All of the above are very good, and very common questions that will ensure that as a board member you are appropriately prepared for your meeting.
Most of our association clients plan their board meetings on an annual basis so board members can put it into their schedules. The majority pick a specific day of the week with a consistent time, which fits best into every ones schedule for teleconference or in-person meetings. In-person meetings that require travel are good to set well in advance so board members can arrange their work & personal schedules accordingly. Make sure you know these dates and that you allow enough time within your schedule to prepare for and attend the meeting.
Preparation for meetings is crucial to the success of any board. The agenda items require input from each and every board member, while some may have more knowledge and expertise than others on a certain topic, it is still the responsibility of each and every board member to review, analyze and provide an opinion on issues that relate to the association. If there are items that need to appear on the agenda, it is the board members responsibility to ensure they are on the agenda. Making board meetings effective comes down to being prepared.
As mentioned in a blog about consent agendas, the consent agenda is an excellent tool to make your meeting more effective. By placing together routine items that appear on the agenda, it is possible to deal with them in a single motion. Please reference the consent agenda blog for more information on using this as a tool to improve the efficiency of your meetings.
Most meeting agendas and supporting documents are sent out in advance (usually a week in advance) of the meeting. Board members must take the time necessary to read through the agenda and read all supporting documents so they are prepared to contribute. This also is a good opportunity for board members to gain clarification before a meeting on an item they might have a question on. Getting answers to any questions ahead of the board meeting will lend to more effective use of time during the meeting.
All meetings are significant, but the face-to-face meetings are incredibly important for board members to be prepared for. The in-person board meetings (especially for national associations) allow board members to connect and interact with each other more effectively, as well as work through strategic and contentious issues. The importance of being prepared for these meetings allows the board to focus on moving issues forward as long as everyone is up to speed on the background behind an issue. Prepping for these meetings is of high importance.
I have an association client who has adopted “topic primers” that board members who are responsible for an agenda item prepare before they meet. The primer frames the agenda topic and gets all board members primed to think strategically about it and come prepared to discuss. This has worked well as the board members come to the meeting ready to move the topic forward because they have a snap shot of the issue.
Make sure that your board is prepared with the information they need to make the face-to-face meetings effective. The value of sitting in a room together is way more effective than being on a teleconference.
I recently sat in on a Harvard Business Review Webinar titled: How Can You Make Every Meeting More Productive? This webinar presented digital tools focused on how to make meetings more effective and productive at all three stages. These include aids toscheduling meetings (across different time zones), improving communication during meetings and recording decisions and tasks moving forward after a meeting. Planning at all three stages is always crucial for associations meeting to make decisions about the goals and direction of their organization.
Whatever decisions you make about your meetings, make sure all board members are accountable to being ready to contribute.