Updated: Mar 31, 2022
Donovan has facilitated many successful strategy workshops for Boards of Directors and Senior Executives. Here are eight ways to keep your boardroom from becoming a very bored room.
Prior to your facilitation strategy session, let the Senior Executive know exactly what you're doing and what's expected from them. Giving them a sense of the agenda beforehand will help them prepare answers and get them thinking before you begin;
Board strategy sessions are usually held over two days, and for good reason: not only are your Senior Executives busy people, they are just like any people: too long is just too much. Everyone loses patience and attention span if you go to long;
Keep the agenda paced. By this I mean, allot a certain amount of time for each subject under consideration, and stick to it. Every Board if given the opportunity will go down the rabbit hole on an issue that can eat up hours of valuable planning time. If you allot 45 minutes to 1.5 hours for each topic, that should be plenty. When you get to you max time, announce it and move on. Everyone will appreciate you staying on time in the end;
If you get through a topic in less time than you've allotted for that subject, don't try to fill the time, move on to the next. This will keep things moving in a paced way that will energize the room and keep ideas flowing;
Stay out of the way. As a facilitator, your job is not to render your opinion, or give short speeches on what you think. You're there to find out what they think, and give recommendations on what you hear from them. You're there to stimulate discussion, not be part of it;
Make sure you get input from everyone. As with all groups of people, there will be those on the Board who are more outspoken than some others. On top of having free-flowing, and structured group input, make sure you include sessions that pass the topic from one Board member to the next. This way you are guaranteeing you hear from everyone on major topics;
Set yourself up for success by holding pre-session interviews with the Board to get a foundational sense of where people are coming from on various major topics. Going into a strategy session with the Board already having an outline for a SWOT gathered in pre-planning, for example, will help you move through the agenda without getting bogged down. Think about the major themes of your session and build a pre-session interview deck with these in mind so you can come to day one with a structure and ideas already plotted to start the strategy discussion;
When you're done, wrap it up! Give yourself and the group a final 10 minutes to quickly summarize what's been achieved over your two day strategy session, and let them know the next steps, which will be a recommendations report with findings or a full strategy plan. Then thank them and let them go! Being a good facilitator is also about caring about their time and other commitments: There's a lot that goes into holding and facilitating a successful Board Strategy Session or Workshop. Key among them is creating a fluid and paced approach to the agenda that will free your boardroom from boredom.