𝗕𝗼𝗮𝗿𝗱 𝗠𝗲𝗲𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴𝘀 𝗪𝗶𝘁𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗙𝗲𝗮𝗿
Updated: Jan 1
No matter how high you reach, there's the fear of falling down.
For many founders, board meetings are a huge source of anxiety. Even if everything is going well with your startup, you may feel the combination of eustress (positive stress), distress (from the challenges you face), and the desire to keep growing. All those influences may be personified by the board members who you perceive will help you celebrate the wins, pass the obstacles, and reach your goals. That makes board meetings seem daunting.
Face the fear and prepare to get the most from your time together.
𝗞𝗻𝗼𝘄 𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗔𝘂𝗱𝗶𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲
Understand investors on a deeper level, such as how they see the company growing and what obstacles they anticipate. Every investor can help somehow (besides funding). Some know key hires or strong vendors, others can introduce potential clients.
Ask what they want to learn and cover in board meetings and what situations warrant an impromptu discussion between meetings.
I’ve known many investors who only give positive feedback. Like eating chocolate, that's great once but unhealthy as a diet. Push for critical feedback to develop as a leader and to form a long-term relationship.
𝐁𝐞𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐌𝐞𝐞𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠
𝘉𝘶𝘪𝘭𝘥 𝘢 𝘋𝘦𝘤𝘬 – Here are a number of tips on the presentation:
Avoid the temptation to give too much information
Cover accomplishments, major projects, and plans for each team
Highlight the facts useful for strategic discussions
Label the parts which will not be covered in the meeting
Link to sources (collateral, demo videos, reports) for more detail
Use the same template formatting for each meeting
Include some information from prior decks for context
Incorporate visuals such as pictures, charts, and diagrams
𝘚𝘶𝘮𝘮𝘢𝘳𝘪𝘻𝘦 – Create an agenda for your time together and emphasize what will be the key areas of discussion.
𝘚𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 – Find a place where everyone will be comfortable for a few hours. Provide light snacks and drinks.
𝘊𝘰𝘮𝘮𝘶𝘯𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 – Check with attendees to determine which KPIs will be useful to share. Balance consistent metrics with some new details.
𝑵𝒐𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒔𝒉𝒐𝒖𝒍𝒅 𝒃𝒆 𝒂 𝒔𝒖𝒓𝒑𝒓𝒊𝒔𝒆
If there is an urgent problem, don’t wait for the board meeting. Reach out to investors and get their perspective beforehand and ask for advice on how to facilitate the conversation in the meeting.
𝘚𝘦𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘚𝘵𝘢𝘨𝘦 – Whenever you suggest expectations and guidelines, it helps focus the meeting. For instance, you may want a productive discussion on a sensitive topic and ask everyone to silence their devices for that period. Opening with a little humor or following a break with a fun exercise encourages people leads to a more productive meeting.
𝗜𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗠𝗲𝗲𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴
𝘌𝘮𝘱𝘩𝘢𝘴𝘪𝘴. Wrestle with big issues. One suggested format:
Accomplishments and Challenges
Performance and KPIs (team leaders may facilitate)
Strategic Topic 1 (then break)
Strategic Topic 2
Board Decisions (e.g. granting options and comp changes)
𝘉𝘦 𝘋𝘪𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘵 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘊𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘳. For major topics, provide context, facts, impact, learning, and cover the next steps.
𝘗𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘱𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘷𝘦. Give a context for financials and other reports. Rely on comparisons to show progress, internal (e.g. quarter-to-quarter) or external (e.g. industry & competitive metrics).
𝘗𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘯𝘦𝘳𝘴. Treat attendees as equally responsible and collaborating towards the best solutions. With decisions, encourage investors to give options, not decisions, e.g. asking “How have you seen other founders handle this issue?” Designate next steps if useful (e.g. the investor will introduce you to an expert in the area discussed).
“How have you seen other founders handle this issue?”
𝘍𝘳𝘢𝘮𝘦 𝘊𝘰𝘯𝘧𝘭𝘪𝘤𝘵. Encourage opinions and realize that occasionally differences arise. In those cases, build a framework for discussion. Look at the key criteria for making any decision, identify how they align with business, and then weigh options along those criteria. Investors may have other experiences with seemingly similar problems, so this breakdown may help explain the distinctions.
𝘎𝘶𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘚𝘵𝘢𝘳𝘴. Introduce team leaders to present around performance and KPIs. This gives both sides better exposure and perspectives.
𝘕𝘦𝘸 𝘐𝘥𝘦𝘢𝘴. Experiment each meeting with a brand-new concept (e.g. demo a new product feature) to keep the meetings compelling.
𝗔𝗳𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗠𝗲𝗲𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴
𝘔𝘰𝘤𝘬𝘶𝘱. Right after the meeting, take 5 minutes to write notes on the presentation around delivery and ways to improve next time.
𝘊𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘖𝘶𝘵 𝘞𝘪𝘯𝘴. Acknowledge attendees who really contributed to the meeting whether in a public email or private message.
𝘍𝘦𝘦𝘥𝘣𝘢𝘤𝘬. Ask for three aspects of the presentation they appreciated and three ways it can be better.
𝘜𝘯𝘩𝘦𝘭𝘱𝘧𝘶𝘭 𝘉𝘰𝘢𝘳𝘥 𝘔𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘳. Address carefully but directly. If needed, ask other board members for advice and possibly to intervene.
𝘚𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘛𝘦𝘢𝘮. Repurpose the board deck and key observations to let the team know where things stand. Sharing the deck afterwards helps the team make better decisions. Also, they will know what to give you for future meetings.
Every founder and board is different and the interactions between you will evolve. These ideas should keep your interactions productive and engaging.
Photo by Tim Trad who can be found here: https://bit.ly/3jaIDfs