Whether you’ve come up through the ranks and know the whole board like your oldest friends, or you’re kicking off a startup with just you, a co-founder, and a lawyer, being a first-time chairperson is daunting. Some people make guiding a board’s discussion look easy, but now you’re in the perfect position to learn just how tough it can be. So here’s a few quick tips to keep in mind that’ll help make running that room go just a little smoother.
1. Be Aware of the Time
One of the biggest pitfalls that first-time chairs can fall into is not managing their time correctly during the meeting. When you have co-founders, investors, and lawyers all sitting around your table, it’s because they believe that you and your organisation are worth their time and money. So you need to respect that. To do that, the first thing to do is be organised early. At least 36 hours before the meeting, and preferably closer to 72, send each member of the board a copy of your agenda and presentations. This allows them to research and to plan their queries and advice to be most effective for the organisation. Secondly, do not start late, and do not run late. Your board are volunteers, and they have other things they could be doing, but they’re here to help you. Make it worth it for them.
2. Be Aware of the Money
One of the easiest ways for a board member to embarrass you is for them to call you out on incorrect numbers. If you pawn off your financial responsibilities to anyone else, even if they’re your CFO, you can be caught out at the most inopportune times by questions about spending, collections, investments, debts, anything. Don’t be caught out - read up.
3. Be Aware of Your Plans
You were trusted with this position for a reason. Whether that’s a record of success, a willingness to shoulder responsibility, or a right-place-right-time situation, you’re a leader now. One of the biggest parts of this role is developing plans to take your organisation forward and make it grow. If you come to your meeting, present a slew of issues facing the organisation and hope that the board can just hash it out, you’re going to end up spending more time resolving arguments than real problems. If you instead come in with a stance on the issues and a plan that will guide the company through it and towards success, you’ll focus the board around how to make your plan work, and vastly boost the likelihood of it happening.
4. Do a Dry-Run
Here’s the easiest trick to boost your confidence in your first meeting: sit down with your co-presenters, present to each other, and offer each other some constructive criticism. Point out any holes or problems with their (and your) presentations. If you can fix the most obvious issues, then when you give your real presentations the discussion will be focused around what was actually said rather than what was messed up or missed.