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Ian Oct 5, 2021 11:48:07 PM 11 min read

The Ultimate Guide to Board Meetings: Members, Format, and Discussions

Everyone loves a good board meeting, right? Whether it’s a school board meeting at your child’s middle school or a board of directors meeting at your workplace, board meetings can bring a whole lot of fun and excitement to the table.

OK, we made up that last part – but everything else we’re about to tell you is true.

So, if you’re wondering exactly what a board meeting is and how to participate in one, we have the answers. Let’s take a look at how board meetings are held, who’s on the board, and how you can walk away with the best notes and action items.

What is a board meeting?

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First, what makes a board meeting different from other kinds of meetings?

In a word: formality.

First, a board meeting for an organization – whether it’s a nonprofit, an elementary school, or a corporation – has to abide by the bylaws of that organization.

Second, no matter if you’re discussing high-level strategic partnerships or whether to install new vending machines in your school district before the school year starts, a successful board meeting needs to have these three things:

  • A chairperson
  • A quorum
  • Meeting minutes

A chairperson

Every board meeting needs a chairperson to preside over it. The chair may or may not be a voting member, but it’s their job to keep things running smoothly.

Usually, this means following Robert’s Rules of Order or parliamentary procedure. It may sound tedious, but trust us, it’s for the good of the group!

Otherwise, everyone would be talking over each other and you wouldn’t be able to get through all of your agenda items.

A quorum

A quorum refers to how many members of the board need to be present to make binding decisions. If too many people sit out the meeting, that can really get in the way of getting things done.

The exact number of members required depends on the group’s bylaws. However, there are ways to get around this if attendance is an issue – such as letting some members attend virtually.

Meeting minutes

Finally, a meeting isn’t a board meeting without minutes. Minutes are basically just notes of what was discussed and what decisions were made.

But meeting minutes have to be approved by all members present at the next meeting in order to be valid.

If you need help taking notes, you can use a tool like Anchor AI. It takes automated notes of your in-person or virtual meeting and can even generate action items for you.

Who is on the board?

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The good news about running a board meeting is that deciding whom to invite is easy: all board members – and only board members – are invited, so there are no hurt feelings or plus-ones to worry about.

Sometimes, a meeting might be open to members of the public (this is more common for nonprofit board meetings). However, other board meetings will usually be closed, and even nonprofits may have special meetings just for board members.

The people on the board depends on what type of organization it is. Here are three types of organizations and what kind of meetings they hold:

  • A corporation
  • A nonprofit
  • A school district

A corporation

Publicly held companies typically have both a board of directors and shareholders.

Shareholders are invited to general meetings but not board meetings. An executive session or board of directors meeting might be even more selective.

This means board members usually have more say over the direction of the company, but shareholders may still have the opportunity to vote on important decisions.

A nonprofit

Nonprofit organizations often have a board of directors who oversee the strategic plan, but day-to-day operations are left to everyday staff or members.

Some members of the board may be elected officers, such as the president or the treasurer. Other board members, such as legal advisors and financial advisors, act in an advisory capacity and don’t have voting power.

A school district

School boards, also known as boards of education, are a bit different from other types of boards in that school board meetings are usually open to parents and other members of the public. School boards are responsible for setting goals for the school district and choosing the superintendent.

A typical board of education meeting might cover everything from enrollment in special education programs to back-to-school plans for the entire school district.

School boards are expected to make time for public comment and may even post the full meeting videos on their YouTube channel.

How are board meetings held?

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In the old days, business often had to be conducted in person, which made airlines very happy and helped George Clooney rack up a lot of frequent flyer miles.

Then Anna Kendrick arrived on the scene and started laying people off over video chat, ushering in a new era of remote work and virtual meetings. (If you haven’t guessed, we’re talking about the hit film “Up in the Air.”)

That might be oversimplifying it a bit, but these days, it’s common for board meetings to be open to virtual participants or even for the entire meeting to be held over Zoom.

If you decide to hold your meetings in person, then be sure to set the board meeting dates well in advance so everyone can make plans to attend.

You can hold board meetings in a boardroom or at any other private location. Just be sure to follow board policy (in the bylaws) when choosing a location and meeting dates.

What gets discussed at a board meeting?

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Almost any topic is fair game at a board meeting – as long as it’s on the agenda.

Ideally, the meeting chair will send out agenda items well in advance, but there may be time at the beginning of the meeting to add more items to the agenda.

Why is an agenda so important? One reason is that having an idea ahead of time of what’s going to be discussed gives participants a chance to think about the topic.

It also helps the chairperson stick to the schedule, because they can estimate how much time each agenda item will take.

Some organizations include approving the last meeting’s minutes as their first agenda item for each meeting. Here are a few more common agenda items you’ll find at a board meeting:

  • Past performance and key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Future plans and partnerships
  • Officers and committees

Past performance and KPIs

KPIs (key performance indicators) are the metrics that corporations use to determine whether they’re meeting their stated goals. Some companies might focus solely on revenue, while others focus on customer retention or percentage of market share.

Discussing past performance and KPIs is usually a good place to start, because it gives everyone the information they need to look ahead.

If the board meeting includes members from different parts of the organization, it may be useful for each member to give an update on their department.

Future plans and partnerships

The next item on the agenda might be approving a strategic plan, such as a new sales strategy or a partnership with another organization.

This section is often split into “Old Business” – items that have already been discussed at previous meetings – and “New Business” – topics that are being introduced for the first time. This helps participants keep track of what’s what.

Officers and committees

For some types of boards, especially nonprofits, you’ll have to hold elections once a year to choose officers like the president, secretary, and treasurer.

You may also want to form committees and determine which board members are on each committee.

At all future meetings, make time on the meeting agenda for committee updates so everyone can stay on top of what’s going on in the organization.

Use Anchor AI to create action items and take notes

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Before you wrap up your meeting, be sure to review any action items that need to be done prior to the next meeting and who will be responsible for them.

You’ll also need to send out the meeting minutes so they can be approved by everyone who attended and then added to the organization’s records.

Anchor AI can help with both of those steps, by note-taking like a pro so you don’t have to. Invite Anchor AI to your virtual meetings and it will create a time-stamped record of everything that was said and even identify action items for you.

That way, your meeting will run smoothly and you won’t have to worry about missing anything important while trying to capture meeting minutes.

Learn more about how Anchor AI works and join the waitlist to be first in line to try it out!