Today’s volunteer leaders serve in an environment in which a trio of association challenges – membership, meetings, and money – compel lively, and often lengthy, boardroom discussions.  Therefore, you must find fresh ways to compress time while making your board meetings more meaningful, productive, and satisfying.  This is especially necessary because committed volunteers are invaluable, but not inexhaustible.  Try some of these suggestions:


Engage the entire board:            To avoid letting a few people dominate the discussion, encourage everyone, calling on members individually if necessary, to contribute.


Focus on the future:            What’s done is done, so put all “past” items; i.e. previous minutes, financial statements, etc., on a consent agenda and move on to addressing goals, planning and policy.


Start on time, keep to a schedule, finish strong:            Respect those who arrive on time by beginning promptly.  Tardy members who regard disrupting a meeting will be motivated to arrive earlier next time.  Another way to focus on business is to incorporate time frames into the agenda. Indicating that one item will be scheduled for, say, 20 minutes and another for two hours, provides cues about the relative importance or complexity of the subjects in question.  End on a positive note by closing with what the group has accomplished.


Use a consent agenda:            This kind of agenda removes reports of past activities from general, and occasionally tedious, discussion.  Items that fall into this category might include meeting minutes, committee reports, financial statements, and updates on completed work or work in progress that do not require further action.  They require a motion, a second, and a vote to approve, but no discussion.  If done at the start of the meeting, this affords the board the opportunity to amend the agenda and even move an item back into the active discussion if warranted.


Adopt a meeting count-down:            Create a predictable schedule of activities for the days/weeks prior to a board meeting to enhance overall productivity.  Start with a reminder for board members and committee chairs to send in items to be incorporated into either the consent agenda or the action agenda, as well as any support documentation for those items.  Later, closer to the meeting, distribute the meeting notice, and make the agenda, board books, and support documentation available, by e-mail, mail or web.  Just a few days before, get a head count, verify a quorum, and issue a final reminder about the date and time (and place, if necessary) for the meeting, or any call-in information, if the meeting will be by teleconference.


Get feedback:            Every so often, poll board members to determine who productive they perceive meetings to be and to get suggestions for fine-tuning.  Do this occasionally, not routinely, for better response.