Early-stage board decks are dead: How to run a meeting in 60 minutes
Startups

Early-stage board decks are dead: How to run a meeting in 60 minutes

I previously served as a CEO board director and as an independent board director for two startups. I believed in the leadership and products at those companies, but I resigned from both boards because I couldn’t bear sitting through another meeting.

Time is a fixed resource. As a board director, it’s crucial to be helpful to the leadership team with the limited time we have — otherwise, attending meetings becomes pointless. With concise materials, you can make board meetings more effective and leave room for useful conversations.

After we closed our Series A and a formal board of directors was put in place, my co-founder and I sent them this short letter:

Dear Board,

From the start at TigerEye, we promised ourselves we would use our experience to our advantage by making better decisions across all vectors everyday. “What did we do that we never want to do again?” One thing we’d like to never do is the three-hour, too-in-the-weeds, non-strategic board meeting. Here is a memo we wrote instead of preparing a board deck. We hope this memo gives you the punchline on the business and how we’re thinking about the future, allowing the majority of our time together for meaningful conversations.

With gratitude,

Tracy & Ralph

How we structure our 60-minute board meetings

The memo we share with our board is typically three pages long and includes legal formalities like approving the last meeting minutes and stock option grants. This is the boring stuff that needs to happen with lawyers in the room, so we try to get that out of the way at the beginning.

Every board deck I’ve made and seen is more than 80 pages long. I am not exaggerating.

Next, we review our financials, because that is how investor board directors keep track of the world. Included in the financial update is a snapshot of the business:

  • how much money is in the bank
  • number of months of runway
  • revenue
  • growth
  • customers

We discuss what we accomplished in the last three months as a team and what we’re doing in the next three. Then, it’s an open discussion where we push ourselves to discuss worst-case scenarios and how to de-risk against them.

These conversations typically revolve around the competitive market landscape, our direction as a company, current economic conditions and a realistic check-in on how much money we’re burning and our ability to execute.

Today, TigerEye’s board meetings are an hour long. The short length has a lot to do with our size — we’re an early-stage startup. But I still plan to keep it concise and productive even as we grow. I’ve led and attended over a hundred hours of board meetings, and I never want to dread my own meeting again.

No more 80+ page board decks

Every board deck I’ve made and seen is more than 80 pages long. I am not exaggerating.

The challenge with this much content is there is a finite amount of minutes of attention we get from the board, and only so much information can be absorbed in one sitting. If that much information needs to be communicated, consider sending regular email updates or holding one-on-ones to keep participants updated between meetings.

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