Utilizing #BoardEvents to Increase Board Engagement
Many times independent board survey data demonstrates a common issue for boards. Board Meetings can often be disengaging and very boring. We are not just talking about board processes that focus on reports, updates, and approvals that over time will also reduce engagement. In some of our conversations with many Executives and Directors, they often will admit that many board meetings they have attended have been ineffective and some will even say a “waste of time”. ABA’s data from board information we have collected via our web app demonstrates similar findings.
This consistent lack of board meeting “engagement” will prove detrimental over time and it will limit the level of future board impact. At ABA we objectively and continuously track the level of engagement of the participants (both Executive Teams and Board Members) in our client’s Board Meetings to predict the level of future impact. A simple equation that we have developed highlights the correlation between a greater feeling of engaging board meetings and higher future impact.
We have provided many ideas on ways that you can build a more engaging board process (eliminating PowerPoint presentations and reports from meeting, the Executive Team posing open-ended questions in board packets, etc.) in previous posts but this one is going to focus on everything outside of the board meeting. At ABA we view every Board Meeting as an opportunity to engage with your Board Members and once or twice per year we recommend an “#BoardEvent” that should be focused on engaging your board members at a deep personal level.
We call these #BoardEvents should provide “experiential activities” wrapped around a typical Board Meeting that allows for the Executive Team and Board Members to develop a stronger bond and level of trust and makes the meeting memorable. We recently executed one of these events for one of our clients and we would like to highlight it for you as an example;
We recently observed the board meeting of one of our mid-cap public company clients where we planned a #BoardEvent. To provide some context, this company is a multi-cultural board with Directors from both the US and Mexico so we held the meeting in San Diego. This is important because these meetings should be considered unique so you should have them in cities that are different than the organization’s primary headquarters. The destination is important and should be considered based on some of the following criteria;
- Tying back in some way to the organization’s mission or business. In this case, San Diego is an important gateway for the company’s business which is tied to both sides of the border.
- Offers many unique experiential opportunities
- Easy to access from a travel perspective
- A place that many people may want to extend their stay
In this board meeting, our clients invited the spouses of the Directors as well to participate in many of these activities (not the board meeting obviously) so all of these points were even more important. This provided a unique and engaging way to get to know the Directors and Team. If you are going to make the meeting highly experiential you may want to consider inviting spouses or significant others from time to time.
Day One – The Welcome Dinner
At ABA, we have a hard and fast rule for every board dinner (mandatory in our system) that there can be no discussions relating to the board meeting of the company. This is important when including spouses or significant others. Spouses do not want to typically go to another steak dinner to hear discussions about a company that they do not have a direct impact on themselves. In this case, this was a casual dinner where a third rule was included that mandated that you were not able to sit next to your spouse either. A casual setting will also allow the participants to connect personally.
Day Two – Board Meeting and Activities
In the morning we had our normal High Impact Board Meeting but the big difference was that after the meeting was over the participants were not rushing to the airport to head home as normal. For #BoardEvents, it is important to plan an “experiential” or “bonding” activity. In this case, our hosts took the group out on their boats for a tour of San Diego from the perspective of San Diego Bay. Our local hosts provided the rest of us with a unique context and aspects of the area, many of which related back to the industry of the company.
After a few hours on the boats, we headed to one of the nicest homes in San Diego and were hosted by a good friend of the Chairman, who is also a very accomplished and famous person from the area, for “sundowners” (i.e. drinks at sunset) with a unique view of the city. This was followed up by another wonderful dinner with opportunities to connect further on a personal level. We have even seen “ice breaker” questions be valuable for the participants to get to know each other.
Day Three – Closing Optional Activities
If you plan a #BoardEvent in an amazing place like San Diego and include the spouses some of the participants may not want to leave right away. Some of the participants may have to leave or may want to go off on their own so it is important to offer an extension of activities as optional events. In this case, the participants were offered a “behind the scenes” tour of an amazing company based in the area to get an inside look at some amazing technologies that affect all of us globally. This was followed by an open afternoon (very important) and finally an opportunity to further connect at a San Diego Padres game. While not my favorite team (GO DODGERS!!!) what an amazing ballpark and experience, especially for those from the other side of the border, some of which had never been to a baseball game before. To reiterate not all of the participants stayed for this but for those that did it provided a unique venue and further opportunities to connect.
The entire #BoardEvent was one of the highest-rated and most engaging board meetings that the team had experienced since ABA has been collecting engagement data from the Board Meetings. We realize that doing this for every meeting is not realistic but following a similar program once per year will provide tremendous engagement and higher potential for increased future impact with limited additional costs and effort. Please share with us some of your most memorable #BoardEvents so we can copy them and give you the credit!!!