Strategy & Business Model | We often get asked

How to prepare for an effective board meeting?

1. Send the board material well in advance

First thing I just must mention, and I know this is mentioned in every board “how-to”, is for the management to prepare and deliver the board material well in advance. It is very typical that board members are super busy and not always able to dive into your material if it arrives after 10 pm the night before the board meeting.

Getting the material out late will ensure that at least a couple of the board members haven’t had time to understand the material in advance forcing you to truly present and talk through every slide in the meeting rather than focusing on the board wide discussion on the topics and forward-looking items.  This will frustrate you, this will frustrate the members that had the time, and this will frustrate the members that didn’t have the time.

It is very typical and understandable that, if you do the right thing and deliver the board deck say five business days prior to the meeting, you will still provide some updated slides the day before. An example, you provide the then-current sales pipeline one week before and update that slide one day before the board meeting.  Fully acceptable!

2. Set short calls with each board member prior to the meeting

Second point, and this is tightly coupled with the point above: if you expect to get a major decision finalized in a board meeting, set short calls individually with each board member during the week leading into the meeting.  

This will ensure the whole board knows what’s coming up, allows them to field any questions and asks for additional background details prior to the meeting.  When the topic is then handled in the meeting, the decision is more likely made right there and then rather than tabled until the next one.  

I’ve seen too many board meetings where product pivot, strategy change, updated budget and similar decisions have been presented on the spot only to be sent back for more homework causing unnecessary delays and a need for an additional unnecessary board meeting only to finalize the decision.

3. Board dinner the night before

A third less important point in preparing for an efficient and effective board meeting is to have a board dinner the night before.  Wait, what, why? A board member with full stomach is gentler in the meeting?  No, not that.

Of course, if you haven’t prepared your material in advance, this will be painful for the management team as the prep then culminates the night before.  

But if you have done the right thing, the dinner the night before enables you to

a) take care of the small talk and chit chat that otherwise takes the first 10-15 minutes in the beginning of the meeting 

b) open up a dialogue in this bigger group on the items to be decided the next day, possible leading into a quick update on some of the slides and certainly faster decision making 

c) connect your management team in a deeper level with your board members so that direct one to one links are created for any help and advice, and finally 

d) this ensures traveling board members are not late from the official meeting because of delayed flights, too tight of arrival schedules etc.


4. Stay in touch also between meetings

The board meeting is in no way the only time to be in touch with your board. 
Set up a board Slack channel for an easy way to share information and exchange thoughts in-between the meetings between the board and your management team.  I do my best to always be available to my companies via all communication channels, but sometimes setting up a regular weekly, bi-monthly or monthly catch-up online or locally over coffee works well for an open exchange of ideas with the CEO on how to move the company forward.  I see my role mostly as a coach & sounding board for the CEOs.  

Being in constant touch with your board makes the official meetings much more efficient as everyone is constantly on the same page with the company!



Who answered the question?

Sami Ahvenniemi

General Partner

Sami Ahvenniemi, General partner, Vendep Capital



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