You’ve done it! You’ve finally gotten your company out of your bedroom and into the great wide world. It wasn’t easy, and you deserve congratulations. But there’s still a lot of milestones you’ll need to get through before you’re off the ground, and one of the most daunting ones is your first board meeting.
You’ve networked your way to some investors or grants and a small committee, you established a team to fill the roles of treasurer and secretary, and you of course will be sitting as the Chair. Are you nervous? You deserve to be! But don’t worry, it’s not as daunting as you might think.
Here’s a few ways to help ease yourself into what will quickly become a big part of your working life.
1. Get Prepared Early
Two weeks. If you’re not ready two weeks before your first board meeting then you’re running behind. This might sound like a long time, but being familiar with your meeting materials is a big part of being confident at that table. And there’s a lot of documentation you’ll need to have ready!
The most intensive one will be your board pack, which contains all the information that your committee will need to know before attending the meeting. Planning, researching, and writing these documents early, and then taking the time to familiarise yourself with them, will get you ahead of the game.
Another great tip is to do a practice run. If you’re feeling particularly nervous, ask a friend who is experienced with board meetings to help you out. Run through your board pack with them, take a long lunch, and go through your meeting as if it was the real deal. They’ll undoubtedly have great questions that you didn’t expect - and you’ll be able to pause at any time and ask advice. If you can make it happen, it’ll be a huge help before the big day.
2. Know your Audience
You’ve found yourself a committee, sure, but how well do you know them? Will they drill you on the minutiae of your startup, or are they willing to work with your inexperience and teach you the ropes? Are they maybe in the same boat as you, and are learning on the job? Take them out for a coffee and get to know them a little before you have your meeting.
This is a great opportunity for you to set each other’s expectations at an appropriate level. Plus, getting to know them casually will give you some familiar faces during your meeting and help calm you down, and it’ll break down any barriers to asking for or offering help and advice. They’re doing this because they believe in your company,
3. Know your Company
While this one seems like it’d be easy - I mean, it’s your company, how could you not know it? - it can be a huge blow to your credibility when a committee member asks for a detail you’re not prepared for - one that could take months of stress to recover from. This point ties back to the idea of getting prepared early. Study your finances.
Study your plans. Understand what difficulties you will face and develop plans to compensate for them. Your board is full of amazing, smart people, and they’ll be able to see things from angles you might not expect, but getting ahead of the game and being aware of everything will help you rise to meet the challenge.