Required Attendance Board Meetings

Last night at a FeedBurner board dinner we had an interesting discussion about "requiring attendance" at board meetings. I am an advocate of face to face board meetings. I know that I am not particularly useful when I am on the phone and I generally think that is true of all board members.

Matt Blumberg
(whose board I am on) told the group that he "requires" board members to attend at least four meetings face to face and he structures those meetings so that he gets the most he can out of them. They generally start with or end with a board dinner.

I told Matt that I like his approach but I don’t like the idea that the other meetings are "optional", which is the message you send when you make four meetings mandatory.

I suggested a similar but different approach. Strongly encourage board members to attend all the meetings, but pick four meetings each year and make them "strategic planning" meetings and have a dinner the night before. Send the message that those meetings are not to be skipped. And schedule them at times of the year when people are unlikely to have vacations and such.

As companies get more mature, its fine to switch to a different approach. Comscore does four face to face meetings each year and four board calls. That’s a good model for companies that are large enough to be run on a quarterly basis. Same with Matt’s company, Return Path.

But for early stage companies that are still building their businesses and revenue models, monthly meetings are critical. I like to do 10 meetings a year and have all board members in attendance. That’s not going to happen at each meeting but it should be a goal. I also like board dinners, but not before every meeting. I think the idea of four "big" meetings a year with dinners the night before, and six other face to face meetings is a perfect system.

One more thing on this subject. Management often over prepares for meetings. Not mentally. But in the presentation materials. Hundred page board decks are nuts but I see a lot of them. Maybe for the big strategic meetings they make sense. But for the monthly update meetings, I think management should spend less time preparing for those meetings than many do. If you are spending a month a week preparing for a board meeting, something is wrong.

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