Find out why a board meeting agenda is important, how to write one like a pro and fantastic tools to help you distribute and collaborate on it with board members. If you are a board secretary, you’ll find everything you need to know about this vital task in the guide below. Let’s begin!
The Importance of a Board Meeting Agenda
An effective board meeting agenda serves to create a smooth meeting flow. It helps the meeting begin and end when it should while ensuring there is enough time to discuss and vote on the most important topics. When combined with a skilled chairperson, a solid agenda increases the efficiency of the meeting, which is of huge benefit to the business.
An effective board meeting agenda provides all members with access to relevant research, background information and reports on all discussion points ahead of time. This removes the need to bring everyone up to speed in the actual meeting and allows all members to make the best informed decisions.
An agenda helps you prioritise the most important and urgent topics of discussion and should be on every meeting preparation checklist. Mark Suster, managing partner of Upfront Ventures, sees this as one of the most important benefits of a board meeting agenda, telling business magazine Inc.com,
“The agenda should be purposeful. Think to yourself about the goals of the day, what is important to you and how much time you want to allocate toward it. If you start with admin...and you then chew up 20 minutes with this – it's your own fault. I hate starting with unimportant stuff.”
Who Should Create the Meeting Agenda?
The agenda is a collaboration between the chairperson and the board secretary. The chair must make the decisions over the topics they want the board to discuss at the next meeting.
When shaping the agenda, the chair wields a great deal of power over the direction of conversation, which is important for the smooth running of the meeting. By working out how to frame the questions in the agenda and who to pose them to in which order, the chair can better control the meeting and prevent it from straying from the subjects at hand.
One of the chair’s roles is also to facilitate the board working together. By controlling the agenda, they can bring this to fruition more easily.
The board secretary and chair should sit down to plan the agenda together. Once the board chair has made their contributions and suggestions, the secretary’s job is to lay it out in a logical manner and distribute it to the board of directors.
What Should Be Included In A Board Meeting Agenda?
The board meeting agenda will differ from business to business, but here is a typical version:
- Basic Information
The header of the agenda needs to include the name of the business and its contact details, as well as the time, date and location of the board meeting.
- Call to Order
The first point in the agenda is the call to order to begin the meeting. Following the official start time, the chair can choose to address the board, read any mission statements the company may have. They can also use this time to make introductions.
- Changes to the Agenda
It could be that the chair provides the chance for members to adjust the agenda by adding or taking away points of discussion.
- Approval of Previous Minutes
Members have the chance to approve the meeting minutes from the previous meeting or to correct them. Once the secretary corrects any errors, the board approves them and moves on.
The Executive Director, Finance Director and committee heads give their reports for the board members.
- Business Items
The board discusses the items, with votes if necessary, as well as creating action points for individuals or committees.
If there are any special announcements, the chair can make them here.
- Any Other Business
If board members have any other business they would like to bring to the board, they can do so.
The chair brings the meeting to a close and details the date and time of the next meeting.
How To Write the Board Meeting Agenda
You should structure your board meeting agenda like a running order. The chair simply has to move down the list as each item ends. You might want to include a section for proposed timings for each item. In addition, you could add a box next to each item to contain the initials of anyone who needs to present information or reports relating to an item in the agenda.
Agenda Writing Tips
Work out the meeting goal and stick to it
Besides making decisions, there may be another goal of the meeting. Whatever that is, whether appointing new members, strategic planning, evaluating performance or anything else, keep it in mind when scheduling the tasks for the meeting. How can you best achieve the goal in the permitted time?
Don’t spare details in the agenda
It is important that the agenda isn’t too wordy, but, at the same time, details are important. Simply writing “energy policy” as a discussion point in the agenda does not give enough information to the board members who need to prepare for the meeting. Instead, noting down “options for meeting company renewable energy targets” is concise but gives members the detail they need to research.
Assign preparation tasks in advance
If you want to properly discuss topics like preparing budgets, status updates from departments, market research results and so on, you need to give the member in charge advance warning that they will need to present this detail. If you assign these tasks before the meeting, they can ensure they have the data at hand to present to the board, saving time as they rifle through papers or computer files.
Specify the time allotted to each item
You only have limited time in people’s schedules to run the board meeting and it is important you box off the priority topics. By specifying how long each item runs for, you keep the meeting on track, ensure it covers everything it needs to and keeps the discussion focused on what is important, rather than darting off at tangents.
Use digital tools
Board meeting software such as iBabs helps you create and get a digital agenda approved quickly and effectively. It allows you to distribute it directly to members’ devices. From there, they can have their say over items that should be added or removed. The agenda will sync to every member, ensuring everyone works with the latest version of the document at all times. Board meeting agenda software helps you save money printing and posting your agendas. iBabs, in particular, features a tool to designate tasks in advance or after the meeting and offers simple, easy to update templates.
Board Meeting Agenda Template and Samples
If you prefer using a text editor such as Word, here is a board meeting agenda template on which you can base your own:
To give you an idea of what a completed agenda looks like, here is a sample:
Distributing the Agenda
Distributing the agenda in advance of the meeting brings a number of benefits. It gives all of the members sufficient time to fully research all different topics of conversation. This allows the debate in the meeting to be better informed and that can only benefit your organization.
In addition, when every member has read up on the business at hand, they do not need to interrupt the meeting with questions. Hopefully, you cover all of their queries in the agenda and attached documents. This makes a more efficient and faster-moving meeting, giving more time to spend discussing the priorities.
Finally, when you distribute the board agenda early, members can send their adjustments ahead of time. They may spot an inaccuracy or have a better suggestion for an item of business. This collaborative approach hones and streamlines the agenda so the meeting can run without a hitch.
The company secretary can distribute the agenda with the board papers by post, email, fax or through board management software such as iBabs. The benefit of the software approach is that all of the very latest versions of documents, including the agenda, are available to pull up straight away. With other distribution methods, you have to send all of the updated items individually and hope that everyone uses the most recent draft. On the board meeting software, you simply adjust the document and it updates for everyone. Plus, your agenda is safe in the cloud. It can only be accessed by the authorized stakeholders.
What is the order of an agenda?
The order of an agenda is dependent on the most important tasks at hand. After the regular formal agenda items such as the call to order, approval of the previous minutes and committee reports, the board discusses a range of topics. To ensure the board discusses the priorities, they should feature towards the beginning of the order of an agenda.
Should you include meeting minutes in the agenda?
You should include the approval of the minutes from the last meeting in the agenda for the next board meeting. An agenda can also help you in taking meeting minutes as it acts as a memory aid for how the meeting flowed.
Should the agenda be approved?
You should have members approve the meeting agenda. This is made easier if you distribute the agenda prior to the meeting. In this case, all members of the executive team can suggest additions and deletions in advance, without spending valuable time on amendments once everyone is together.
Your board meeting agenda should be the chair’s guide through the meeting, allowing them to keep everyone on track. A well-written agenda is a collaborative effort that highlights the priorities and informs all members of the background to the topic they will discuss. Without an effective agenda, board meetings can stray off-topic and waste the valuable time that you have with all board members in attendance. For more effective meetings, ensure you spend time preparing your agenda.