Balancing the itinerary so that attendees don’t end up sitting for hours on end is also key. “It’s important to get up, to move, to change the environment,” says Meller, who suggests consider-ing breaking for an outdoor lunch or scheduling an early morning netwalking event where attendees pair up with a partner to walk and talk about a topic that needs to be resolved. Some board meetings build in short teambuilding or creative-thinking exercises.
During the meeting itself, it’s incumbent upon the CEO to manage the flow of discussion, giving everyone an opportunity to speak and adapting the agenda as needed, rather than sticking to a fixed timeline. “It’s a little bit of a ringmaster act,” Chacko says.
FEEDING BODY & MIND
Rather than an added expense, consider great food and drinks an investment. “When you’re sitting in a meeting and trying to give it your best, it’s important to be happy and comfortable there,” says Chacko.
“A DINNER THE NIGHT BEFORE USUALLY SETS THE TONE FOR THE EVENT.”
Travel Leaders Group typically hosts a board dinner the night before the meeting itself, using the occasion to set the tone for the entire event. “It’s promoting open, interactive conversation in an environment where the board gets a sense informally of where the company is and where it’s headed,” says Chacko, who urges CEOs to take the time to get the dynamics of the board dinner—from table shape to ambiance—right. “Picking the right venue, the right kind of quiet place that’s fun, having the right participants and deciding who sits where, all matter.
“Sometimes, when we’ve had multiple tables, we’ve encouraged people to move around between courses. It’s all a means of changing the dynamic.”
The quality of the food, drink and downtime activities also shouldn’t disappoint, adds Tessitore. “These are folks used to nice restaurants, good wine,” he says. “We need to manage food and beverages to that standard.”
Offering healthy menu selections, including vegetarian fare, and exercise options is increasingly important to today’s attendees—and has a side benefit, notes Roche. “When you eat a healthier breakfast and lighter lunch, your mind is more effective. The trends are more exercise, healthier food and more vigorous activity.”
Board Meeting Know-How
…attend closely to technical concerns. Tech requirements (i.e. glitch-free A/V, video and telephone conferencing) tend to be straightforward, but you still have to get them absolutely right.
…be vigilant about security. Your firm’s director of security should meet with his or her counterpart at the hotel to address privacy, confidentiality and security.
…arrange for private car transfers. “Very often, folks are getting off a plane and getting right on a call, Therefore, it’s wise to have private cars, so they can take these calls,” says Paul Tessitore of American Express Meetings & Events.
…take a single thing for granted. Even when staying at five-star hotels, you can’t assume the property will do everything right, warns Tessitore, who advises covering “every detail, from arrival to departure.”
…get shut out of the hotel you want. Booking early is essential. To help secure space, consider being flexible on dates, entering into a multi-year or multi-event agreement or working with a site selection firm that can leverage volume and expertise.
…don’t make attendees ask. Build profiles of repeat attendees’ food preferences, dietary restrictions and other likes and dislikes so that hotels can accommodate those needs.