Prepare for a Board Meeting

An unprepared board member can make for a frustrating board meeting experience and leave other board members unmotivated and stressed about the work that they do. The only way for a board meeting to run successfully is if all members of the board, from officers to board members, adequately prepare for the meeting. Officers of the company usually have a larger role in running board meetings and will likely take longer to prepare for the meeting. The steps below contain information for all members of a board to use in order to prepare for a successful board meeting.


  1. Read and understand the bylaws. Every corporation, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, has a set of bylaws. The bylaws set forth how the corporation will run, how voting is conducted, who the officers are, along with other important information. Every board member should have a copy of the bylaws and bring it to each board meeting for reference.
  2. Review contracts and other business documents. If contracts or other documents will be discussed at a board meeting, even if the discussion will be brief, each person attending the board meeting should receive copies of the documents and review them before attending the meeting. Otherwise, time is wasted when board members are forced to review the document and attempt to engage in discussion of them on the spot. Giving board members the documents ahead of time allows them to carefully review the documents, make notes of issues they see with them, and come to the meeting prepared to discuss them. If, for example, the company is considering leasing a building, each board member should receive a copy of the proposed lease to review before the meeting at which the lease will be discussed.
  3. Meet with committees. Board meetings are an excellent opportunity to share with the entire board the work that has been done by committees. If board meetings happen infrequently, the committee should meet soon before the board meeting to review work done and prepare remarks to report to the board.[1]
  4. Follow-up on any assigned tasks. If you were assigned a task at a previous board meeting, make sure you follow up on that task before the next board meeting.
  5. Prepare remarks on items you wish to present to the board. If you have something to report on to the board, such as a potential contract with a vendor that you solicited, or feedback received from a customer, make a note of it to report to the board. Writing out remarks, or at least making note of the things you wish to discuss will make the meeting run smoothly and ensure that all the items you wish to discuss are discussed.
  6. Set an agenda. Whoever is in charge of running the board meeting, usually but not necessarily the President, should circulate a proposed agenda to all board members approximately 1 week before the board meeting. The President may enlist the assistance of the Secretary or another board member for the circulating of the agenda. Email is especially useful for this task. In the email, ask the board members for any additional items they wish to discuss, and set an agenda that is manageable.[2]
    • Set time-sensitive or most-pressing matters early in the agenda and, those items that can wait for the next meeting -- should this meeting run long -- toward the bottom of the agenda. Set forth the topics in a logical order so that you are not jumping around to different items on the agenda. If your meetings are generally an hour or two in length, try to plan the agenda accordingly. If there are a number of pressing matters that must be discussed, communicate to the board early on that this meeting will take longer than other meetings so that they can plan to stay longer.
    • Once the agenda is set, send it to the board members via email so that they have a finalized copy. Additionally, the Secretary should print copies to distribute at the meeting, and to file in the corporate book.
  7. Review the minutes from the previous meeting. This typically occurs at the beginning of the board meeting, where the Secretary will read the minutes aloud to the board. It also is part of your preparation for the meeting. Recalling what was discussed at the previous meeting helps give context to the new items on the meeting agenda. It can also help you remember any tasks that were assigned to you at the previous meeting.[3]
  8. Ensure that any equipment needed is present and in working order. If your board allows members that cannot attend the meeting in person to be present via conference call, be sure that you have the proper equipment in place so that everyone can hear each other. Make test calls before the meeting to ensure that your equipment works. Make sure any other equipment to be used, such as a projector or computer, is at the meeting and is set up in advance.[4]


  • If you are a new member of an existing board, ask other board members what they typically do to prepare for a meeting and what you can expect from the meeting. Remember that different boards will run their meetings differently, so even if you are experienced in sitting on a board, if this is your first time at a particular boards meeting, be sure to ask your fellow board members for an overview of how this particular meeting is run.
  • Speaking over another board member, having side conversations, and interrupting are not only rude but also unproductive.
  • A common tool used for board meetings is “Robert’s Rules of Order.”[5] The rules set forth a procedure to follow for conducting board meetings, but also can apply to any group meeting. Robert’s Rules are quite formal, and include calling other board members and officers by titles such as ‘Madam’ and ‘Chairman’. Your board may wish to be less formal than this. In either case, it is best if the board decides early on how formally or informally it wishes to conduct meetings.