Over the course of the past several years, one of our key talking points at the Zeck Worldwide Forum (ZWF) has been the distinction between what board members read in advance (pre-read) and what they discuss at the meeting (live discussion).
At our most recent event in Helsinki, someone asked us how we developed the concept of pre-read vs live.
It all began when Veronica Hiyleth, an amazing founder and CEO, forwarded us a letter she got from her kid at camp.
Here we go…
Mom and Dad,
My counselors are making me write this letter to get into dinner. The food here is so bad that I don’t even care if they let me have dinner. But, my counselors said they’re going to tie me to the lamppost with flypaper tonight if I don’t write something.
I mostly love it here and don’t miss you at all. Parts of this letter are just updates and you can read it all without me.
But, some of this is probably more important. So, still read everything but let’s talk about the more important stuff when I get home.
- My league night team is awesome. I play second base. One of the counselors smashed it right into our pitcher's face yesterday. A kid in B-8. He has a massive black eye and they’re not letting campers pitch anymore. If the B-8 kid replaces me at second, I’m running away from camp.
- I’m the best at the freeze game. I never have to stack the dishes. But, yesterday one of the waitresses licked my ear while I was frozen. I dropped everything and had to stack. Such bullshit.
- Our counselors said if we let them sleep during rest hour they’d get us pizza but we decided to pour water on ‘em instead. So, they poured flour on us and made us get in the lake. The flour was so caked into my hair that they had to shave my head.
- We’re playing Tanuga in a million sports tomorrow. I signed up for basketball, baseball and sailing. I’ve never sailed before though. I’ll probably die.
- I learned to short sheet a bed and to light stuff on fire and put it out with my hand.
- I don’t think you packed a toothbrush for me but no one brushes their teeth here so no big deal.
To Discuss Live
- I kissed a girl. French kissed. Don’t tell the Berlins.
- I have won so many pop tarts and cokes playing poker. Thinking I want to skip school and go pro.
- I ate 79 slices of cheese in a row at lunch and everyone calls me Cheese now. I want it to stick when I get home so please only call me Cheese from now on.
Okay. I’ve gotta go. We’re going to take all the string from arts and crafts so that no one can make bracelets anymore.
After going back and forth a bit with Veronica, we all came to the conclusion that Cheese’s letter could be a catalyst to changing the board meeting entirely.
You’ve gotta split your board materials into two distinct sections: the pre-read and the live discussion content. Both are meant to be read prior to the board meeting. But, unless someone asks to talk about something from the pre-read, only the live content should be discussed during your actual meeting.
The pre-read content is designed to calibrate your board about the past few months and update ‘em about important initiatives. But, to be clear and purposefully repetitive…this is an update and not meant for discussion in your live meeting. No more scrolling through pages and pages of reports while you’re together with your board. No more four hour lectures about topics that don’t need to be regurgitated live.
Side note…there’s one exception to the rule. If a board member uses the Zeck commenting feature to flag an item for discussion, that’s definitely a positive and you should get that point in your agenda for your live meeting.
The live discussion content should be entirely engaging and strategic. Sections such as your CEO Summary, Financials and especially your Deep Dives.
- Should we expand to Europe?
- Should we do a B round soon?
- Do we move forward with the acquisition we talked about recently?
Your board members are probably pretty smart and also experienced. Your live discussion is the time to banter, get advice, and work on real next steps.
Getting this right is the key to flipping your board meeting from an incredibly stressful and sometimes worthless exercise to your best and most valuable meeting of the year.
That’s actually what happened to us at our second company, CrowdRise and, more importantly, that’s what happened to Cheese.
So, what have we learned?
- Don’t tell your parents about your first French kiss because they’re definitely telling the Berlins.
- Make sure you know how to play poker at a young age (probably dice too).
- If you lose your toothbrush, email us and we’ll send you a brand new invisible toothbrush. Because of our telepathy we won’t even need your address.
I think that covers it.
Thanks so much.
Decent Humans of Zeck