Effective board meetings in 10 steps (my first Quora inspired post)

This looks productive...

At First Round we have a great network of CEO’s in the portfolio and they are frequently engaged in conversation on our CEO mailing list. Recently, a meme on running great board meetings got started and a list of best practices emerged. After seeing the same question on Quora and discussing it with the CEO who started the conversation on our list, I decided to summarize it in these 10 points and post it as an answer within the Quora thread as well.

  1. Send out materials 3+ days in advance (making it fair to expect everyone to have reviewed them in preparation for the meeting) and expect everyone to review them prior to the meeting.
  2. No blackberries
  3. 2-3 hour meetings, preferably with dinner the night before or lunch before.(Social time makes the subsequent meeting time better and most investor’s heads will explode if they are away from their blackberry for more than 3 hours anyway)
  4. Simple 1 page dashboard to review the business numbers (Ideally these metrics are consistent over time and create a shared sense of past, present and future performance)
  5. Move the administrative stuff to before the meeting and get it done in 1-2 minutes. (If it can’t be covered in 1-2 minutes it probably isn’t administrative stuff)
  6. Move the financial discussion to the end of the meeting (this section always drives investors into the weeds and board meetings should be primarily about the forest view on the company)
  7. Many fewer slides. More discussion. (Because you sent the materials out 3+ days in advance, you want to leave time for your well prepared board to share their insight)
  8. Bring in the subject matter experts from your team.
  9. Deep dive on one topic per board meeting is far more productive than trying to go deep on everything. (It is critical to prioritize the topics and push for guidance on areas most critical to the success of the business)
  10. Your board members have to do work. Come with a list of specific “asks” to each meeting. (This could be another area where a 1 page dashboard could be helpful…nothing like a scoreboard to motivate people.)

I have seen each of these things done well across the boards I work on and while every CEO should bring their flavor to this list, as general guidance I hope it helps.

I look forward to learning about other things that you think we should add or specific objections in the comments.