Running an effective board meeting is at the heart of many businesses and organizations. In a board meeting, an organization’s board of directors meets to discuss policies, issues, performance and strategies within the organization. Board meetings are critical for business leaders to reach decisions, solicit feedback, and evaluate their processes. But, for how important these meetings are, there are a large number of businesses that can improve their board meeting process – and part of this is how infrequently these meetings are held. 

Effective Tips for Running Board Meetings

Of course, running an effective boarding meeting involves doing things like taking meeting notes and tracking action items, but the real success comes from what takes place in a meeting room. Presenting information to show board members, and having quality conversations will fuel decisions, action items, and the overall direction of the organization. 

Joan Garry, Principal of Joan Garry Consulting and Founder of the Nonprofit Leadership Lab 

For your next board meeting, here are a few ways to improve the meeting process, with insight from Joan Garry, Principal of Joan Garry Consulting and Founder of the Nonprofit Leadership Lab (follow her Instagram, @joangarryconsulting). Pre-order her new book here.

Have a clear agenda

One of the secrets to a successful board meeting is a clear, concise agenda. The agenda is the guide for what will be discussed in a meeting. Many meetings that fail have problems with their agendas. A few agenda pitfalls are:

  • Being too detailed 
  • Not being detail enough 
  • Full of events to be adequately covered in the allotted amount of time
  • Written poorly and in a way that can be interpreted differently by multiple people in the room

In order to avoid these pitfalls, stakeholders should play a role in crafting the agenda.

For the most important meetings, they should even consider a dress rehearsal of all of the meeting’s events to make sure that critical points fit within the prescribed time of the meeting. Agendas must always make sure to keep the meeting within the period of time established within the organization’s schedule. Employers and executives are incredibly busy individuals who do not want to wait longer because meeting leaders do not know how to craft a schedule or how to write minutes for a board meeting.

Joans Tips on Creating an Agenda:

  1. Schedule a debrief meeting 5 days before the board meeting happens.
  2. During the debrief meeting, review agenda items from the last meeting and share information from board members about the meeting.
  3. Send an email that includes the agenda items determined to discuss during the meeting.

Take minutes

Minutes are another essential part of a meeting. The minutes are the record of the meeting that is usually taken in either longhand or shorthand by one of the members present. Sometimes, an individual will record the meeting and transcribe the proceedings later. Meeting minutes are helpful for recording the progress of any business that is not concluded during the meeting. Minutes are the record of all events that transpired at the meeting. They can be used for employee evaluations and to hammer out the details of what agreements were reached at the meeting. In addition, the minutes can be used to improve meetings in the future. They can be a tool for improving the nature of meetings at an organization

The meeting minutes process can be greatly aided by a clear plan. Meeting leaders should draw up a board meeting minutes template and study a wide variety of board meeting minutes examples. They should closely study sample board meeting minutes as well. Study and planning can help craft a board meeting minutes template and a strategy for taking minutes that is greatly helpful to the organization’s meetings.

Joan’s Tips on Taking Meetings Minutes:

  1. Have a plan to capture meeting notes and record meeting action items. Assign this task to a colleague or secretary as the person to take board meeting notes.
  2. After every meeting, the board chair and CEO should summarize the discussion and agree on the next steps from the meeting.

Ensure participation

Along with an agenda and the use of sample board meeting minutes, the third important way to optimize the usage of meetings at organizations is to utilize participation throughout the board and the attendees. In unstructured meetings, there is always a system that emerges. Some individuals are bolder, speak more, and often interrupt their colleagues. Other individuals become wallflowers and fail to speak up in order to make their points. This dynamic sometimes causes problems and leads to interminable monologues and aggressive behavior by certain people in the organization. The best way to solve this is by actively intervening in the meeting in order to ensure equitable participation.

Joan’s Tips on Meeting Participation & Engagement:

Here are some creative ideas for engagement and participation during board meetings:

  • Put on a show for the board members – instead of the dry approach, think of board meetings as an opportunity to put on a show.
  • Consider showing a video of the organization in action – have board members experience the work first-hand, and put the work of the organization in a broader context.
  • Bring in client or organizational rockstar who can portray or speak to the quality of work done.

Send Out Action Items

Using your meeting minutes, the note taker or organizer of the meeting can use those notes to summarize the meeting for the board of directors who attended or those who missed the meeting. With these notes, there should be the next steps listed as a result of the board meeting. More specifically, there should be a person who is assigned to each task or next step, with detailed notes for each task. The more detailed the action items are, the better the assignee can understand the task at hand.

Joan’s Tips On Sending Out Action Items:

  1. CEO and the board members should verbally agree on the action items from the meeting.
  2. Create a recurring CEO-Chair call/meeting invite to check in on the progress of action items created from the previous board meeting.
  3. Provide a short status update on the action items from the last board meeting.
  4. Thank them for their time! Board members should be appreciated for attending meetings.


Any organization that is looking to run effective meetings needs to remember the goal of board meetings. Like many meetings, board meetings need to fit in information, feedback, and decisions into a tight time window. Organizations have to use tools like board meeting minutes examples and should consider classes on how to write minutes for a board meeting. They also need to make it clear that meetings have a purpose besides just wasting time or checking a box. An organization that embraces meetings is an organization that will ultimately become much more successful than its competitors.

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