How long should a board meeting last?

How long should a board meeting last?

Updated: August 21, 2019
4 min read
Proper length of a board meeting
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When a board meeting runs too long, it can be detrimental to your organization for several reasons.

First and foremost, it throws off schedules. On top of that, the more extended the meeting, the less engaged its attendees. It’s an inefficiency that stems from poor planning, communication, and execution. 

Conversely, board meetings that end in a flash don’t allow attendees to absorb the information thoroughly. Nor does it give everybody a chance to contribute and have their say.  

Neglecting the discipline and artform involved in running productive board meetings is only going to hurt your company in the long run. After all, unproductive meetings waste more than $37 billion per year

However, specific rules and principles that lean out the process (such as adhering to time constraints) ensure productivity reigns supreme during meetings.   

Shoring up on time management will maximize the minutes of every meeting so that not even a second is wasted.

Below, we’ll investigate some studies and stats on the length of board meetings.

Keeping board members engaged

Studies show that 5-to-15-minute-long meetings receive the most sustained attention, with 91% of people still listening throughout this period. However, there could be too many topics to broach in such a short time – in which case, the same results show 84% engagement-levels all the way up to 30 minutes. Once board meetings persist beyond that point, the numbers sink to 73%.

Note that it’s quite common for many CEOs to aim for board meetings that last less than a half-hour.

Maximizing your meeting minutes

On a larger scale, one board meeting at an FTSE 100 company in a regulated sector can cost up to £250,000. These kinds of meetings take approximately 100 days to plan. As such, longer run times are understandable. 

Still, if these high-level corporate meetings regularly last over 2 hours, there’s likely a deficiency somewhere in the process. Despite extended meeting-lengths, the findings suggest there’s a need to filter and streamline content down to the most crucial and engaging information. Leaders and executives must focus on trimming the fat and ensuring meaningful, profitable, and future-focused interactions amongst the board.  

Whether it lasts 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, avoid planning a meeting that uses the group setting to review operations and procedures. Furthermore, don’t fall into a rut where these encounters are something you just ‘do.’    

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Content is king

We’ve established that successful board meetings come down to maximizing your minutes. Meaning, your organization must abide by certain principles to stay on track and finish on time.

It’s a well-known best practice to prioritize topic matter that’s linked to decisions and motions during your board meetings.

Many industry experts cite the ineffectiveness of reports that only provide information without referencing any further motions or decisions. Much of the time, it’s best that a CEO discusses this specific kind of information with their team or a separate, smaller committee.

While ‘information only reports’ might sometimes be a necessity, adding such an item to a board meeting topic list requires some careful deliberation. Meetings should only broach these subjects when they’re integral to overall functions and procedures.

Staying on track

Implementing a strict content agenda keeps meetings on track and to the point. When board members receive these agendas with enough time to prepare, it allows them to raise potential matters of concern before the meeting. Time won’t start mounting, nor will board members run out of time to discuss issues they deem vital. 

It’s integral to produce thoroughly nuanced agendas that enhance the flow of your board meeting.  Shoddily written motions and poorly researched reports muddle your overall mission, message, and vision.

Of course, agendas are ongoing and need constant finagling and amendments to remain relevant while your organization continues growing. 

For instance, the agenda for a startup marketing company’s board meeting should drastically differ from its 1st year compared to its 5th. In year 1, meetings might need to occur consistently as the organization tries to gain footing. So, a half-hour bi-weekly video conference might provide the time-efficiency and snappiness that prevents board members from tuning out of the discussion.

Whereas, the hypothetical marketing company is on firmer ground after 5 years. And it might make more sense to have quarterly board meetings last 1.5 hours with all the bells and whistles.  

Lay the foundation for effective board meetings

A meandering, poorly planned, ill-researched meeting wastes both time and money—the two most critical factors in business.

Furthermore, directionless and lengthy board meetings cost businesses opportunities to expand and improve. Instead of passing motions or exchanging vital information, the lines of communication clog and deeper-rooted problems persist.

In contrast, making those painstaking efforts to nuance and adjust your agenda to ensure timely, relevant, and engaging meetings can help your organization reach unforeseen heights. 

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