There are many skills a successful chair has to develop to make sure everything runs smoothly, including how to close a board meeting. Knowing when to adjourn the meeting and how to ensure directors have covered all important agenda items is an art on its own. Board members certainly don’t want the meeting to continue for too long but they may digress. It’s the chair’s responsibility to help them stay focused on the order of business and perform their vital tasks.
This article explains the reasons why the meeting might come to an end, the steps to take to close proceedings and the words that chairs most often use to complete the meeting. Keep reading to discover all of this and more about running productive board meetings.
Who is in Charge of Closing the Board Meeting?
It is the chair’s responsibility to both open and close the board meeting. The chair’s job is to steward the entire event, from welcoming directors, through the various agenda items and, finally, to the adjournment.
There may be certain circumstances in which the chair or another director may move to adjourn the meeting early. This could be due to an emergency situation, a disruptive member, a medical problem or some other reason that means it is not advisable to continue. However, this only works in certain situations, depending on your meeting procedures.
For example, if you’re using Robert’s Rules of Order, the chair or a director can move to close the meeting but only if there is imminent danger. Where there is no threat to life, there must be a second for the motion and the board must vote unanimously to adjourn with no debate. Only if there is a risk to life, the board chair can make the call unilaterally.
Reasons Why a Meeting Comes to an End
There are two main reasons why a board meeting comes to an end:
1. You have covered all the items on the agenda
The meeting may finish once the board has discussed and voted on all the scheduled items, received the financial reports and committee reports and considered motions and recommendations. There is an opportunity for any other business at the end of the meeting and once the chair has dealt with any input from this – either allowing a debate or promising to add it to the next meeting agenda – they can adjourn the board meeting.
2. You have run out of time
Board members have busy lives, often including an additional full-time job and other board postings, so their time is precious. When you set a duration for a board meeting it is only right to stick to those timings. Not only is it a sign of respect for the board’s time, but it prevents the meeting from dragging on for too long and risking the board disengaging with the matters at hand.
Ideally, these two reasons for ending a meeting should coincide. An effective chair will know how to build an agenda that fits the required timeframe and can steer the conversation to keep the momentum going so that it finishes when it should.
But there is also another reason why you might have to end a meeting:
3. You cannot establish a quorum
If this is mandated by national law or forms part of the company's articles of association and bylaws, you may be required to adjourn the meeting when there is no quorum. For example, in the UK, if you cannot command the required quorum, you must close the meeting and reschedule for another day.
Step-by-step: Ending a Board Meeting
- Discuss the final item on the order of business.
- Ask if there is any other business.
- If yes, choose whether to discuss it now or add it to the agenda of the next meeting. This will often depend on the available time.
- Make any closing remarks, tie up resolutions and ensure everyone knows what has been decided and what needs to happen before the next board meeting.
- Bring the meeting to a formal close.
What Do You Say When Adjourning a Meeting (Examples)
The chair must declare the meeting closed for it to officially finish. They can do so by using a number of different phrases. Here are some examples of how to adjourn a meeting:
- “I declare the meeting adjourned.”
- I move to adjourn the meeting and, hearing no objection, I declare the meeting adjourned.”
- “The meeting is adjourned at [TIME].”
- “If there is no objection, we will now adjourn the meeting. Hearing no objection, this meeting is now adjourned.”
- “There being no further business to come before the board, the meeting is adjourned.”
Robert’s Rules for Adjourning a Meeting
According to the protocol from Robert’s Rules of Order, the chair can adjourn a meeting without a motion if the time limit is met or if the agenda is complete. In addition, there does not need to be a motion to adjourn if there is imminent danger to the attendees.
You do need a motion to adjourn in other circumstances, each needing a unanimous vote to pass. There are three different types:
|Form of motion
|What it Involves
|Privileged motion (meaning it can happen when there is still business to discuss). A member of the board simply needs to say “I move to adjourn”. If the board adopts the motion the chair ends the meeting.
|Adjourn to Continue Later
|Not a privileged motion, so must wait until other business is complete. The member moves to adjourn the meeting until a specific time when the meeting will continue from where it left off.
|Adjourn Sine Die (Without a Day)
|Not a privileged motion, so must wait until other business is complete. The member moves to adjourn the meeting indefinitely. Often used for the final sitting of a body.
Tips to End a Meeting Well
By putting time and effort into planning the agenda for the meeting, you can help it run to time. And your execs will appreciate this. A survey of chairs by INSEAD, a private university, found that discussing between five and eight agenda items proved most effective in engaging directors and keeping a meeting on track.
Ensure everyone is fully briefed
Another step to ending a meeting well is to put in the groundwork beforehand. Ensure the board pack and other briefing notes are clear and easy to digest. When directors can fully research topics beforehand, you can devote more time to discussion and less time to answering questions that should have been covered in the board pack. Send this with the notice of the meeting to give ample time for digesting the details.
Show strong leadership
The chairman of the board of directors must keep the meeting moving, whilst also allowing everyone who wants to have their say the chance to talk. The role requires the chair to be constantly aware of what is yet to come and how much time each topic needs to do it justice. If an agenda item provokes more debate than originally thought, the chair can choose to pause the discussion and devote more time to it at the next meeting in order to keep the meeting going and to produce effective results.
Resolve conflicts and end on a positive note
A united board is a more effective board. That doesn’t mean that there cannot be disagreements, but, after the debate, it is important that all members get behind the decisions the directors of the company make. If there has been significant conflict, it is for the chair to find the common ground between executives and to promote the work that the board does towards securing the future of the business.
Ask for feedback
At the end of the meeting, you could ask for feedback from the board that will feed into how you plan for the next meeting. This emboldens directors and shows that they can shape the way the meetings work in the future. There may be some great nuggets of advice that could make things more efficient in the future for the decision making process. This is in the best interest of the company.
Who has the power to adjourn a meeting?
Only the chair can officially adjourn the meeting. However, members can propose and second a motion to adjourn. After a unanimous vote, there is an obligation for the meeting to be adjourned, but it must be the chair that does so.
The question of how to close a board meeting isn’t solely about the act of bringing it to a close. It is about putting in the preparation to ensure that a meeting finishes on time, having covered all the necessary topics and with the board united and hungry to do their best by the business.
A chair must be positive, firm, fair and in control at all times, which is difficult to achieve, but worth working on in order to be the best chair you can be. If you’re looking to make your board meetings more effective, try iBabs’ board portal software. It will help you collaborate, engage and prepare all members thoroughly for directors meetings, sending details straight to their devices.