Board meetings can be incredibly stressful, but you can alleviate some of that stress by preparing ahead, familiarizing yourself with key talking points and of course, anticipating important questions about your company’s progress.
Since it’s an activity we all have to face at some point, I asked 8 founders from YEC about the most important thing they do to prepare for upcoming board meetings:
Test Your Equipment
A lot of people know to do your homework on the guests you have attending the meeting and to prepare any and all documents, but you should also think about tech snags. I’ve often waited for intercoms to work, projectors to fire up, etc.
Just taking 10 minutes before a meeting to test things out could save your entire company! You want to seem as polished and prepared as possible, so there should be no detail, no matter how big or small, that works against you in this situation. Don’t assume that you’ve “got this” even though you’ve done it before; arrive early and get prepared.
Make Board Preparation Part of Ongoing Activities
After hearing someone remark that they spent three days preparing for a board presentation but ran out of time in the meeting, I completely changed my approach to preparation. The company just lost three entire days of productivity from one guy, and probably weeks of productivity across the organization for each quarterly meeting.
Instead, change your process. The board presentation should be one output or use of information, but others in the company should get value from the work done. Some things are board only (e.g. key talent reviews), but most things—from forecasts to sales updates—can be used at all levels of the organization.
—JT Allen, myFootpath
Prepare Discussion Items Regarding Company Strategy
While you certainly need to be prepared to answer all questions—your board members will be presenting the status of your company—you should also be ready with high level strategic questions you want to put forward for discussion. This is your chance to get advice and input from a room full of very experienced individuals who are highly invested in seeing your company succeed.
Not only will their advice be useful, but you can also make sure that your vision remains aligned with your investors, and that their expectations have not diverged from what is practicable.
Prepare With Your Team
Make sure that the entire company is aligned and everyone knows what’s going on. We run a series of mock board meetings with the management team to expose any potential weaknesses in the business or refine answers that might need additional clarity.
Not only is this communication extremely beneficial to the management team, but it helps us better maintain focus. When it comes time for the board meeting, we take a deep dive with various parts of the business. It’s amazing how in sync everyone has consecutively been.
Review the Minutes From Previous Meetings
Before board meetings, I make sure to review the minutes and presentation from the previous meeting. It’s important each time to showcase the progress that your company is making toward the business’s milestones, and being able to quantify the progress you’ve made since the previous meeting is a key part of showing that trajectory and traction.
Reading through the previous meeting minutes also ensures that you will be reminded of any follow-up materials or items you may have needed to prepare or follow up on, too.
Send Materials in Advance
Have an agenda and communicate it in advance. Pull your numbers together into a professional and easy to read format (recent performance, milestones achieved, upcoming hurdles) and send them out in advance. Use the meeting to discuss financial and strategic topics, as well as as an opportunity to update investors on recent wins.
Know Your Numbers
Know your numbers cold. When presenting to the board you will be peppered with all sorts of questions. If you have your facts and numbers straight, and are able to deliver on command, all should be well.
Identify your Biggest Challenges
Board meetings are a place to step away from daily operations at your company and think strategically. They’re an opportunity to decide the long-term direction of the company and what you need to get there. Identify your biggest challenges before the meeting, and use your board to ask for advice and resources. By aligning your needs regarding funding and execution, you’ll make your life much easier down the road.
Photo by Simon Blackley