How to run a board meeting and set the stage for effective meetings

How to run a board meeting and set the stage for effective meetings

Updated: November 17, 2023
13 min read
how to run a board meeting
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Convening an average of 9.7 meetings annually, board meeting management plays a pivotal role in corporate governance. As per a staggering statistic, 65% of non-executive directors are burdened with additional commitments which often involve the intricacies of meeting management. 

This highlights the urgent need to establish an effective framework for conducting a board meeting, where expertise, collaboration, and efficient governance can converge.

In this article, we’ll explain how to hold a board meeting, create a board meeting agenda, and develop effective strategies. Also, we will answer the most frequently asked questions about board meetings, from the role of the president to helping newcomers navigate these meetings.

Cultivating a high-performing board

The basics of running a board meeting: roles and responsibilities

Most organizations follow a similar board leadership structure, with differences in their missions and strategies. As a collective, the board selects and votes for individuals to fill four key roles: chairperson, vice-chairperson, secretary, and treasurer. Together, they form the executive committee and run board meetings.

board leadership roles

The executive committee’s duties include prioritizing issues for the entire board’s consideration, supervising board policies, and upholding strong governance practices. While larger organizations may have additional board meeting members as part of the executive committee chairs, these four positions are crucial for virtually any organization. 

Let’s explore the responsibilities of board members during meetings in more detail.

1. President

The president, also known as the chairman of the board or CEO, holds the highest-ranking position in the organization. They are responsible for providing leadership and setting the tone for meetings. Typically, the president leads the meeting, introduces agenda items, encourages open discussions, and ensures focus on strategic priorities. 

As president, he or she also has the authority to call special meetings, represent the organization externally, and guide the board’s direction.

2. Chair

During a meeting, it is the responsibility of the chairperson or meeting facilitator to keep things organized and ensure that the meeting follows the established agenda. The board chair’s role involves setting the schedule for the next board meeting agenda, introducing topics, managing discussions among other members, and guiding the board through decision-making processes. 

The chair also works closely with the executive director and other board members to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to speak, helps to resolve conflicts, and keeps the meeting on track.

3. Vice-chair 

The vice-chairperson offers assistance to the chairperson and can assume their responsibilities when the chairperson is unavailable. They assist with leadership responsibilities during meetings, offer guidance during discussions, and ensure continuity in the absence of the chairperson. Additionally, vice board chairs may have specific responsibilities related to committee leadership.

4. Corporate secretary

The corporate secretary’s function involves the maintenance of records and the assurance of legal compliance to an effective board meeting. Board secretary takes effective board meetings and keeps records of board decisions, and committee reports. Read our dedicated article to learn how to write minutes in a meeting as a secretary.

Also, the corporate secretary is responsible for transparent board communication between board members, providing consent agenda, and overseeing legal and regulatory compliance.

5. Board member 

Board members hold a vital position in forming an organization’s strategies and policies. They participate actively in discussions, share their expertise, ask questions, and vote on crucial matters. 

Moreover, board members represent stakeholders’ interests and are accountable for guaranteeing that the organization’s mission and values are maintained. They are also welcome to provide board members feedback.

6. Treasurer

The treasurer’s role entails overseeing an organization’s financial matters and guaranteeing fiscal responsibility. This includes presenting financial reports, creating budgets, and developing financial strategies. 

The treasurer also leads discussions related to financial decisions and ensures that all financial management is transparent. In some cases, the treasurer may also chair the finance committee.

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How to prepare for running a board of directors meeting 

Running a successful board of directors meeting begins with thorough preparation. A well-structured agenda is a key component in this process and should encompass the following key elements:

  • Meeting title and date
  • Meeting purpose
  • Attendee list
  • Time to welcome new board members
  • A list of what will be discussed during the meeting
  • Allocated time for each agenda item
  • Time for Q&A
  • Adjournment
  • Attachments or reference materials
  • Previous meeting minutes (if applicable)
  • Open floor for additional topics (if applicable)

To help the board maximize accuracy and have a productive meeting, it’s essential to share the meeting agenda with participants ahead of time. This gives them a chance to get ready, go through important materials, and actively participate in the discussions. Furthermore, the timing and place of board meetings should be convenient for everyone and offer a conducive setting for fruitful conversations.

How to conduct a board meeting that will be both effective and informative? The meeting’s success is dependent on thorough planning, a well-structured agenda, early distribution, smart timing, appropriate locations, and simple access to required resources.  

The significance of Robert’s Rules of Order in running board meetings

Robert’s Rules of Order are legislative processes and standards to conduct more effective board meetings. It is also known as a how to run a board meeting script. These board of directors meeting rules were devised in the 19th century by Henry Martyn Robert and have since become widely recognized in governments, nonprofit board meetings, and businesses.  

The significance of Robert’s Rules of Order in ensuring a smooth board meeting procedure can be summarized as follows:  

  1. Structure and organization. Robert’s Rules offer a structured blueprint for productive meetings, keeping it from going into chaos and covering all agenda items. This clarity helps board members know what to expect and when to take part.
  2. Fairness and equity. These guidelines also emphasize fairness and ensure that every member has an opportunity to voice their opinions. Also, the majority agreement reaches the decisions. They prevent a small group from dominating discussions and make sure minority viewpoints are respected.
  3. Orderly conduct. Robert’s Rules establish a set of procedures for addressing issues, making proposals, and managing debates. This prevents disruptions and ensures board meeting protocol stays on course.
  4. Efficiency. These rules simplify decision-making, especially in larger organizations and government bodies. In essence, Robert’s Rules act as a roadmap to well-run board meetings.

To run a board meeting according to Robert’s Rules, it is important to understand the process of making motions, debating them, and taking votes. Here’s a rundown of the most important meeting rules and procedures from Robert’s Rules of Order:

  • Motions. They are acts or choices that board chairs or fellow board members can propose. One person proposes a motion, another member seconds it, and then all members debate and vote on it. For example, frequent motions include “to approve the minutes” and “to allocate a budget.”
  • Debate. When a motion is presented, board members have the chance to discuss it, following the rules about who can speak, and the duration of their speech. This discourse guarantees that all important points of view are taken into account and the board maximizes accuracy.
  • Voting. Following the discussion, a vote is held to decide on a motion. There are several forms of voting, such as voice votes, show of hands, and secret ballots. A majority vote is the most usual rule, however, some motions may require a two-thirds majority.
  • Amendments. These are adjustments that board members can make to motions. However, there are strict guidelines for when and how modifications can be proposed, debated, and voted on.
  • Quorum. To conduct business, a certain number of members must be present. No decisions may be made if a quorum for board meeting is not present.

How to run a board meeting

It is critical to follow a well-structured procedure to ensure that next board meetings go smoothly. We will go over the stages required in holding a board meeting from start to finish:

1. Opening the board meeting

Start with adequately beginning the proceedings at the commencement of a board meeting. Then, call the meeting to order. Further, extend a warm greeting to all attendees to establish a friendly environment. 

Take the time to welcome any newcomers to the group and make them feel at ease. Examining the meeting agenda must be balanced since it serves as an outline for the meeting’s flow. In addition, seeking board approval of the previous meeting provides consistency with their expectations and objectives.

2. Handling minutes and reports

The management of prior meeting minutes is an important part of board meetings. To ensure an accurate historical record, offer these minutes for review and approval. Also, provide previously discussed reports and minutes.

It may include budget reports, committee progress, and information on active initiatives. Using visual aids like charts or slides improves audience understanding and engagement.

3. Encouraging discussion and decision-making

During board meetings, open and fruitful discussion is essential. Make a comfortable environment where board members discuss ideas and concerns openly. Try to communicate on a human and personal level with board members.

As you go through the agenda, help the board make decisions by guiding them through the required deliberations and encouraging feedback and debate as needed.

4. Setting action items and responsibilities

A crucial outcome of board meetings is the creation of action items. These are the specific tasks and responsibilities that arise from the discussions and decisions made during the meeting. To ensure effective follow-through, it’s essential to define these action items clearly. 

Subsequently, you should assign them to the most suitable board members, and, most importantly, set deadlines for their completion. Consider using visual aids such as task lists and Gantt charts to organize and manage the action items.

5. Closing the meeting

It is just as crucial to know how to open a board meeting as it is to know how to close one. As the board meeting wraps up, it’s vital to recap the most important decisions and tasks that everyone has agreed upon. This summary ensures that everyone is on the same page and understands what needs to be done.

Moreover, don’t forget to let everyone know when the next meeting will be, as this sets the course for future teamwork. Consistently holding meetings on a regular schedule keeps things moving forward and ensures effective governance. If you want to know more about how to measure board effectiveness, read our dedicated article.

A systematic approach to meeting preparation reduces stress and boosts the board's effectiveness.

How to run a nonprofit board meeting

While the monthly gathering reports for board meetings might be a long-standing tradition for many nonprofit organizations, a systematic approach to meeting preparation reduces stress and boosts the board’s effectiveness. 

When running a board meeting for a nonprofit it is important to take into account the special processes and the nature of nonprofits:

  1. Fundraising strategies. Nonprofits heavily rely on fundraising to finance their operations. However, boards that prioritize fundraising as their primary objective sacrifice corporate strategy, relevance, and effect. During board meetings, it is vital to revise fundraising strategies and strike a balance.
  2. Community outreach initiatives. Nonprofits require community outreach. Board meetings should discuss the organization’s outreach initiatives including evaluating current programs, expanding strategies, and analyzing the organization’s role. Effective outreach builds strong relationships and addresses the community’s needs.
  3. Social impact assessment. This aspect investigates how the organization’s actions influence the lives of its intended beneficiaries and the larger community. Board members should debate how to quantify and analyze its impact, maybe using statistics and case studies. Then, these insights help assess the effectiveness of the company and align its actions with its objectives.
  4. Transparency. It is a significant benefit for non-profit organizations when striving for grants and donations. However, the “Donor Trust Report” reveals a concerning trend. In fact, it shows that 32% of the respondents trust charities less today than they did five years ago. 

Moreover, in a separate survey, where 73% of the participants rated the importance of trust as 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale, only 20% of those respondents indicated a high level of trust in charities.

8 practices on how to run a great board meeting

If you’re wondering how to lead a board meeting effectively follow these eight practices: 

  1. Get to know your board members. To enhance communication with your board members, understand their backgrounds, expertise, and expectations related to the board’s goals. Thus, visual aids like one-pagers with key member information may be useful.
  2. Craft a clear meeting agenda. Create a clear and simple agenda, describing precise objectives and setting time restrictions for each item. Then, distribute this agenda in advance to give your board members plenty of time to prepare. In this case, a timeline graphically illustrates the meeting’s evolution to increase interest and comprehension. 
  3. Follow up and assign action items. After the meeting, it’s critical to summarize the essential choices, assign responsibilities to specific personnel, and set dates for these activities. Visual project management tools facilitate tracking the progress of these action items.
  4. Evaluate for inclusivity. Establish an inclusive climate in board meetings where all members feel comfortable sharing their opinions and ideas. Also, encourage board members to provide open and honest comments following each meeting.
  5. Encourage active participation. Productive board meetings require fostering a culture where every member’s voice is respected and appreciated. To encourage active participation, reach out to colleagues who might be less vocal in sharing their thoughts.
  6. Respect diverse opinions.  In this aspect, tolerating opinions is not enough; they must also be valued. To ensure that all viewpoints are considered in the decision-making process, visual aids such as decision matrices or SWOT analysis.
  7. Time management. Assign dedicated time slots for each agenda item, stick to those time limits, and utilize visual tools like countdown timers. For longer meetings, it’s a good idea to schedule short breaks to help everyone stay focused and engaged.
  8. Seek feedback and keep improving. Conduct periodic surveys to gather their thoughts and suggestions. Then, implement their feedback to demonstrate your commitment to continuous improvement.

How iDeals Board improves board meeting preparations

The cost of organizing board meetings can be staggering. With expenses such as transportation, accommodation, dining, entertainment, and various other costs, the annual spending can reach up to $250,000. In turn, with a board portal, companies minimize costs, be more environmentally friendly, and improve communication and collaboration among board members.

Understanding how to run a board of directors meeting comes with a range of technological challenges. Thus, iDeals Board offers specialized board portal software and ongoing support designed to conduct better board meetings:

  1. Dashboard. It offers real-time overviews, highlights tasks, tracks updates, and promotes collaboration. With this, it streamlines meeting preparation and enhances productivity.
  2. Meeting minutes creation. This feature integrates note-taking with meeting and voting session management. Export minutes in PDF or DOCX, upload external minutes, and timestamp approval for transparency. 
  3. Meetings list. With a meetings list, you can set up a meeting quickly with pre-filled details, group participants, and easy access to upcoming, past, and bookmarked meetings. It also has automatic time zone detection, customizable notifications, and integrations with Zoom and Microsoft Teams
  4. Voting. This feature allows for both unanimous approval and individual voting, supports multiple motion voting, and provides a clear, real-time display of voting results, streamlining decision-making.
  5. Agenda builder. Pre-set common agenda items and sub-items, attach relevant documents and links to agenda topics, and even specify the duration of each item. Custom notifications for agenda publishing keep all participants informed and organized throughout the entire process.

Key takeaways

  1. Board leadership typically includes a chair, vice-chair, secretary, and treasurer who form the executive committee responsible for efficient board meetings.
  2. Nonprofit board meetings must prioritize fundraising, outreach, and social impact assessment to succeed and benefit the community.
  3. Transparency is essential, especially for nonprofit organizations, since it fosters trust, attracts funders, and assures accountability in how to run a board meeting.
  4. Handling minutes and reports involves offering prior meeting minutes for review and approval and providing relevant reports.
  5. Running a board meeting involves several stages: opening the meeting, handling minutes and reports, encouraging discussion and decision-making, setting action items and responsibilities, and closing the meeting.


Who sets the agenda for a board meeting?

The board chair or board president, in collaboration with the CEO or executive director and other key stakeholders, typically sets the board meeting agenda.

What is a board committee meeting?

A board committee meeting is a specialized subgroup gathering that focuses on specific areas or tasks like finance, governance, or executive matters, allowing in-depth discussions and recommendations on these topics.

How to start a board meeting?

To start a successful board meeting, the chairperson opens the meeting, welcomes meeting attendees, introduces newcomers, reviews and gives formal approval of the agenda, and acknowledges the previous board meeting minutes.

How to chair a board meeting?

The board chair of the meeting must maintain order, facilitate strategic discussions, and ensure that all agenda items are addressed. An effective board chair guides the meeting by following the agenda, managing time effectively, encouraging participation, and summarizing key decisions and action items at the end of the meeting.

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