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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin

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Updated: Mar 9

For many founders, board meetings cause significant anxiety. This stress often arises even when everything is going well.

Recognize this fear and understand that board meetings should add value for you, not just for the other attendees.

While investors are curious to receive updates, board meetings can catalyze discussions to help the company grow through new markets, products, services, and leadership. Utilize these meetings to your benefit, not simply relay updates.

"Board meetings should not be for the benefit of the board.

They should be for the benefit of the CEO and the senior team."

โ€“ Fred Wilson

Know Your Audience

Understand investors' motivations, such as how they see the company growing and what obstacles they anticipate. Every investor can help somehow (besides funding). Some may know potential key hires, fractional resources, or strong vendors, while 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.

Iโ€™ve known many investors who only give positive feedback. Like eating chocolate, that's great occasionally but unhealthy as a diet. Push each person for critical feedback to develop as a leader and to form a long-term relationship.

Before the Meeting

Set the stage for a productive use of time. Consider bringing in team leads and advisors occasionally to talk about certain business areas poised for growth and change.

Touching Base: Ask attendees if they have any topics they want to cover. You may be able to address those largely before the meeting, but knowing ahead of time will save you from scrambling for answers and being distracted from the topics you find crucial.

If there is an urgent problem, donโ€™t wait for the board meeting. Update the investors and ask for advice as needed. A delay in discussing important events may reduce your options and create resentment among investors.ย 

Build a Deck:ย Sending the presentation beforehand will allow you to spend the time together on a few highlights.

Here are some tips on the presentation:

  • Cover accomplishments, major projects, and plans for each team

  • Highlight the facts useful for strategic discussions

  • Avoid the temptation to give too much information

  • Link to sources (collateral, demo videos, reports) for more detail

  • Include some information from prior decks for context

  • Incorporate visuals such as pictures, charts, and diagrams

Agenda: Determine what will and will not be covered in the meeting. Sharing the agenda sets the stage for a productive use of time.

If you want members to focus on particular KPIs or details before the meeting, call that out when sending the agenda.

While you want to cover key metrics and progress, also look to introduce one new element into each meeting. You could demo a new product feature or have a director discuss their team's performance and plans. Introducing change will keep meetings interesting.

In the Meeting

You may get everyone together only once a quarter or less. Utilize this time to brainstorm, pursue new opportunities and ideas, address challenges, and seek a proactive perspective on what comparable startups should plan for next.

Format: Wrestle with big issues in the time together. One suggested format:

  • Accomplishments and Challenges

  • Performance and KPIs (invited team leaders may facilitate)

  • Strategic Topic 1

  • Strategic Topic 2

  • Board Decisions (e.g. granting options and comp changes)

For each major topic, provide a clear objective for your discussion, then offer context, facts, and assumptions. Record any suggestions and next steps for following up.

Collaboration: Attendees should be reminded that they are responsible for helping to find the best solutions. Encourage investors to give both broad strategy and specific options. Many people are tempted to work on one of those levels, but you need both perspectives - the broad considerations and practical options to solve problems.ย 

Address Conflict. You want a group with a shared purpose and different perspectives to uncover the best options.

Frame every discussion based on what you hope to accomplish, any risk considerations, and the stakeholders impacted by the decision. The discussion should focus on options and the tradeoffs for each choice.ย 

After the Meeting

Useful board meetings require preparation and participation, but the value derives from effectively following up and implementing the lessons learned.ย 

Feedback. Right after the meeting, write notes to yourself on the presentation around delivery and ways to improve next time.

Ask attendees (including any "one-time guests") separately for at least one way to improve the next meeting. Some people hesitate to give feedback, so offer one example of when you received feedback, how it improved future meetings, and why it was valuable to you.

Summary. Send an email out later that day or by the next to all attendees. Highlight people who contributed with support, ideas, or referrals.

List all the next steps, who owns each, and when you expect them to be completed. You may also offer updates on the next steps from previous meetings. Showing accountability confirms that you take these meetings seriously and value advice in growing the company.

Share with the Team: Repurpose the board deck and key observations to let the team know where things stand. Sharing information helps the team make better decisions.ย 

If you set the example of candor and collaboration, the team should respond with suggestions on improving and growing the company. Some of those ideas may prompt topics in future board meetings.ย 

Effective board meetings require careful preparation, execution, and follow-up to optimize the time spent and the outcomes achieved.



Photo by Tim Trad who can be found here.


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