers don’t have to produce additional reports, and allow for efficiency and a clear understanding between both board and senior management.

Give context behind the numbers

Knowing the finances and having financial statements are crucial, but without a commentary explaining them they aren’t effective. The statement gives the end result, but it doesn’t tell the board how management got to that point. It needs clear analysis so board members can spot trends, raise concerns and be assured.

When preparing financial information – using visual charts and graphs can help provide vital context to figures. Information needs to be clear and concise, but detailed enough to allow an informed and strategic conversation.

One example of doing this well is The Economist. The Economist offers carefully presented reports that present different sides of a complicated issues in an accessible way. The publication uses a well-written article, alongside graphs, charts and examples. This is how a board report on finance should look.

Digital board reporting

Moving forward, alongside the movement into digital for most other areas of business, boards would be at an advantage to move towards a digital approach.

Due to the length of time it takes to prepare board reports, financial statements and narrative, these are often prepared up to two months in advance, and by the time the board is seeing the data, it can be out of date. This is an issue particularly in fast-moving technological and finance industries and large global businesses.

Board members need to review information before the board meeting, so will have often read, analysed and digested information and then be presented with amendments or last-minute changes which is problematic.

There are now digital solutions for board papers. A digital portal that allows information to be inputted directly in an agreed format with up to date information gives a more accurate picture.

This allows the board to make more time-critical decisions and can avoid issues where a large company suddenly takes a dramatic downturn without board members being aware of all the facts.

Having a digital board portal allows the security of sensitive information. Board papers being lost will not be an issue. It also provides accurate up-to-date information on the key areas that the board needs to see.

Using an online board portal also allows a company to provide a consistent dashboard of information, which are identical to ones that senior managers use to measure key performance and resources. This gives great confidence in the information provided as well as reducing workload for senior managers. Win-win!


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