Recently this question has come into even sharper focus. Boards have been required to help deal with the fallout from an unprecedented global pandemic. Multiple other issues have followed – including the need for rapid digital transformation, related cyber security risks, the impact of hybrid working, soaring business costs and managing ever-increasing geopolitical and economic volatility.
So what’s the best way to organise those critical meetings in fast-changing times? How do you ensure that boards are in the best possible position to provide the support these challenges demand?
Here’s our quick guide on how to organise board meetings efficiently and make sure that meetings deliver maximum return for time invested. We will cover:
- How many board meetings are required in a year
- How to prepare an agenda for a board meeting
- Tips on how to structure board meetings
- How to record the minutes of a board meeting
- Using board portal software (sometimes known as board management software) for managing board meetings
How many board meetings are required in a year?
There is no universal stipulation for how many board meetings are required in a year. There is no statutory requirement for private limited companies in the UK to hold board meetings. The same is true for countries like Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. In practice, meetings are usually held at least annually, and often in connection with annual shareholder meetings.
Current challenges dictate that board meetings should be held more regularly though, ideally every month to review the previous month’s financial results, provide strategic support and identify actions to be addressed before the next meeting. Boards also need to be flexible depending on prevailing conditions.
How to prepare an agenda for a board meeting
To keep meetings focused and on track, board meeting agendas should typically be structured as follows:
The heading for your board meeting agenda should include the name and address of the organisation and the date, time and location of the meeting. If the meeting is online the heading should also include links for joining.
Call to order
This is the formal point when the chair announces that it is time to deal with the items on the agenda (otherwise known as ‘orders’).
Changes to / approval of the agenda
The chair asks directors present for any changes needed in the agenda before moving forward – this can include deleting orders or agenda items no longer seen as relevant.
Approval of minutes
The chair asks members of the board if they have any corrections or amendments to the previous minutes.
The executive management including the CEO and CFO (and sometimes specialist committees) provide reports and updates on strategic direction, new initiatives, the latest financials and emerging trends or threats.
The board revisits ‘open’ items that have been discussed at previous meetings that have not yet been resolved and still require sign-off and approval.
The chair, directors or executive team introduce new items of business for consideration which will require discussion and assignment of responsibility for further development and decision-making.
The chair thanks the board, relays the time and date of the next meeting and announces that the meeting is formally adjourned.
In current times, with the pace of business change moving so fast, the most important board meeting agenda points are the sections for changes to the agenda, revising of ‘open’ issues and introduction of new items of business. When you’re thinking about how to prepare an agenda for a board meeting, these points should be allocated sufficient time to ensure that new challenges are captured, reviewed and recorded.
Tips on how to structure board meetings
As well as creating a well-organised board meeting agenda, it is important to add certain elements before, during and after the meeting in order to maximise efficiency. Tips for best practice here include:
- Share your board meeting agenda well in advance of the meeting – so members have time to prepare and come to meetings with potential resolution or pertinent amendments.
- Use board governance signature software (also known as e-signature software) to facilitate sign-off on previous minutes – so members can save time by reviewing and signing-off minutes remotely and securely before and after meetings.
- Allot time to each board meeting agenda point – so you can prioritise the most important points and minimise time spent on routine items that require little evaluation.
- Assign tasks in advance – so any board member or executive management required to report on a particular issue can do their research and preparation well before the meeting.
- Make your board meeting agenda action-orientated – with a clear method for recording actions completed and assigning new actions.
How to record the minutes of a board meeting
When you are considering how to record minutes of a meeting, it’s important to remember that Board meeting minutes don’t need to be a verbatim transcript. However, they are a legally binding document that should include the following elements as a minimum:
How to record minutes of a meeting:
- The meeting location, date and precise time the chair called it to order
- Who attended the meeting and which members were absent
- The outcome of each motion, including who proposed it, who seconded it and how each member voted
- Action items and next steps required to reach resolution
- The date and time of the next meeting
- The exact time the chair declared the meeting adjourned
To aid board members reviewing minutes, it’s also important to make sure that minutes are written clearly, succinctly and include a rationale for each action or motion made.
Following the meeting, minutes need to be signed by both the company secretary and chair. They also need to be sent securely to each member as soon as possible – including those that weren’t present. Given that minutes are a legal document that can subsequently be presented in court, you also need to ensure that minutes are stored securely with watertight provision for backup.
Board portal software for managing board meetings
For the most part, boards across the world have adapted in the last few years by moving on from manual paper-based processes and adopting digital ways of working aligned with virtual meetings. In some cases though this has involved using a makeshift set up of popular collaboration tools like Teams or Zoom and productivity suites from Microsoft or Google. However, there are great advantages to using specialist dedicated board management software that is designed to facilitate the process. These advantages include:
- Faster and more efficient methods of creating agendas with the portal
- Secure communication channel for sending the agenda and any relevant supporting reports
- A simple way to create minutes and assign actions within the portal
- Secure board governance signature software (or e-signature software) for remote sign-off on decisions and minutes
Dedicated board portal software (also known as board management software) enables directors to work more effectively between meetings and in the meeting follow-up period by accessing confidential company information, anywhere. They can also communicate securely with other directors at any time via a ringfenced communication channel. If directors sit on multiple boards, they can also save time accessing all the information they need via the same portal using different secure logins.
Ultimately, this helps boards prepare for meetings more thoroughly, accelerate their time-to-decision and make the best possible use of their time in meetings. All of which are vital factors in a fast-changing business environment that is requiring boards to be more agile and focused than we’ve ever seen before.
- How board portals can help maximise the efficiency of board work
- The advantages of board portals for secretaries
- The benefits of board portals for the C-Suite
- Tips on creating a perfect collective working relationship
- Checklists that will enable you to evaluate the way your organisation uses board technology