The best board meetings are discussions and debates about the business yet many executive teams spent their time wanting to walk through hours of slides on how great they’re doing. Humans do much better when they’re participating than when they’re being lectured to. The most value you’ll get out of your board is when they’re speaking and offering you feedback and experiences from others companies in which they’re involved.
I recommend that executive teams send materials out 72 hours in advance. I recommend that CEOs do 1–1 calls with board members prior to the meeting to walk through the high-level financials. And I recommend that boards have 2–3 strategic topics that they consider during the in-person meeting. If you run your board this way you’ll maximize the time you have together as a group and keep your board engaged.
This need to “pre-sure” is super annoying – what’s the point of the meeting then? – but key to any meeting. The, point though, is to use the meeting to discuss and decide, not to just be informed.
Final bit of advice. Some teams print out materials and hand out a printed binder during the board meeting. Don’t be this team. While it’s tempting to have a bible for your board members you’ll just enable them to “scroll ahead” and look at future slides when they’re bored. If you serve up their distraction then you only have yourselves to blame when they don’t pay attention.
Sometimes board members print out your decks or financials in advance and bring their own print outs. It’s super easy to politely say, “If you wouldn’t mind I’d love it if you would leave your notes in your bag. I don’t want to be controversial but I would love to try and have everybody fully engaged in the discussion and to do so I want to make sure everybody is on the same page at the same time.
It takes some bravery to tell your bosses (the board) what to do, to be more professional and polite. The results are probably enjoyable by both sides of the table, though.