Board meetings are odd: possibly in any other circumstances we would think it a bit crazy to expect humans to give unbroken concentration for hours on end. But when those same humans become directors (yes, most of them are human) we suspend that reasoning. We put a large group of people – some of them jet-lagged – together in a room and expect them to stay alert, engaged and clear-headed for anything up to 36 hours, broken only by a good dinner and a few hours’ sleep.
Put like this, it doesn’t sound the ideal way to get good strategic thinking, thoughtful questioning and careful weighing-up of risks and opportunities. But if this style of board life is inescapable, at least some careful planning can help. Remember those formal dinner parties that seem to have gone out of fashion? It’s not just the mix of guests that counts – it’s the timing, table plan and ambience as well as the food. Board meetings need to be thought through with nearly as much care, although perhaps with fewer flower arrangements. It's the seemingly minor considerations that can make all the difference. So here are some unapologetically small things for the “hosts” (the Chair and Company Secretary) to consider, and a pointer to some of the social blunders we've encountered.