Maximizing Board Meeting Impact

Three Steps for Startups to Streamline VC Due Diligence

By: Sara Omohundro, Principal

Board meetings are a critical part of your startup’s governance. At Elevate, we hold 90+ board member/observer roles. We’ve seen board meetings that work really well…and not so well. Here are some best practices you can implement to ensure your board meetings run smoothly!

  • Schedule your board meetings a year in advance. It sounds like a long time, but this will help people plan and make their attendance more likely. Set an annual reminder for yourself to send out the calendar invites for the following year’s board meetings.
  • Keep the board meeting slide deck short and sweet. Only include the most important updates and discussion material in the main meeting deck. Supporting slides and other updates can go in the appendix or in a separate deck.
  • Send the meeting materials a week in advance. This gives board members plenty of time to review the materials and form questions. If the board members come prepared, you can spend less time on updates and more on strategic discussions.
  • Try to spend the vast majority of the meeting time on strategic discussions, not updates. One rule of thumb is to spend 20% of the board meeting time on company updates and 80% on strategic discussions and decisions. You might also consider moving important discussions or decisions to the top of the agenda so that you don’t run out of time to discuss them at the end.
  • When creating the agenda, consider allocating a certain number of minutes to each item, and include that in the agenda. This will help keep the meeting on track and on time. If the board meeting is long, don’t forget to leave time for breaks!
  • The length of the meeting depends on the frequency of the board meetings and what items need to be discussed. Boards that meet monthly may only need an hour, while boards that meet quarterly may need 2-3 hours. If the board has an important decision to make, consider extending the scheduled meeting time.
  • Provide opportunities for board members to attend virtually and in person. If board members are attending virtually, make an effort to include them in the conversation. It can be easy to forget about the people, not in the room! For board members attending in person, consider providing light refreshments, especially for long meetings. If you break for a meal, be intentional with that time. Use is to connect with board members outside of talking about company updates and strategy.
  • Leave time for an Executive Session and a Closed Session. In the Executive Session, company management and other staff members in attendance leave so that the CEO and board can speak freely. In a Closed Session, the CEO steps out so the board can have a private discussion. After the Closed Session, the board chair should follow up with the CEO if necessary.
  • After the board meeting, be sure to follow up with the board regarding any unanswered questions, action items, or subsequent decisions. Ask for feedback on the board meeting and make tweaks to the meeting structure and format as needed.

This is not an exhaustive list, and your board may have other preferences. Talk to your board members to learn what works best for them.

For additional information, check out the book Startup Boards by Bred Feld, Matt Blumberg, and Mahendra Ramsinghani.