You need to get the most out of your Board meetings. They probably happen once a month or less – so getting decisions on essential business considerations is vital. And because they take up a lot of senior time, they need to be run efficiently.
One sure way to improve the efficiency of your meetings is to make sure all your Board members – whether they are your company directors or NEDs – come to the meeting fully briefed and well-prepared.
Here we look at how to achieve this.
1. Create a well-structured Board pack
The papers are the backbone of the discussion. A well-constructed pack will be consistent from meeting to meeting. This means that members know what to expect and where to find the information they need.
Good papers will contain several standard elements:
- The agenda needs to be in line with agreed objectives for the meeting. It needs to be realistic in length – can you really get through all those items in the time given?
- It needs to have specific discussion items, to drive decision-making, rather than general headings that may be too vague.
Minutes of the previous meeting
- These will remind members of the issues discussed at the last meeting, along with the rationale for the decisions made.
- Make sure only the most pertinent accounts information is included. Directors shouldn’t spend their time wading through ‘flabby’ data when more tailored reporting will give them exactly what they need.
Papers giving background for particular discussion items
- For example, the arguments for investing in a piece of equipment or changing a corporate policy. These documents should be well-researched, but concise and to the point.
2. Produce the pack in good time
Producing the Board pack is the next step. This can be time-consuming if you do it manually. Allow yourself enough time to collate it and have it sent to members well in advance of the meeting.
Some organisations prefer to take a portal-based approach, which allows papers to be collated online. This can save time (as well as paper!) and reduce the labour-intensiveness of the pack production cycle.
Allow for additional papers or updated management information that needs to be replaced at short notice. Frustrating, but all too common, having to remove and replace documentation can really slow you down (although if you take a portal approach, the disruption this causes is much reduced).
3. Have an agreed and effective distribution process
Once you have a good pack, you need to get it to your directors. There are a number of options here.
- If you produce your papers in hard copy, they need to be sent by post or courier to members. What happens if they are out? – is the parcel taken away by the postman or delivery company, to be collected at a later date? This will cut into the time your directors have to familiarise themselves with the contents.
- Think about security as well – if the documents are left, say, in a porch or with a neighbour, that’s a lot of high level corporate information in a public place.
- Many organisations now prefer to give their directors a choice when it comes to how they receive papers. Many online systems for collating board documentation give readers the choice of online, pdf or hard copy delivery.
- This suits those who prefer to read and annotate documents in hard copy – but also means that people can read them on screen, whether online or in pdf, if they prefer.
- If you are considering this route, ask questions about delivery options – does the solution you’re considering give directors a choice over how they receive their packs? Does it have data security accreditations, giving reassurance that corporate data is safe?
Your Board meetings are an important use of your most senior people’s time. As a company secretary, it’s your responsibility to make sure they run as efficiently as possible, and deliver the best decisions for the company. Hopefully these suggestions will help.
If you are interested in exploring a portal approach, you may find it useful to read our Board Portal FAQs, covering the questions we hear most – about their benefits; what to look for in a portal; and how to make a decision between providers. You can download a free copy of the FAQs here.