How to Host an Effective Council Meeting

  • By: Tim Vire
  • November 11, 2022
Council Meeting
Reading Time: 6 minutes
Council Meeting

Learn how to host an effective council meeting by following these simple, straightforward steps.

Meetings allow board councils to examine issues, explore new opportunities, and recommend the best way forward. They also provide an opportunity to improve collaboration and communication among council members.

However, ineffective council meetings quickly fall short of this promise. Instead of enhancing communication or finding a solution, ineffective meetings end up being a waste of participants’ time. 

How do you host an effective council meeting that runs efficiently and achieves desired outcomes? Read on to learn about the steps for hosting a council meeting, and discover how board management software can improve future committee meetings.

What is a Council Meeting?

A council meeting is a formal meeting of a small subsection of the main board. Council meetings enable an organization to handle specific matters on a deeper level without bringing together the entire board of directors.. 

The type of committee determines the topic of discussion in a council meeting. Examples may include: 

Depending on the type of committee, council meetings may address sensitive matters like board member recruitment, the financial audit process, changes in bylaws, and operational matters.

Council Meeting Steps

In 1876, U.S. Brigadier Henry M. Robert invented the Rules of Order to help organizations hold well-organized meetings. Over 145 years later, Robert’s Rules of Order still exist as the gold standard for establishing formal meeting procedures, including council meetings. 

And while meeting formats may have evolved significantly in our digital-first world, Robert’s Rules of Order still guides formal meetings. Below, we explore the process step-by-step. But first, note these 3 vital considerations for running an effective council meeting: 

  • Have a Clear Purpose. It may sound obvious, but plenty of meetings begin without a clear purpose. Members should know upfront why they’ve gathered and what they’re expected to accomplish in the meeting. 
  • Start on Time. Finish on Time. Nothing sucks the energy from a board room like people arriving on time only for the meeting to start 15 minutes late. In the business world, time is money. And waiting for council members wastes precious time. 

Ending the meeting on time is as important as starting on time. Punctuality ensures you cover everything on the agenda and quickly get committee members back to their busy lives. 

  • Always Conclude the Meeting with an Action Plan. Dedicate the last minutes of a council meeting to create an action plan. Decide on the party responsible for a particular task and set deadlines.
Dashboard : Home - Icon Orange

1. Call the Meeting to Order

The council committee chair usually calls the meeting to order. It involves telling members of proposed discussion topics or initiatives and sets ground rules tol guide the meeting. 

In a hybrid meeting, for example, the meeting leader may require virtual attendees to mute their microphones (when not speaking) and keep their cameras on throughout the session. The chair can also open with an icebreaker question to start the meeting on a high note.

2. Call Roll

The secretary usually calls out names to establish committee members who are present or absent in the meeting.

Here are a few roll call best practices you should consider implementing in your next meeting:

  • Ensure you know each person’s name. You don’t necessarily have to memorize their full names, but knowing their last name is a good start.
  • Don’t be repetitive. As long as you’re audible enough, there’s no need to repeat a member’s name more than twice.
  • Provide an interactive roll call environment. For example, you could ask each attendee to raise their hand when called upon. Or you could have someone count off from 1 to 10, starting with the person who was most recently added to the roster.

3. Approve Agenda and Previous Meeting Minutes

Council members review the agenda and previous minutes to propose necessary changes before approval. When all members agree on the previous meeting minutes, the committee secretary and chairperson sign the minutes to make them official.

Technology revolutionizes how board committees approve the agenda and minutes. With a board portal, council members can review the agenda and minutes in advance to avoid wasting time during the meeting. 

4. Review and Document Council Reports

This step allows council leaders like the treasurer to report to members. It’s best not to read the reports out loud as it eats up valuable time. Instead, the presenter should summarize the findings. You can allow committee members to debate about them. After coming to a consensus, file the reports, which will be helpful when making recommendations to the board.

5. Review Old and New Business

As the council looks into unfinished business from the previous meeting, the discussion should set a time limit. This ensures you have enough time to discuss all agenda items without extending the meeting. 

Besides settling unfinished business, this stage allows council members to raise new business for discussion. To enhance a well-rounded debate, the council leader can call out specific members who haven’t shared their opinions. Any new business that doesn’t get settled in the meeting can be carried forward to the next. 

6. Adjourn the Meeting

The chairperson makes closing remarks to end the meeting. The remarks may include after-meeting follow-ups, such as reminding board members of the action plan. Here are a few things to keep in mind when adjourning the meeting:

  • Thank everyone for participating to show respect and appreciation for their time.
  • Ask if there’s additional business to discuss. If there’s unfinished business, you can choose to deviate from the agenda and discuss the issue immediately or mention that it will be prioritized on the next meeting’s agenda.
  • Declare the meeting adjourned. You can either say so verbally or write it down on the agenda.

Software Improves Council Meeting Outcomes

Board software solutions make it simple to host effective council meetings. They allow you to seamlessly follow the 6 stages above and get meaningful results in return. 

With a board portal, it’s easier to provide meeting materials in advance to allow enough time to review the agenda and previous meeting minutes. You can easily create and store meeting materials on the software, make updates, and inform committee members of changes early. As a result, they’ll attend meetings well-prepared for meaningful discussions. 

Board management solutions are also equipped with survey and voting features, so council members can vote on initiatives either in-person or virtually.

OnBoard Powers Effective Committee Meetings

OnBoard is a one-of-a-kind board management solution tailor-made to help organizations like yours conduct effective council meetings. Our software includes comprehensive features explicitly designed to support your board committees. These features include:

  • Agenda Builder: Create agendas using our intuitive interface, which allows you to quickly drag and drop items onto the agenda.
  • Task Management: Manage tasks assigned to committee members, allowing them to view who’s working on what.
  • Zoom Integration: Use OnBoard’s Zoom integration to connect with other users remotely via video chat.
  • Meeting Analytics: See anonymized and aggregated real-time insights into committee performance.

Other key OnBoard features and capabilities include advanced search, skills tracking, board assessments, secure messenger, D&O questionnaires, and more. 

Ready to take your committee to the next level with an intelligence platform? Request a free trial of OnBoard. 

And to make it easier to record and share meeting minutes, download our Board Meeting Minutes Template.

About The Author

Tim Vire
Tim Vire
Tim Vire is a senior manager of customer success at OnBoard. "My role places me in working relationship with every other team in the company," Tim says. "I enjoy that broad scope of the business." A Faith Bible College graduate, Tim enjoys spending time with his wife and grandson, collecting vinyl records, and listening to music. He lives in Pendleton, Indiana.