How to give your board meetings the purpose they need to be effective

MeetingHaving a clear purpose for a board meeting is essential. If you want to maximise its effectiveness, a clear and communicated purpose is vital.

But too many meetings – boards, committees or otherwise – operate with a sub-optimal structure and no clear objective.
In this blog, we look at how you can ensure your meetings have the purpose they need to make them effective.

What is the purpose of a board meeting?

A board meeting typically has a number of purposes. It aims to:

  • Make decisions
  • Set organisational policy
  • Solve identified problems
  • Plan future strategy
  • Evaluate the success of current approaches

While all of these objectives may not be achieved at every meeting, these five areas underpin the things that, overall, boards aim to achieve.

Board meetings are a legal requirement. Other types of meeting – committees, sub-board groups – may not have the same legal obligation, but all the same, they have a duty to ensure their members’ time and energy is well-spent.

If you are running a board or executive meeting, your directors, whether execs or non-execs, will be people whose time is costly. It’s in the interest of the business to make sure their time, and the business’s money, isn’t wasted.

For other meetings, attendees may well be volunteers – trustees, for instance. In this case, their goodwill is the commodity that needs to not be eroded, which may become the case if they feel their time isn’t being used productively.

How to make sure your meetings have a clear purpose

Although running a purposeful, focused meeting may be essential, it shouldn’t be difficult to achieve.

There are a few simple steps you can take to help make your meetings more constructive, efficient and purposeful:

  1. Question whether you need a meeting at all. As we’ve said, boards are legally required to meet regularly. But for others, be ruthless. Is there a real purpose for the meeting? And is it one that couldn’t be solved by some other form of communication? There are times when a memo, email, conference call or webex would suffice. If there are ways of delivering the same result without a meeting, consider using them.
  1. Is your meeting geared up to enable decision making? One of the main aims of any meeting should be to deliver decisions and determine future approaches. Make sure yours is able to make the best decisions. This may be a matter of having the right mix of people It might be using all the tools and techniques available to help your decision-making process.
  1. Plan effectively. Do members have the information required to support their decisions? Do they get their board packs or papers in good time? Can they access the corporate documents they need to provide context to discussions, and precedents to the choices they are making? Giving your meeting attendees the information they need is an essential precursor to an effective, purposeful meeting.
  1. Make the meeting itself as efficient as possible. There is no point outlining a purpose if it isn’t achieved. A clear agenda, strong chair to keep discussions on track and, as above, the background information needed to make decisions, are all crucial. Read more about making your board meetings more efficient.

Hopefully this has given you a good outline of why purpose is so important, and tips on how you can give purpose and direction to your own meetings.

The efficiency and effectiveness of meetings can sometimes be hindered by the nature of the meeting process and language. Board and other meetings use a wealth of jargon, acronyms and specific terminology to describe their purpose, actions and key areas of activity.

This can serve to make meetings baffling to new joiners or anyone unfamiliar with the language used. To help, we’ve produced a Board and Business Meeting Glossary – designed to remove the mystery from meeting etiquette.

You can download a free copy of the glossary from our resource library – we hope you find it useful.

Board and Business Meeting Glossary

Nothing in this document should be treated as an authoritative statement of the law. Action should not be taken as a result of this document alone. We make no warranty and accept no responsibility for consequences arising from relying on this document.