Order In The Boardroom: Best Practices For Managing And Conducting Effective Board Meetings

Procido LLP


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Board meetings play a crucial role in the success and governance of any organization. These gatherings bring together key decision-makers to discuss, strategize, and make important choices...
Canada Corporate/Commercial Law
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Board meetings play a crucial role in the success and governance of any organization. These gatherings bring together key decision-makers to discuss, strategize, and make important choices that shape the future of the company. However, without proper structure and management, board meetings can easily become unproductive, time-consuming, and ineffective. In this article, we will explore the best practices for managing and conducting effective board meetings to ensure order and productivity in the boardroom.

1. Meeting Frequency

The board should meet at least once per quarter, and more frequently as needed. The board should also dedicate time annually for strategic planning. Where possible, all standing meetings should be booked 12-18 months in advance to reserve the time in director's calendars and avoid the need for any last minute scheduling frustrations.

2. Agenda Planning

Follow an annual work plan for standing agenda items to allocate board or committee responsibilities across the calendar year. Meet 4-6 weeks in advance of a meeting with the Board Chair or Committee Chair, as appropriate to review the agenda, allocating time to agenda items, and identify additional matters for the board or committee to address (and for which supporting information is requested from management). Consider the time required for both reporting from management and discussion/decisioning in allocating agenda time. Be sure to incorporate time for breaks where meetings are schedule to extend beyond two hours.

3. Standardize Management Reporting

Adopt standard deck templates and report formats so that all management reports are structured in a similar way, with the following key information to quickly orient directors: purpose of the report, authority of the board or committee (derived from its mandate or terms of reference), background information, supporting data, and a recommendation. This format ensures that management focuses on what, how, and why information is presented to the board and helps each director quickly orient to the issues. The more standardized the reporting, the easier it is for all meeting participants to focus on the key issues.

4. Preparation is Key

Before the meeting even begins, thorough preparation is essential. This includes creating a comprehensive agenda, distributing relevant materials well in advance, and setting clear expectations for attendees. The agenda should cover key topics, allocate sufficient time for discussion, and prioritize critical issues. Board members should be expected to review materials beforehand to facilitate informed and efficient discussion and decision-making during the meeting. Avoid using critical meeting time on background information to bring everyone up to speed. Directors need time to digest the material. Adopt a standard of 1 week in advance and address walk on matters as needed and with full consent of the Board Chair or Committee Chair.

5. Effective Chairpersonship

A skilled and effective chairperson is pivotal to the success of any board meeting. The chairperson is responsible for maintaining order, guiding discussions, and ensuring that the meeting adheres to the agenda. They should encourage active participation from all board members while also managing time effectively. A well-prepared and confident chairperson fosters an environment of professionalism and focus.

6. Encourage Open Communication

Promoting open and honest communication is essential for a productive board meeting. Board members should feel comfortable expressing their opinions, asking questions, and challenging assumptions. An inclusive atmosphere encourages diverse perspectives and contributes to well-rounded decision-making. Implementing a "no surprises" rule, where major issues are communicated in advance, helps streamline discussions and prevent unexpected disruptions.

7. Time Management

Respecting the time of board members is crucial. Meetings should start and end on time, and agenda items should be allocated appropriate time slots. The chairperson should enforce time limits for discussions to prevent tangential conversations and ensure that all agenda items are covered. If certain topics require more in-depth discussion or analysis, they can be assigned to a dedicated committee for further review or carried forward to a subsequent meeting.

8. Utilize Technology Wisely

Leveraging technology can significantly enhance the efficiency of board meetings. Digital platforms for document sharing, video conferencing, and electronic voting can streamline the meeting process and facilitate remote participation. However, it's crucial to ensure that all board members are comfortable with the chosen technology and that technical issues are addressed promptly to avoid disruptions.

9. Consider Participants Carefully

It is standard to include key management personnel in most meetings, such as the CEO, CFO, and Corporate Secretary, but it is also important to calibrate participation from management. The whole management team is likely not required for every meeting, but it is also important to ensure the board has sufficient exposure to key management personnel. Adopt a base expectation of participants and then calibrate based on the agenda. It is also acceptable to bring certain management personnel into the meeting for certain agenda items without requiring participation in the full meeting.

10. Use a Consent Agenda

A Consent Agenda can be used to address routine, non-contentious matters that require board approval but may not require board discussion or warrant taking up precious meeting time. Consistent with the expectation that the board come prepared and review all materials in advance, a single resolution to approve all matters on a consent agenda can be invaluable to maximize meeting time to focus on the most material matters. Adopt a process to provide opportunity for any director to request an item be removed from the Consent Agenda and addressed during the meeting where clarification or discussion is required.

11. Follow Up and Accountability

After the board meeting concludes, follow-up actions are essential to maintain momentum and accountability. Minutes should be promptly prepared and circulated. Action items should be collected, and responsibilities assigned. Regular follow-up on action items ensures that the organization progresses toward its goals, and board members or management, as appropriate, are held accountable for their commitments. A report on progress against action items should be provided at the next meeting.


Effective board meetings are a cornerstone of successful corporate governance. By implementing these best practices, organizations can create a structured and efficient boardroom environment that fosters collaboration, informed decision-making, and accountability. With proper preparation, skilled leadership, and a commitment to open communication, board meetings can be a driving force behind the continued success and growth of the organization.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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