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Use Your Summer to Plan Better Board Meetings

Use Your Summer to Plan Better Board Meetings

What kind of feedback do you get about your board meetings? Are they productive, engaging sessions that meet their objectives? Sadly, many of our chapters say that their board meetings are frustrating experiences, because they:

  • Don’t accomplish anything real
  • Go past their time limits, if there was even a limit
  • Cover details that could be handled outside of the meeting.

Structuring better, more effective board meetings isn’t a tough process. It just takes some planning.

First, a review

Why wait? Summer is the perfect time, consider exploring and making these changes in the slower summer months. With no official board or chapter meetings and few, if any, chapter-related events, your board can put this time toward rethinking and restructuring, to turn your exasperating board meetings into productive ones.  

In a summer session, your board can, without distractions, dig into your chapter and see how things are going to date. How well are you performing against your stated goals? Ask all board members to review their areas and provide feedback. Summer board planning sessions can also help improve relationships between board members and smooth the transition for new board members, giving them a chance to work with the board before the rush.

Then, some tactical changes

Once you understand from your summer review what’s working well and what’s not, you know where you need to make changes. But how can you make strong changes during challenging board meetings? A poorly operating board makes for slow, haphazard progress, if any progress at all.

Here are some easy ways to improve the structure of your meetings and focus on real change:

  1. Designate a meeting leader. This person gets people on track and keeps them there. This role is especially critical when board members start discussing things that should be handled outside of the meeting and not related to the immediate discussion. If your board isn’t used to being given directions, this can be tough at first, as it can be hard to get them to switch topics. Get this person the backing of the chapter president, so they have the power to call for changes during a meeting.
  2. Create an agenda. In the limited time you have, how can you cover what needs to be discussed if you leave it up to chance? So, everyone has the same understanding of what will be covered in the meeting, develop an agenda with objectives and deliverables, and use input from all the relevant areas. Send it out ahead of time and ask for feedback. A detailed agenda can lead to deep, relevant discussions and concrete outputs.
  3. Have a schedule. Set a timeline for the meeting and determine ahead of time how much time to spend on each task. Make sure someone is responsible for watching the time and moving everyone ahead. This person, or the meeting leader, may need to ask people to continue their discussions at another time.
  4. Include an ice breaker- type activity. Studies show that people are most creative and engaged when their brains are at rest and relaxed. Choose activities that make your board members comfortable and eliminate any tension, so that they can be 100% present and engaged, not worried about what others think. Just make sure the activity is relevant and structured to not make anyone uncomfortable.

Finally, drop the brainstorming and consider ideating

Your board should always be looking for new ways to better meet the chapter’s mission and vision. Summer is a great time to come up with original ideas to incorporate into your programming. And great ideas often come from brainstorming, which can be a difficult, time-consuming process. However, where possible, leave the brainstorming to your committees.

Brainstorming focuses on spitting out lots of ideas, which often means quantity over quality.

Focus the board on ideating. They should be creating and developing the ideas the committees brainstormed. Find ways to get them to think creatively and develop executable solutions, rather than throwing out general ideas, which may or may not relate to your goal.

With ideating, all board members become engaged active participants. Making that mind shift and making tactical changes into your board meetings, can deliver productive, well-run, board meetings that ultimately benefit your chapter and your members.


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