Top 5 Ways to Make Your Board Meetings Fun and Successful

A fun board meeting

Board meetings tend to have a reputation – gray decor, old men in suits, long reports flooded with numbers with ludicrously small font sizes and dreary debates that range from monotonous to terrifying.

The board in general has long suffered from a poor reputation as less of a supportive structure to the CEO, and more of an out-of-touch disciplinarian parent.

How a company runs its board meetings can completely redefine the board’s relationship with the executives and transform the culture of the company from the ground up. Here are the 5 tried-and-true ways to bring some color to the next board meeting!

1. Start with the wins

The first few discussion points set the tone for the entire meeting – too many boards dive into the flaws and issues and compartmentalize celebrating the wins, if they discuss it at all. 

Instead, start the meeting with the biggest wins from the last meeting and celebrate them – even consider attaching a silly, harmless tradition to the celebrations (like a coffee cheers!). 

It sounds odd but celebrating small wins rings in board meetings in a positive light, and immediately boosts and prioritizes morale.

2. Focus on the big stuff

Nothing kills a board meeting faster than falling into long-winded debates about the weeds. Instead, when you find a discussion wormholing, quickly refocus on the big picture.

To better accomplish this, have someone in the room set action items on the fly – any time a discussion starts to get into the nitty gritty, have that individual table it with a predictable action item.

Having someone in the room be accountable for keeping track of the different threads will inspire confidence in the board to focus on the big picture issues – which, let’s face it, are a lot more fun to talk about.

3. Keep literature simple, standardized, and short

Jeff Bezos famously introduced a rule early into Amazon’s tenure that’s still alive today: no PowerPoints, no financial reports. Instead, any meeting can, at most, be accompanied by a memo that is not to exceed longer than 6 pages.

If possible, the memo should follow a casual narrative similar to that of a press release.

Nothing screams “boring board meeting” more than ridiculously dense literature – force participants in a board meeting to keep their points concise and cut through the fluff.

4. Crack a joke!

Alright, not literally.

The best way to lighten up a board meeting is to, well, lighten up a board meeting. Encourage casual conversation. If the meeting starts off with a short discussion about a recent socio-political event, encourage it – don’t derail it to “move on to the important stuff”.

Every person in a board meeting is there to accomplish something to better the company. It’s unnecessary to handhold them and enforce the “sanctity” of the meeting – allowing for more casual conversation will keep things light, comfortable, and let the ideas flow much more freely.

5. Try to include everybody

Not everyone will feel as comfortable contributing – however, taking the time to include everyone in a discussion will then inspire more inclusive discussion in the future. Intentionally including people prevents conversation from being monopolized by a small group of people, and isolating others.

When someone who rarely speaks does contribute, encourage them – and give them prompts to follow their train of thought. The more people speak, the less stale the board meetings will get – and the better the ideas flow.

And ultimately, ideas are what board meetings are all about, right?