In 2017, Harvard Business Review published research showing that meetings have increased in length and frequency over the past 50 years. While meetings are certainly a necessary part of running any business or organization, 54 percent of today’s workforce reports that the average 23 hours a week of meetings they attend are too frequent, poorly timed, and badly run. These statistics aren’t especially encouraging — especially for the Executive Directors who are in charge of running their company’s board meetings.

Because board meetings are among the most critical meetings for any company looking to achieve and attain long-term growth and success, it’s important to make every minute count. Read on as we share some tips to help Executive Directors more effectively run a company’s biggest meetings.

1. Send out agenda items in advance
It’s no secret that preparing an agenda in advance is the best way to ensure that the actual meeting time is as effective as possible. Executive Directors can take that preparedness one step farther by sending out all agenda items ahead of time. Collecting and distributing all financials, director reports, and other business filings a week or two before the meeting allows other board members to review everything, take notes, and prepare any questions. Additionally, if discussions are going to be had on new proposals, it is beneficial to ensure that everyone has had ample time to read and review those proposals, weighing all costs and benefits, before any votes are tallied. Finally, sending out all agenda items in advance means that you can eliminate some of the “review and digest” time from your meeting, freeing up additional time for more pressing tasks.

2. Decisions vs. updates
While it would be next to impossible to run an entire board meeting without dedicating any time to updates, the most effective meetings devote vastly more time to decision-making than to providing updates. A board meeting will feel vastly more productive if the majority of the time is dedicated to strategic discussions, voting, and other decision-making. Reserve 10-15 min at the beginning of the meeting for any absolutely necessary updates, and send other, less urgent updates (like last meetings minutes) out in an e-mail before the event.

3. Schedule breaks
Even the best, most well-run board meeting can feel like a drag if it’s not scheduled correctly. Regardless of how vitally important an aspect of the agenda may be, meeting discussions can be mentally wearing. Scheduling regular breaks, even if they’re only 5 minutes long, can allow those present to relax and reset, coming back refreshed and ready to tackle whatever lies ahead. Keeping the overall energy up is a great way to ensure that you make the most of the allotted time.

4. Action items
Rather than just simply taking notes, effective Executive Directors also track action items. These are the “next steps” that need to be taken following the discussion of every agenda item. Is there a question that needs to be answered that requires some additional research? Action item. A new strategy that needs to be fully fleshed out and implemented? Action item. Keeping track of what these action items are and delegating them as necessary ensures that they will be tackled and progress will be made before your next regroup.

5. Say “Thank you”
This may not be tied directly to the meeting itself, but the most effective Executive Directors recognize the value of their board members the contributions that they make. Recent polls found that 58 percent of people believe that leaders could improve engagement by giving recognition to their employees, while 69 percent of people reported that they’d work harder if they felt that their efforts were better appreciated. Sending out quick, personalized e-mails after a meeting thanking each individual for their attendance, effort, or a specific contribution can go a long way. Chances are that board members who feel more appreciated will come to the next meeting even more prepared and ready to move the business further ahead.

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