You may think that a board meeting begins once everyone takes a seat at the conference table. But the process truly begins when you distribute your board packet: all the materials board members need to start the meeting ready to discuss the issues at hand. Board packets are always important, but if it’s your first meeting, getting it right is a good way to start off on the right foot with your board.
Although board packets (sometimes called board packs or board packages) are nothing new, they’ve evolved alongside available technology. Instead of a heavy binder of printed sheets, they can be an electronic collection of written, visual, and even audio data. Today’s board packet allows for a whole range of formatting and presentation options that aren’t available on plain white paper.
The quality of your board packet can help influence whether your board meeting will be smooth and productive or disorganized and frustrating. As CEO, it’s your responsibility to create a board packet that prepares your board members to effectively and efficiently discuss issues and solve problems during your precious few hours together.
The advantages of board packets going digital
The benefits of sharing board packets electronically go far beyond the money you’ll save on postage. Digital board packets are:
- Secure. Password-protected files ensure that sensitive information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. You can’t leave a digital file on an airplane or in a wastepaper basket for someone else to find.
- Organized. Sharing multiple files with a single link means that all materials can be found in one place (and on a number of devices).
- Versatile. No longer limited to flat, two-dimensional words and graphics, you can share anything from short film clips to 3-D product models to interactive charts and graphs.
- Easy to Store. It’s simple to build an archive of old board packets for reference.
- Portable. Members can review your board packet without hauling around a pound of paper. And there is no danger of someone forgetting to bring their annotated copy to the meeting.
- Trackable. When you use a document sharing platform like DocSend, document analytics tell you which board members have viewed their packet materials.
Digital sharing makes everyone’s lives easier, so you can worry less about logistics and more about the quality of your board packet’s contents.
Building a better board packet
No longer limited by the physicality of paper, you might be tempted to include every remotely useful document or cool graphic into your board packet. This is not a good idea.
Ideally, your board members will go through the entire packet before the meeting, but they won’t (or can’t) if it contains too much information. Make it easy for your board members to find and absorb the most pertinent data — don’t drown them in irrelevant details.
Essential elements of a board packet
Zero in on the data and issues that are most relevant to the upcoming board meeting. Almost all boards will want the following to help them prepare for major discussions:
- Meeting agenda. This is the most important component of your board packet because it tells members what you will discuss as well as upcoming approvals and actions.
- Executive summary. Create a concise writeup of the current state of the company. This is your opportunity to speak directly to the board members, lay out your plans and point of view, and set the tone for the meeting.
- Performance data. Include metrics and KPIs on your company’s performance since the last meeting. Share what the numbers mean and why they matter.
- Recent financial information. Give a truthful representation of the company’s financial situation without drowning the board in numbers. Include profit and loss information and balance sheets or cash flow statements. Consider creating a dashboard or bullet-point summary so that board members can quickly internalize the data.
Depending on your company and the issues at hand, you may choose to include additional materials in your board packet, such as:
- Minutes from the last board meeting. Sending them ahead of time speeds up the minutes’ approval process.
- Board deck. You may want to share the slides you plan to present at the meeting.
- Information related to the topics of discussion. Think marketing reports, product road maps, or slides for special presentations.
- Departmental narratives or reports. Any department-specific updates and analytics to show how you’re progressing against your goals.
- Compensation reports. Consider including employee grants needing approval or compensation change information.
- Cap table. A table showing changes in company ownership may be helpful if your company is merging with or acquiring another.
Customize your board packet for your company’s unique needs. What’s important for the board of a $30 billion media company won’t be the same as what’s important for the board of a $10 million SaaS business. If you add in extra materials, consider earmarking the “must read” sections in case board members are short on time.
Getting the most out of your board packet
It won’t matter how much effort you put into your electronic board packet if nobody takes the time to review the materials in it. Keep the packet as short as possible and present the information attractively. Some CEOs present their board packets like magazines or insert what are sometimes called “Easter eggs” for board members to find.
Send your packet at least three days and up to seven before the board meeting, and use document analytics to monitor when and if board members open the files so that you can give them a gentle nudge if necessary. You should also reach out to members before the meeting to make sure they have everything they need. If possible, arrange to talk in person with each member ahead of time, so you can address any questions or concerns before they meet together as a board.
After the board meeting, ask members for feedback on the packet. Did they have enough information? Was everything clear? Be willing to consider other presentation or delivery options for the next meeting based on their feedback.
Sending board packets securely with DocSend
If you’ve done your job properly, your board packet should show a thoughtful overview and critique of your company’s progress. Be similarly thoughtful in how you choose to deliver your materials. Steer clear of email attachments, which are unsecure, unprofessional, and potentially untrustworthy. Instead, use secure document sharing to responsibly share critical documents.
DocSend is a particularly adept tool for board management because it helps you control your board packet materials with secure password protection. Create a virtual data room where you can share slide decks, reports, spreadsheets, and more with just one link. Viewer analytics show you who has viewed which documents so you can keep board members accountable and make sure they are well informed.
Set the tone for a great board meeting from the start with a professional, secure, and easily accessible board packet.