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Board Meeting Etiquette Part 4 (Attendance)

The effectiveness of Board meetings has a significant impact on the ultimate performance of an organization. And they require a certain etiquette in order to be most effective. But how exactly should they be treated? Why should we have them? What should be discussed? Who should attend? Answering such questions can be difficult for first-time entrepreneurs who find Board meetings to be a foreign experience. Even veteran entrepreneurs should be reminded of proper Board meeting etiquette. So I’ve asked some experienced entrepreneurs and investors to offer their opinions about Board meeting etiquette in the context of small, private businesses. Their responses will be compiled into a series of seven separate blog entries.

When is it appropriate, if ever, for someone other than a board member to attend a Board meeting?

“A Board meeting can have an open and closed session. The closed session should be for Board members only and, on occasion, they can invite third party consultants that can add some value to decision making. However, the open session may provide an opportunity for other key individuals, members of the company or vendors, customers, to participate in specific presentations to help give insight to the entire Board. This should be at the discretion of the Chairman of the Board. ” –Jaime Villagomez

“By invitation from the board or when someone has obtained observer rights.” –Allan Young

“I am a firm believer in having company executives attend the board meetings. They can be excused for certain topics (governance, compensation, financing, etc), but especially when a company is small it’s important to have the leadership team participate.” –Gregg Rosann

“The agenda for the meetings usually provide a status report on the company. The CEO can provide this report, or more frequently key operating managers attend and give a broad overview on their businesses. Most times the managers stay only for their allotted portion of the agenda. This gives the board time to view and evaluate the performance of key managers with an eye towards succession planning.” –Robert Rieger

“Attendees or advisors are typically invited for the purpose of addressing strategic, unique or important areas of interest for the organization where the members are not equipped or uncomfortable in analyzing or voting against a measure of importance or concern. These visitors are usually restricted time frames specific to their requested involvement so they are not privy to otherwise highly confidential issues of the organization and to reduce their and the organizations liability.” –Tricia McGarry

“Attorneys – to apprise the Board of any substantive litigation, lenders (not often, but occasionally). Any large vendor partnership decision should include a board meeting (even if just by phone).” –Scott Spurgiez

“There is a tenancy for the effectiveness of Board meetings to be compromised when too many executives attend and are expected to report on their progress or performance. Extensive efforts must be taken by the Chairman to ensure that Board meetings are as effective as possible. Meetings should be succinct and to-the-point. Non-Board members should attend at the invitation of the Chairman as long as their opinion adds significant value to the progress of the meeting.” –Jacob Webb

Next question:

How often should a Board meeting take place?

Previous questions:

Pt. 1: What is the purpose of a Board meeting? Why should we have them?

Pt. 2: How long should a Board meeting be?

Pt. 3: Who should do the speaking in a Board meeting and why?

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