Preparing for meetings
Meetings and decision making
Preparing properly for a meeting is crucial to ensuring that it runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible. The most important documents to consider are the agenda and the meeting pack, both of which are considered here. We also provide a useful pre-meeting checklist and look at the benefits of using a board assurance framework (BAF).
The agenda is an ordered list of topics to be discussed and the business to be transacted at a meeting. Agendas provide structure and direction, advanced notice of priorities, and, if constructed in a transparent and collaborative fashion, they can facilitate informed decision making in your organisation.
A clear agenda indicates to members of the board or committee what is required from them at an upcoming meeting.
Establishing the purpose and actions to be taken at a meeting helps to focus the resources and efforts of board and committee members. While it is not strictly necessary to provide this list of business to be transacted, it is good practice for an agenda and supporting papers to be sent to board or committee members ahead of the proposed meeting to enable them to be sufficiently informed and prepared for the discussions proposed.
Board members should also have an opportunity to contribute to the agenda and therefore have a voice as to what is discussed by the board. It is recommended that agendas and board packs should be sent at least five working days before the meeting.
It is normal for the agenda to refer only briefly to the nature of each item to be transacted, with supporting papers providing more detailed information. To assist board members in assessing the upcoming meeting, it is useful to include a supporting line as to the purpose of the document and to state whether it is for information, decision, approval or discussion.
An agenda typically includes:
- any apologies for absence received prior to the agenda being sent;
- declarations of interests;
- the draft minutes of the last meeting so as to be approved at the meeting;
- the opportunity to discuss matters arising from the draft minutes, for instance, the progression of any action points;
- the risk register;
- discussion of the business to be discussed at the meeting – this will mean sending the latest drafts of any relevant documents (including presentations, reports or resolutions);
- any other business – this can be contentious if the business raised cannot be discussed during the time remaining for the meeting. Because of this, the chair may refuse to put matters under this heading to the vote until the next meeting; and
- the date of the next meeting.
The agenda acts as a roadmap for the chair of the meeting and therefore the business to be discussed should be listed in a logical order (usually importance). Given that it is there to assist the chair and the smooth running of the meeting, the agenda should be agreed with the chair prior to it being sent to the members.
Planning the agenda
In drafting the agenda, the chair, chief executive and governance lead are likely to determine the items to be included and the order in which they are to be discussed. However, as mentioned above, to build greater transparency and accountability in your governance practices, you should invite other stakeholders to suggest agenda items as well. This can greatly enhance your awareness of issues or concerns among stakeholders and draw on a wider diversity of opinion and expertise than can be found on a small board.
The board agenda (and the issues brought for the board’s consideration) should be primarily focused on strategy, performance, impact and accountability.
Agenda items may also be influenced by the use of a corporate calendar wh