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Tips for Effective Board Meetings

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Here are a few tips you should know when conducting a board meeting. It doesn’t matter if you have 5 or 50 people in the discussion, control and measurable outcomes is the goal.

  • Parliamentary Procedure – Robert’s Rules of Order written by Brig. Gen. Henry Martyn Robert, containing rules of order intended to be adopted as a parliamentary authority for use by a deliberative assembly. There’s a great reason a book published in 1876 is still the go to reference for conducting meetings today: It works! Your organization should own a copy of Robert’s Rules and make it required reading for anyone who conducts meetings.
  • Setting Agendas – How do you know you’re done if you don’t have a list of items to be addressed? Setting an effective agenda is not just about putting topics on a list. A well planned agenda will make sure the most important topics are addressed and related items are grouped together. A very well-organized agenda addresses the necessary amount of time needed per agenda item.
  • Action Items and Time Lines – Once a topic has been discussed and decisions made, how will it be executed? The chairperson must assign action items (what is being done) to a responsible party. Along with the action item should be a timeline (next week, by next meeting, within 6 months, etc.) and a budget (even if the budget is zero). This will allow progress to be tracked and success measured.
  • Board and Committee Structures – Too often, small groups want to work in a free-form manner, not creating detailed structure or board member job descriptions. This approach is a recipe for disaster. By defining roles and expectations, you empower committee/board members and you allow leadership to see progress (or failures). This is not to restrict anyone, but actually empower and focus each person on their task and responsibilities. When in doubt, detail it out.
  • Encouraging Healthy Debate – The art of debate is not about arguing or proving yourself right (your opponent wrong) but to present alternative approaches. The more options, information and variables put on the table the more likely a well-developed idea comes about. When meetings get bogged down with sidebar or off-topic conversations, write the issue down on it’s own flip chart or note pad (Parking Lot). Use this to avoid getting bogged down in unproductive discussions.
  • Conflict Management – The best way to resolve a conflict (shouting matches) is to avoid it. The chairperson has to be on the lookout for conflicts. Don’t let members of the discussion begin taking debate too personal and try to stop discussion that strays away from resolution and problem solving. If a conflict does arise, the chairperson must be firm and decisive in stopping the discussion (use the Parking Lot if necessary) and moving the conversation away from A vs. B to all-of-us-together vs. the problem.

These quick steps will help make your next meeting faster, more efficient and productive without holding back discussion or the flow of ideas. Good luck!

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