How to write an effective agenda and minutes for your Board meeting.
Fruitful companies use their Board meeting to stay on top of their business strategies. But preparation is crucial to ensure that any decisions made are executed properly.
In this guide, we’ll look at how to write an agenda for an effective meeting, and take minutes that allow your teams to action your discussions.
Why is a meeting agenda important?
The age-old joke of “this meeting could have been an email” might resonate with many workers – a common consensus being that most meetings are a waste of time. And without a well-written agenda and formalised minutes, they certainly can be.
An agenda is more than just a list of items to discuss. It’s a roadmap that will ensure that meeting time is well spent, and that everyone involved will be actively engaged.
Without a solid meeting agenda in place, discussions can get dragged off-topic, become bloated and meandering, and detract from your team’s productivity rather than enhancing it.
Why are meeting minutes important?
The meeting minutes are an invaluable document that can memorialise the decisions made in the meeting, and the reasoning behind them. They serve as a means by which those not in attendance get up-to-speed and provide a legal record of the meeting and its contents.
Writing a good meeting agenda and taking comprehensive-yet-concise minutes are key to strategic success. Here’s how to do it right.
What to include in your Board meeting agenda and minutes
This running order will help you to fill out your meeting agenda and minutes template with confidence and clarity.
Item 1: Meeting date, time, location & attendees
It’s important to record this information to provide context. It provides a snapshot of when and where the meeting took place, and will help you to identify this meeting for later reference.
Item 2: Previous business
Before discussing the contents of the current meeting, it may be necessary to discuss business carried over from the last one.
Board members may need to review and approve minutes from the last meeting, and follow up on actions taken. Are there any issues raised in the previous meeting that remain unresolved? If so, it may be necessary to draw up an action plan to bring about their resolution.
It may be necessary to list actions to be taken and establish a timeframe for completion and / or review.
Item 3: New business
Having addressed any items carried over from the previous meeting, the board will move on to the discussion of new business.
This may include the delivery of departmental reports from committee chairs. Sales teams, marketing teams, technical and legal teams may all need to coordinate and talk about how their efforts address the company’s overarching goals.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) may need to be established and reported upon, in order to set out a framework for success. KPIs may include any of the following, depending on the purpose of the meeting:
- Units sold
- Retention and churn rates
- Profit margins
- Revenue growth
- Customer satisfaction
- Social / digital marketing engagement
It may also be pertinent to establish a snapshot of the company’s finances during the meeting. As such, financial statements may need to be compared such as:
- Monthly profit and loss
- Cash flow review
- Balance sheet showing the company’s assets and liabilities
It is not necessarily relevant to include an overview of these statements. Instead, focus on how these pertain to the goals and KPIs established in the meeting agenda.
It may also be necessary to establish a timeframe to address the items discussed in new business. This may be subject to review in the next meeting.
Item 4: Any other business (AOB)
Before the meeting closes, it may be necessary to see if there is any other business to report or discuss in the meeting.
This is an opportunity for attendees to raise anything that is not laid out in the agenda but requires immediate attention or action.
Virtually anything may be added to AOB, but it’s important that this section not be used to include irrelevant or off-topic information.
AOB is usually a good place to bring up anything that attendees wanted to add to the agenda but were not able to do so in time. Or items that arose once the meeting agenda was already established and disseminated among the team.
Again, it may be necessary to draw up a timeline to address issues raised in AOB.
Item 5: Closing the meeting
Once all relevant business has been addressed, it’s time to close up the meeting. It may be a good idea to note the time at which the meeting was adjourned, and tentatively arrange a date for the next meeting.
It might also be pertinent to summarise any objectives that need to be achieved by the time the next meeting takes place. This will provide attendees with a quick and easy reference point to ensure that they hit the ground running in the next meeting.
Board meeting minutes: Best practice
Taking minutes is a skill. And like any skill, it needs to be developed. Those unaccustomed to the taking of minutes can fall into bad habits such as recording information that isn’t useful or relevant, missing salient points, or presenting minutes as an unedited stream of consciousness that’s incomprehensible to readers.
Here, we’ll look at some best practice tips to ensure that meeting minutes are useful, relevant and concise.
Use your agenda as a template for your minutes
When you have a clear agenda, meeting minutes almost take care of themselves. Using the agenda as a template for your minutes helps to ensure that everything noted down is directly linked to what the meeting is trying to accomplish.
An agenda should also help to ensure that those present do not deviate from the items to be discussed and addressed, reducing the risk of off-topic chat making its way into the minutes. It’s also advisable to have an established format in place for your minutes, which is why we’ve taken the liberty of providing you with an agenda and minutes template.
The meeting minutes are an important reference document for numerous people across different departments. There can be no room for interpretation or personal bias.
Even when we’re trying to be objective in our voices, personal biases and emotions can still creep into our writing. Just remember to:
- Stick to the facts and stats
- Re-read your minutes the next day to ensure that they’re clear and objective
- If in doubt, ask a colleague to look over them for you
Know what not to include
As important as it is to capture the right information in your minute-taking, it’s also necessary to filter out anything that is unimportant, irrelevant, or inappropriate to include. Not only can these clutter up your meeting minutes, they can also prove problematic in a legal investigation.
Some things that may take place in the meeting but should not be added to minutes include:
- Personal opinions
- Disagreements between individual board members (unless they expressly request that the disagreement be recorded)
- Personal conversations or small talk
- How individuals vote
- Any off-record conversations
By rule of thumb, “if in doubt, leave it out”.
Board meeting agenda and minutes template
Now you should be able to start putting these pointers into practice. Head to our Resource Library for downloadable templates for Board meeting agendas and minutes.
Need advice? Talk to the people who’ve been there by joining the Founders Hub community and connecting with fellow founders and business peers.