Ask Susy: What Are Your Best Tips for Scheduling Board Meetings?

Dear Susy,

As an executive assistant at a startup, one of my responsibilities is scheduling board meetings with our investors for the upcoming year. What advice do you have for reaching out to each board member’s admin for scheduling? Should I email all admins with a list of available meeting times? And what’s the best approach to allow scheduling to go seamlessly?

 – Seeking Seamless Scheduling

Dear S-cubed,

It’s tempting to compare scheduling a board meeting to herding cats, but cats only have a few things going on: eating, sleeping, and chasing the occasional ball of yarn. Board members have meetings, deadlines, product launches, conferences, work travel … not to mention families, vacations, and personal obligations. Getting a group of these super busy people in one room at the same time makes wrangling Fluffy and Whiskers look like a cake walk.

With enough time (and a few tricks of the trade), getting a board meeting on the calendar can be a relatively pain-free experience. We polled a group of experienced Office Ninjas about the conundrum. Here’s what they had to say.

  1. Start early. Way earlier than you might think, like a year in advance if possible. One Ninja had all 2017 board meetings finalized by mid-2016. Starting early increases your chance of finding a time that works for everyone before people get too booked. If you’re able to schedule them all at once, distribute the complete schedule on a quarterly basis.
  2. Avoid the month of December at all costs. Between the holidays, social events, and planned vacation time, the end of the year is the worst time to try to book a meeting. If you’re looking at December, move it along.
  3. Start with board members who have executive assistants. They tend to have the most complicated schedules. Use Doodle—a polling app—to find common open dates in their schedules. From those options, nail down a final time with the remaining board members who manage their own calendars. If Doodle feels impersonal or actually complicates the process (some Ninjas had varying perspectives), schedule a quick conference call with the executive assistants instead. Then, proceed to marvel at how much a group of admins can accomplish in 10 minutes!
  4. Create an email distribution list of admins for board members. This will save you time when it comes to making changes, sending documents, and communicating meeting logistics. It may also be helpful to CC these admins on emails that include major announcements and company news. This keeps them in the loop and develops a more comprehensive outlook on their executive’s involvement.
  5. Collect information about dietary restrictions and food allergies in advance. You don’t want to be scrambling for a vegan, gluten-free lunch option the night before.
  6. Get to know other board members’ executive assistants. A solid rapport will make the scheduling process smooth. Plus, it’s easier to navigate changes and snafus when you’re working with someone who feels like a partner instead of a roadblock.

Don’t worry, S-cubed. Knowing that scheduling a board meeting is trickier than it looks means you’re already thinking ahead. And that, Ninja, is half the battle!

Got any scheduling pointers? What works and what doesn’t? Let us know in the comments!

OfficeNinjas

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Comments

  1. Melissa Hunter
     

    We cannot use Doodle or Google poll in our organization due to privacy concerns, so I pretty much am on my own. One thing that helps, we book meetings out three years and we try to keep them in the same week each quarter. For ad hoc meetings, I try to find some times that work for internal people and then go out to the Board members with those dates to see what works. Most of our Boards do not have EAs or other assistants, so it’s always a challenge.

  2. Judy
     

    We typically schedule a lunch afterwards. Make sure you block time for that as well!

  3. Tana
     

    All good points and I use Doodle for both of my boards and it’s the only way to get any kind of agreement on a date and time from a lot of the members. Since I began using Doodle with them at the end of almost every meeting they now say…Please send out a Doodle for the next meeting!

    1. OfficeNinjas
      author

      Gotta love technology ;) Have you tested any similar tools, Tana?

  4. Josh de Beer, CAP
     

    These are great tips, I use Doodle frequently and am curious to know how it may complicate things for some, but I know not every place is the same. I would add two things. Make sure your attendees know a schedule of events/activities if it’s more than one day, our people like to know when they have time to catch up on calls and emails. Also, if there are social events involved, ask what spouses and guests will be there, surprises are not always a good thing.

    1. OfficeNinjas
      author

      Great points, Josh! Providing an agenda is a definite must-do to add to the list.

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