How to make sure your Board members are all reading from the same page

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Board meetings.  A group of people, often with diverse backgrounds, business experience and objectives, coming together to make decisions.As you can imagine, this process doesn’t always run as smoothly as it could…

The good news? There are things you can do to help facilitate a productive, constructive Board experience.

Here we set out our 4 tips to ensure your board members are all reading from the same page.

1.  Have a comprehensive Board pack

The pack is the cornerstone of an effective meeting.

It needs to contain all the papers and key information that directors need to have informed discussions on priority topics. Importantly, it also needs to include the salient information they need to make decisions.

This might include not just the papers themselves, but supporting information like previous meeting minutes and background on why certain decisions were made.

In hard copy, these need to be attached as appendices. If you use a portal to produce your papers, they can be accessed via links to the relevant material.

2.  Make your packs user-friendly 

Some Boards continue to use hard copy papers. Others prefer soft copy packs that can be read on iPads, laptops or other devices. Whichever route your directors have chosen, you need to ensure you present the information in the most user-friendly way.

This means making packs easy to navigate, with clear signposting that enables users to find the relevant content quickly. 

It means ensuring the most up-to-date versions of papers are included (sometimes a challenge when late additions appear, or changes are made to papers already bound into a pack!) An online approach can make this easier, with updated content simply uploaded to overwrite the previous version.

However you approach it, making sure your directors are all working from the current version of the pack is essential.

3.  Give your members adequate time to read the papers

With numerous topics to cover, and material that’s often detailed and complex, it’s important that your directors have sufficient time to read and digest the meeting papers.

This means distributing them in good time. In hard copy, you need to book couriers or arrange postage well in advance of the meeting to ensure materials arrive a decent interval before the meeting.

Again, updates to papers can be a challenge here, with replacement material sent out last-minute or even distributed on the day of the meeting.

A portal-based approach means instant delivery via encrypted email or by members logging in to a secure site. It can also enable pdf, online and print-ready versions to be created simultaneously. This can make it easier to get all papers to your members in good time.

Of course, getting papers to directors in good time means not just efficient delivery but an efficient production process. Make sure you’re geared up to have your packs ready well in advance of the meeting date so they can be collated and distributed with time to spare.

4.  Account for peoples' preferences

Your Board is comprised of individuals, and they will all have their own preferences when it comes to how they receive information.

Some will prefer hard copies, which they can annotate by hand, read on the move and access wherever they are.

Others will want soft copy access, with the ability to read papers online or via pdf.

The best solution in terms of delivery is one that allows your directors to access papers according to their preference.

Many Boards find themselves going not fully paperless but ‘paper-lite’, reducing their costs and carbon footprint (great for your CSR, as a positive side-effect) while still giving members the option of hard copy papers if that’s what they want.

Board meetings can be productive and valuable, with essential strategic decisions made. The way papers are produced, designed and delivered can make a huge difference, helping meetings to run smoothly, with positive outcomes.

Hopefully these tips have given you some suggestions in terms of ensuring your meetings are effective.

You can read more about best practice in terms of Board papers in our whitepaper, Board portals – what’s in it for directors? You can read it for free online.

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