Over three years ago, I wrote a lengthy post on how to run a great board meeting. And after having been at a few board meetings in the past couple of weeks, I was reminded again of one of the most important rules of running a great board meeting - be prepared and make sure there are no surprises for you and for the board members.
Here is an excerpt from that post:
1. Be prepared: Board meetings are like theater. Like any play, I expect the CEO to have a well thought out and scripted agenda for the meeting. The most efficient way to do so is to lay out an agenda and get feedback pre-meeting from the other board members to ensure that the board covers appropriate topics and allocates the right amount of time for each one. From an update and preparedness perspective, the CEO should always go into the meeting having a complete understanding of where the various board members stand in terms of any major decisions. There should be no surprises. This means that the CEO should have individual meetings and calls in advance of the board meeting to walk each director through any decisions that need to be made and the accompanying analyses behind them.
If all you do is follow this advice then I can guarantee you that your board meetings will run more smoothly. As for my point on board meeting being like theater, my thought here is that I really believe that much of the work between active board member and CEO happen behind the scenes and not at a board meeting. Regardless of your viewpoint, I suggest leaving ample time for pure discussion. The best board meetings that I have attended are loaded with discussion on various key strategic issues and the worst are ones where we are expected to view powerpoint slide after powerpoint slide for simple updates. If you are interested in hearing more about my thoughts on board meetings, I suggest reading my earlier post.