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Writing board papers

Writing board papers

This article first appeared in LexisNexis’s journal, Inhouse Counsel .

Board papers are a bit like dirty dishes — once you’ve finished one lot, the next lot has piled up, and the board paper round begins again. So how can you make the process simpler for yourself?

If you have a company secretarial role, you will be very familiar with the board paper process, but you may need to guide those new to writing board papers.

Even if you are experienced at writing papers, you may have experienced having to rewrite your paper several times to satisfy your colleagues. Or even worse, you may have finished a paper and found a key stakeholder disagreed with its basic premises.

Writing well is about managing your time, so you have the “right” amount of time to meet your deadlines. Too often people do not allow enough time for planning, which results in the revision and editing process taking a disproportionate amount of time.

Please note, in this article I am talking about decision, discussion and noting papers, not the regular reports the board receives, such as the CEO and CFO reports.

The consulting and planning stage

If you are lucky, you’ll be given a written brief, but in my experience, that doesn’t happen often. If you’re not given one, I recommend you write yourself one and use it to engage with your stakeholders before you write your first draft. As you are writing your brief, you may find it useful to discuss your ideas with a colleague. Talking about a topic often helps clarify your thoughts.

When you are writing a brief, here are some of the questions to ask yourself.

Why is this paper going to the board?

For example:

  • Is the paper of strategic significance?
  • Are there significant risks the board should be aware of?
  • Has the board requested the information?

Having a clear purpose and desired outcome sounds obvious, but I am surprised how often I hear from directors: “I have no idea why I am reading this paper or what the writer wants me to do with this information.”

What are my key messages?

Sorting out your key messages is harder than it sounds when you have the “curse of knowledge” about a topic. Whatever analytical or problem-solving tools you are using, you need to be able to state your key messages verbally or in writing in one or two sentences.

What do directors know about your topic?

A common mistake many writers make is assuming that the board has the same level of understanding about a topic as management, and they even fail to spell out their acronyms or explain their assumptions.

Or they make the opposite mistake of thinking that the board knows nothing, but needs to know everything. They then give an overwhelming amount of background detail and technical information that smother the high-level key messages. The danger of this approach is that the conversation in the boardroom may be diverted from things that matter into inconsequential minutiae.

What questions could directors want answered about this topic?

When you’re thinking about the board, you need to consider their role and their skill sets. Many board-paper writers will never meet the board, but they should all be aware of their role and understand the difference between writing for the board and writing for the executive team.

If you have never written for the board before, I suggest you take a look at their bios, which are usually on the website, to see their skill sets. It’s also worth talking to someone who regularly reports and presents to the board to get a better understanding of the audience. There will nearly always be a detail person on the board, but don’t aim your paper at that person. If your key messages are supported by relevant evidence, you should satisfy that person too. They can always ask for more information or be briefed outside the boardroom.

Once you have agreement about your brief, then it’s time to plan your paper. There is no “right” way to plan. I envy people who plan their structure in diagrammatic form using pyramid diagrams or mind maps, but I don’t think like that. I mull ideas in my head and wait for them to crystallise before I can start writing with confidence.

Other people find that writing a stream-of-consciousness first draft helps them sort out their thoughts, and some people jot down headings on paper. If you are a person who writes a stream-of-consciousness first draft, you must be prepared to rewrite to restructure your material and delete waffle. Too often, board papers end up in the board pack that could do a rigorous rewrite. The information is there, but directors have to read it at least twice to work out what’s important.

The writing stage

Once you’ve sorted out what you want to say and why, it’s time to download the board-paper template. Avoid the temptation of using an old paper — the template may have become degraded over time. Also avoid using someone else’s old paper as a starting point for an update. Your paper needs to be written in your voice.

For many of us, writing is the easiest part of the process, and as with planning, there is no right way to approach writing. Some of us write a draft in a single sitting; others write in snatches of time. Some rewrite and edit at the end; others rewrite and edit as they are writing.

Some of us are fast writers; some are slow. People often tell me in workshops that they want to write faster, but I am not sure that writing fast is necessarily better than writing slowly. I listened to a podcast where a person said she’d written a non-fiction book in a week, but then the rewriting dragged on for months. I’d prefer to write slowly and do less rewriting. But it’s the end result that matters, not the process.

As you’re writing you will have your audience at the back of your mind, but your focus will be on structuring your content and stringing your words together. Even though you are working within the confines of a template, your paper must be well-structured and coherent in its own right.

Structure of decision and noting papers

The structure of a decision paper is different from the structure of a noting paper, although both must get to the point upfront and anticipate and answer directors’ questions.

A decision paper has a traditional narrative structure, but unlike a story, readers know the outcome upfront in the recommendation and summary. You then take a step backwards and briefly explain the background and context. The next step is to lead directors through your logical argument that supports the recommendation. The reasoning must be based on strong logic and include relevant supporting evidence.

Directors’ questions might include: What are you asking for and why? How much will it cost and is this budgeted for? How does this align with strategy? What are the risks and how will they be managed?

A noting paper or discussion topic may address a single topic, or be an update across a range of items. With single topics, the structure may be an inverted pyramid with the most important information at the top. If the paper covers a range of items, they may be grouped under subheadings.

Directors’ questions might include: What are you telling me about and why? Is there anything I should be excited or concerned about? The value of a template is that it provides consistency, so you shouldn’t change main template headings. If your template is very prescriptive and inhibits the structure of good writing, I suggest you campaign to have the template changed.

Modern template headings

Decision template

  • Recommendation

Noting/discussion paper

You could choose other words, such as “Draft resolution” instead of “Recommendation”, “Summary” instead of “Key points”, and “Considerations” instead of “Discussion”. If an organisation has a one-size-fits-all template, it will be based on the decision template.

Ten years ago, I often saw a purpose statement at the beginning of a paper and a recommendation at the end. The modern trend is to have the recommendation at the beginning in a decision paper, so directors know immediately what they are being asked to approve.

Some people argue that a summary is not necessary in a board paper because most board papers today are only two to five pages. I like a concise summary because it lets directors know immediately what the paper is about. They can read the rest of the paper with a questioning mind.

Many templates have compulsory headings about strategy, risk and financial implications. These topics must be addressed when relevant, but the headings won’t apply to all papers. Better, in my opinion, for writers to add their own specific subheadings when appropriate.

Use a mixture of prose, lists and visuals

Within any template, writers can add their own subheadings and use a mixture of prose, lists and visuals (eg graphs and tables). Many organisations develop their own writing culture and some have an unspoken preference for information presented in a certain way, for example, everything in bullet points. Such preferences are usually just habits, so use all the tools in your writing toolkit.

  • prose works best when you are writing persuasively and want your writing to flow well
  • bullet points are useful to back up information or write about discrete points
  • tables and graphs show data and trends succinctly and clearly, but they often need to be supported by a statement about what the data means.

Use jargon sparingly

The Plain Language Association International (PLAIN) says: ‘A communication is in plain language if the wording, structure, and design are so clear that the intended audience can easily find what they need, understand what they find, and use that information.’

Directors say they hate papers riddled with jargon and acronyms, but I think it is difficult to avoid them entirely. So although some jargon and technical language will inevitably creep in, ask yourself if directors will be able to read and retain the information in a single sitting. I find I often have to re-read board papers at least twice to understand them, and given that many board packs run to hundreds of pages, that’s a lot of reading!

The reviewing and editing stage

Reviewing and editing are two distinct processes. When you’re reviewing your paper, you’re asking yourself: “Does this paper work — will directors understand why I want them to approve this decision paper or what they should reflect on in this noting paper?”

Read your paper right through without making any changes to the content. If you’ve printed it out, put your pen down! If you start correcting the copy, you will lose sight of the bigger picture. The same applies if you’re reviewing someone else’s writing.

Once you’re satisfied with your paper, it’s time to check for typos and grammatical errors. Also check the formatting. We judge writing by the way it looks, and if your paper has long paragraphs and not much white space, it will look difficult to read.

Some people don’t bother to edit their paper before it goes on its reviewing round, saying that “people will just change it anyway”. Yes, there will always be people who can’t resist “putting their mark” on a paper, but that’s no excuse not to edit. If you have consulted well, the changes should be more about style than content.

And then it’s time to say goodbye to your paper and begin all over again with the next one. Hopefully, it will be an easier process the next time!

Common mistakes with board papers

A study by Board Intelligence in the UK found that 84% of directors are calling for more succinct and re-focused board papers. More than 50% of respondents said their board pack had grown because of more emphasis on compliance and regulation. If board packs grow too large, there is a risk that some papers will not be read thoroughly.

Well-written papers are essential to help directors meet their fiduciary duties.

Common board-paper faults include:

  • Directors do not know why they are reading a paper or what action the writer wants them to take.
  • Papers are often poorly structured, so directors have to read them twice to work out what they are saying.
  • Writers smother their key messages with irrelevant details that divert conversations in the boardroom away from the real issues.
  • Writers produce a concise paper and then include detailed appendices that directors must read.
  • In many board papers, summaries are an introduction or background statement, not an overview of the topic.

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Blog Six steps to writing an excellent board paper

can you write on paper board

A good board paper sets up a good board discussion.  It is the enabler which ensures the Board can operate efficiently and add value to management.  Many boards don’t get them right, and too often they are the bane of a NED’s Sunday afternoon!  It’s not always a quick fix to get the board papers right – it requires work and collaboration – but here are a few tips and suggestions to help…

Step 1: Ensure the purpose of the agenda item is clear

Writing a board paper starts from a good understanding of why the item is on the Board agenda in the first place.  Do the Board want something specific?  Or is it management who have brought the item forward?  Management should be clear on the value they can get from the Board.

Step 2: Positioning the paper – what is the Board being asked to do?

A lot of agendas set out whether a paper is “for decision”, “for discussion”, or “for noting” but this information in itself is not enough to position a paper…

…where a paper is “for decision”, make sure the decision itself is set out on the first page of the paper, and that the paper captures the information the board will need to make the decision

…where a paper is “for discussion”, management should set out up front where they would value the Board’s input, where they have concerns, and where they can benefit from the NEDs’ experience

…where a paper is “for noting”, or an update “for information”, it should be clear that the intention is that the paper is not going to be discussed.  The paper should still state what the Board should take away from having read it, even if it doesn’t need a conversation.

The secretariat should liaise with the Chairman and management to ensure that expectations are clear and mutually understood.

Step 3: A clear structure which NEDs can navigate

The aim should be to keep papers concise, and challenge yourself on what the Board really needs to know.

It should be clear how the paper answers the question set out in step 2 – there should be signposting of where information can be found, and a quick recap of previous board discussions.

Prioritisation within the paper should be clear – management should emphasise which are the most important points and where they have concerns.

Where papers are data heavy, narrative should help the NEDs to focus.  It’s not just about saying “this went up, this went down”, it’s about identifying trends and explaining root cause.

If the Board insist on a lot of information and data, to the detriment of a concise paper, use appendices for the detail so the main paper is focused on the most important messages.

Step 4: Allow time for review

Many management teams struggle to write good papers because they don’t have time (or don’t make time) to stand back and focus on quality.

Each team should leverage its best writers and make sure there is the right review process – executive committees often also provide feedback and challenge.

The secretariat should receive the paper in time to review and provide feedback – not the afternoon it is due to go out!  The best secretariat functions actually anticipate NED questions, and give feedback to management on how to pre-empt these in the paper.

Step 5: In the meeting, do not present the paper!

Board presentations can take up a huge amount of time.  To avoid them, the paper should be self-contained – a NED should be able to read and understand it without needing an explanation.

The expectation of the NEDs should be that they carefully read all papers.  This needs to be communicated to management so they know not to regurgitate the paper verbally.

Management should give a very short introduction (2-3 minutes perhaps) to help steer the conversation in the right direction and reiterate the points that need discussing.

S tep 6: Ask the Board for feedback

Few NEDs give proper feedback on the quality of board papers.  In particular, they should share their views on whether the structure is helpful and whether the level of detail is right.

NEDs need to be realistic and a bit brutal with themselves about what they really need to see.  Often, we hear NEDs clamour for shorter papers but, given the option, they will always ask for more information rather than less – they need to help management know what to cut.

Are there some papers that come to the Board too often?  For example, a performance update that comes to the Board every meeting, but changes little in the meantime?  The full report should appear less often and be replaced by a very short summary of the material changes – otherwise the Board will be inclined to get into the detail where they don’t need to, or might stop reading it properly and miss some important developments.

Some suggestions to try

  • Give “inductions” to new authors of board papers – this might be led by the secretariat, explaining the role of the Board (to the less experienced managers), or what this particular Board expects.
  • Offer training on how to write good board papers – there are companies that will do anything from a one-off session to a thorough review of board information.
  • Use a template cover sheet. These have mixed success… for them to work, the template needs to help set a minimum standard and clearly address the purpose and positioning points we make above – and management need to “get it” and use it well.
  • Ban slides! Slides imply a presentation is coming – which should be avoided.  Also, they encourage a kind of shorthand and simplification which is incongruous with the idea a board paper should be self-contained.
  • Think about the format. Most NEDs read from a tablet these days, so is a Word document with small font the best?  And how easy is it to read across that spreadsheet?
  • Use a board portal – most do, but for those who don’t, or don’t like the one they use, it might be worth the investment.
  • Focus on dashboards – NEDs love a good dashboard! They are a great way to convey complex information in a reader-friendly way, so it’s worth getting them right.
  • Use the CEO report to frame the meeting. CEO reports vary hugely in style and substance, but we think they work best where they give a balanced overview of the CEO’s priorities and the big topics and decisions coming to the meeting, through the CEO’s lens.

11 Steps To Writing Effective Board Papers Every Time

If you’re not entirely sure what board papers are, let’s start there. Board papers outline key information on the discussion points, decisions and actions required for a board meeting and are usually a few pages in length. This is not to be confused with board minutes , which are different.

Generally speaking, guidelines for a board paper include:

  • An executive summary
  • Recommendations
  • Background information and context
  • Discussion points and actions

Board papers are a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to governance, giving the key decision-makers the information they need and keeping board meetings as structured and effective as possible. Without being part of the day-to-day running of a business, the board of directors rely on the information given to them in board reports to make the right decisions.

Without the right information and presentation, there may be oversights and misunderstandings that can have knock-on effects on the rest of the business. So, as someone who prepares documents for the board, how can you ensure that you’re writing effective board papers each and every time? Let’s take a look.

Why do you need to write board papers effectively?

The purpose of the board of directors is to make sure that the business is heading in the right direction and the right activities are taking place. That’s why they need to be aware of any issues that may stand in the way of business progress. 

As some boards meet semi-regularly, well-prepared board papers are vital in equipping directors with the information they need to make effective, timely decisions. Too often they are overwhelming in volume and information, yet still insufficient for good decision-making. 

11 steps to help write effective board papers every time

The impact of board papers on meetings and effective decision-making is often overlooked. Here are a few steps that will help ensure you write effective board papers every time:

1. Write for the reader

During the development of board papers, keep in mind that you are writing for the reader. Know what purpose your documents have and what information is necessary and unnecessary for the board to know to make strategic decisions. Often, high-level insights at a departmental level, as well as overviews of the available data, will give the board everything they need. 

Top tip: Don’t forget that a picture is worth a 1,000 words – instead of going into detail, it’s appropriate to use graphs, pie charts and/or tables as applicable to better display information and data trends.

2. Write in plain English

Too much jargon can decrease the value of the information and divert attention from what is actually important. Remember to write in plain and simple English to make it easy for anyone and everyone. Each director on the board will have their own expertise, so marketing jargon isn’t relevant for a board that includes someone who deals only with finances, and vice versa. 

As part of the general board paper process, use a formal business writing style to keep the content relevant and understandable for all involved. If there is unavoidable jargon, technical terms or legalese , try to include a glossary of meanings. 

3. Include only new information

As board meetings are often restricted in time, don’t rehash the same content from previous meetings. While reminders and context are appropriate and valuable, presenting ‘old’ information as new is unhelpful and not a good use of the time available. 

4. Only share relevant information

Again, time management is key in board meetings, so it’s important to stick to the agenda , keep things moving and get decisions made quickly. Therefore, when preparing board papers, be sure to weed out unnecessary details and only share short and crisp points from the topics covered to achieve maximum effect with minimal information.

Similarly to point 3, context is key, but be mindful of the level of detail included and think about how relevant this is to the decision-making process.

5. Don’t duplicate the management report

For effective board papers, don’t just copy the information from the management report . Here are some critical differences between a management report and a board paper:

While information from the management reports may be appropriate to use, board papers require less detail. Copying and pasting the same information from the management report will not help to have an effective board meeting.

6. facts and evidence are your best friends.

As the author of the board papers, it’s easy to underestimate your knowledge of the context and core reasons behind each statement. Especially as you are editing a wide range of data and evidence into smaller, easy-to-digest points. The reader might not have the same knowledge you do. 

Top tip: Back up persuasive statements with evidence that can assure the reader what you say makes sense, without overexplaining.

7. Follow content with strategy

Board paper writers should remember that, after mentioning a step taken, it is useful to follow up with the strategy that was considered. This helps readers understand the goals behind the steps taken.

For example, you might explain to the board that the sales team has started to use an additional method for sales. This may need extra funding. Demonstrate to the board why this was tested initially – perhaps through competitor insights or customer feedback . This helps the board of directors to better understand the journey, context and background before making a decision on the way forward.

8. Properly structure your content

To keep the board documents simple to understand, use a structure that prioritises and clearly showcases the most important topics. This should form an ongoing style for board papers for that particular board. Use the following formatting styles to keep the document clear:

  • Create a structured layout . This may include an index or appendix and page numbers.
  • Use the house style , preferred options for fonts and relevant branding (including colours as necessary).
  • Format headers and titles .
  • Use bullet points for key facts rather than lengthy paragraphs.
  • Use bold, italic and underline formatting options to highlight key issues.
  • If online, share sources of information using hyperlinks .

Good structuring also means creating a logical order to the documents. If one decision can’t be reached until another is made, it’s logical to position the critical decision first to help inform the second decision.

9. Keep it concise, accurate and relevant

Simplify the information you share, and justify it with facts and figures. Only include the most relevant details, and make sure all information is accurate. As needed, link to or share an appendix with relevant sources, previous board meetings or notes to demonstrate accuracy.

In the same vein, double-checking your sources of information and data is crucial. And so is transparency. If there are big decisions to be made, make sure the risks and consequences of each outcome are explored thoroughly, instead of just highlighting the benefits of each option.

10. Keep on editing

Give yourself ample time for board paper preparation. Don’t be scared to edit the document and cut it back. Start by adding the information you think is most relevant, then step back overnight and go through it again the following morning. This will give you a fresh perspective and more of an editing eye.

Don’t refrain from editing, and keep doing so until you feel the information shared is to the point. Your goal is to provide the most relevant and valuable insights to help the board members make a decision. So, don’t be afraid to cut sections out if you don’t think they’re helpful to the process.

11. Understand the value of feedback

Peer feedback helps improve the board paper, especially when seen from a fresh pair of eyes. A great tip for making sure that your points are coherent is to use Google Translate to read the text, and that will allow you to hear any sentences that don’t make sense.

If this is your first time creating a board paper, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. Many of the board members will have had previous experience with such papers and may be able to give you some pointers for your next one. 

What do directors need from board papers?

Board papers need to clearly demonstrate all necessary information, facts and figures to assist strategic decision-making. Having missing, incomplete or false information can lead to poor decisions and, as a result, a lack of business progress.

Directors and non-executive directors alike have a duty to stay informed when making decisions. In some cases, poor decision-making could lead to removal from their position or even legal action if they’ve not acted fairly or in good faith .

So, what do the directors need from board papers?

  • Information on holistic organisation performance
  • Details of critical events, corporate crises and large-scale issues
  • Changes made or discussed since the previous meeting
  • A key summary of the decisions to be made, including relevant context and background
  • Balanced and unbiased outcome forecasting, including risks, consequences and benefits 
  • A plan of action.

What are the ‘Three C’s’?

When it comes to preparing documents for the board, keeping the three C’s of effective communication in mind (or even five C’s , according to some) is critical for success! As you’re writing and editing the documents, remember to keep them Clear, Concise and Complete. Use Clear language and explanations, keep the information brief to make it Concise and make sure all relevant information is included to create Complete board papers.

How long should a board paper be?

The regularity of board meetings and time since the last one can, to an extent, dictate how long a board paper should be. However, keeping it as short as possible (while still concise) is a good idea. Try to keep it to a maximum of three to four pages. This will ensure the meeting is effective. If your board report is longer than this, consider editing it down to only the most relevant information.

What are the three types of board papers?

The three types of board papers are: 

  • Papers for decision or approval
  • Papers for discussion
  • Papers for noting 

Papers for decision or approval give the board the data they need to make an informed decision. Papers for discussion are generally completed to make the board aware of a certain issue or potential issue; this may need a decision in the future but not immediately. Papers for noting are used to share information where no action or decision is needed. 

The type of board paper will help inform the structure and data required.

Following the 11 steps outlined above will keep you on the right track when you’re writing effective board papers. Bear in mind the Three C’s – Clear, Concise and Complete. Focus on presenting the information in an easy-to-understand format. Keep your wording and context relevant and brief.

If you want to speed up the board paper writing process, try board management software such as iBabs . For company secretaries, iBabs can save you hours of preparation and planning for board meetings while helping you to facilitate them safely online.

References and further reading

  • The Role of The Board of Directors
  • The Subtle Art Of Holding Board Directors Accountable
  • Ten Steps To Improving Your Corporate Governance
  • Ultimate Guide: How To Run Remote Board Meetings
  • [Step-By-Step] The Best Board Report Format + Template
  • Minute Taking: The Ultimate Guide For Secretaries

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  • Gain insight into the vital role of board committees in corporate decision-making and oversight.
  • Find out about board document annotations, how they benefit decision making and the different types of annotation.
  • Get a deep dive into what byelaws are, what they cover, and how they ensure effective governance.
  • D and O stands for directors and officers, but what does that mean and what do they do on a board? Find out here.
  • Find out what meeting action items are, why they are important, what elements they should contain and best practices for effective governance.
  • Meeting minutes are detailed written notes created during official company meetings. These notes describe everything that takes place during meetings.
  • Learn what meeting motions are, the different types and how to vote on a motion at a meeting.
  • Discover the crucial role of board administrators and their impact on effective governance. Learn about their responsibilities and qualifications.
  • Learn what a board book is, what it should include and how to use it to maximise the efficiency and transparency of your board meetings.
  • Every board needs a board manual, and this article explains what should be included and why you need to keep it up-to-date.
  • Learn what a board meeting agenda is, what to include in it and how to use it to keep your meeting on track.
  • A board member agreement is an important document for ensuring the board runs as it should. Find out how here.
  • How does a board of trustees differ from a board of directors and what function does it hold within an organisation?
  • A board officer is one of the key elements of the board, but which positions do officers hold, what do they do and how are they elected?
  • Find out what a board portal is and how it can help you streamline your board meetings and make informed decisions.
  • Learn what a board president is and explore the qualifications and traits necessary to successfully fill this role.
  • Find out what a board resolution is, discover the different types of board resolutions and how they are used to make important decisions.
  • In most meetings, there are many topics on the agenda to be covered in a limited window of time. Therefore, it’s important to be formal and keep the board members focused on the matters at hand.
  • The chairman of the board, or chairperson, is the highest authority figure on the board of directors. Their function is specified in their organisation's bylaws.
  • Find out what a consent agenda is for a board meeting, what it usually includes and how it benefits the work of the board.
  • What is a determination letter for the board of a non-profit organisation? Find out what it is and what that means in this article.
  • A director serves on the board of a company, but what are their roles and responsibilities, and what attributes make a successful director?
  • Get a clear understanding of what a board meeting approval is, when it is needed and which factors should be considered.
  • Learn what a notice of meeting is in board meetings, when to send it and what to include in it.
  • Members can use a point of information, or request for information, in a meeting, but when is it appropriate and what should you avoid?
  • In the midst of a discussion, a board member might request to make a point of personal privilege, but what does that mean?
  • Get a clear, concise overview of what quorum is and its significance in modern organisations.
  • Learn what a roll call vote is in board meetings and how it can help increase transparency and accountability.
  • On occasion, there might be a need to call a vote of no confidence, but under what circumstances and what is the correct procedure?
  • Discover what abstention means in board meetings, learn about different types of abstention and the consequences of abstention.
  • Learn about the different types of ad hoc committee and how they can help address specific challenges.
  • Discover the definition of adjournment in organisational proceedings. Learn the differences between adjournment and recess.
  • An advisory board is different from a board of directors. Find out how and what its role is within a business.
  • An ex-officio board member joins a board to impart their expertise, but can they vote and what are their responsibilities? Find out here.
  • An executive session is a meeting within a meeting, but how do you conduct it and record the outcomes?
  • Find out what board meeting etiquette is and why failing to enforce it in your directors can be detrimental to your meetings.
  • Sometimes board meetings reach decisions by consensus, but what is consensus in a board meeting and how do you record decisions?
  • Good corporate governance is essential for companies to operate to thief full potential. But what is it and how do boards achieve it?
  • Companies can track board meeting attendance. Find out why accountability is important and what the consequences are of poor attendance.
  • Discover the purpose and key features of the Chatham House Rule – the guideline that promotes confidentially and open discussions.
  • The executive committee is separate from the main board but answers to it. Find out who sits on the executive committee and what its role is.
  • Find out what the nomination committee is, who sits on it and what its responsibilities are, as well as learning about its relationship with the board.
  • The order of business in a board meeting helps you maintain focus and efficiency. Find out what it involves and how it helps.
  • Occasionally in board meetings, a member will call the question. But what does that mean and what effect does it have?
  • Find out how to appoint the chairperson of a committee and what their responsibilities are in relation to both the committee and the main board.

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10 Tips for better board papers


Board papers contain important information relating to the agenda and decisions that need to be made during board meetings. These key points can be both general or more specific. Board papers, much like minutes, are utilised as a form of record keeping. At the end of the day, board papers need to be able to improve and strongly influence the board's efficiency. It needs to be easily read and understood. It needs to create a good framework so as to focus the meeting. The CEO typically has to assemble the board papers whilst in close consultation with the chairperson. However, as the chairperson must direct the meetings, ensuring efficiency and straightforwardness, they should overlook the papers and should reflect similarly. The quality of the board paper should be a collaboration between the CEO and the Chair and should reflect their trust and confidence in each other. A Chair should trust that the CEO can identify and prioritise relevant topics for the board, whilst the CEO should be open to discussing any issues that may arise during the preparation phase. During the preparation of the papers, both parties must maintain a fluent dialogue about the papers and be open and honest about areas of improvement.

Tip 1 – Focusing on the tone

The tone is important as it focuses on certain questions such as:

  • Why am I writing this document
  • For whom am I writing it?
  • What is relevant to the reader?
  • What does the Board need to know, consider or understand?
  • What focus does this document have? (For information? For decision? For action?)

Board papers are published with the goal of letting the board understand the framework of the meeting. The writers of the board papers need to keep in mind to focus on governance matters and any other relevant information to the board members.

Tip 2 – Write with simple language

Overuse of jargon normally does more harm than good. It can even create the opposite effect of decreasing the value of important information and diverting attention from any crucial information. It is also important to note that each director brings a certain knowledge to the table and may or may not be familiar with any complicated or industry-specific terms used. Marketing specialists wouldn't know about niche financial terms and vice versa. Board papers aren't about impressing anyone but for directors to know plain and simply what is going on.

Tip 3 – Include only relevant information

Board meetings typically take place within a limited time. Therefore directors need to follow the agenda closely. Their aim is to present all required information, discuss choices and make adequate decisions. When preparing board papers, the goal is to keep them short, sweet and concise.

Tip 4 – Don't create another management report

Directors should not concern themselves with the operations of the organisation and therefore do not need day-to-day reports of the running of the organisation. There, however, is a fine line between operations and strategy. Governance and management need different data to perform their jobs effectively, but it’s important not to recreate the management report whilst writing Board papers.

Tip 5 – Utilise evidence to support statements

It is important to remember that readers of the board papers do not always share the same depth of knowledge as the writer. Facts and evidence can back up persuasive statements and assure the readers of the paper of the claims made.

Tip 6 – Align content and strategy

n the eyes of a board, strategy and risk are to be assessed together. Once a strategy is proposed, the project needs to be aligned, including a strategic pipeline, so as to honour the final decision.

Tip 7 – Structure content appropriately

Topics need to be presented clearly. Board meetings don't happen all that frequently and definitely don't last forever. The board needs to look at the board papers and know immediately what is going on and what needs to be said and done. Once a style is set, it should be kept for all other future documents. This includes structured layout and house style, like colours, logo and any branding).

The following format may help:

  • Table of contents;
  • Bullet points for crucial facts;
  • The use of bold and italic to highlight key pieces of information;
  • Any sources needed.

Tip 8 – Keep it simple

By keeping the board papers simple, concise and relevant to the readers, time can be saved. The information shared should be kept simple and backed up by facts and figures wherever possible. The writer should also double-check sources so as to ensure that there is accuracy and that all data provided is actually crucial. One major role of the board as well is to ensure objectivity and transparency. For that reason, risks and consequences should be explored thoroughly, and any decisions should be made from there on.

Tip 9 – Edit away

In light of keeping the board papers concise, accurate and relevant, the writer should be keen on editing them. The writer needs to ensure enough time to write the paper. They should start by adding any relevant information to do so with the Board, decisions, risks and opportunities. Then, once done, they should step back and review it at a later date so as to pick out anything irrelevant. Editing should be done until the information is to the point and as clear as possible.

Tip 10 – Peer review

There is great value in feedback from peers. Peers can help as a fresh set of eyes, especially if it is the writer's first time. Different board members would have had experience in writing a paper and would be able to give the writer some guidance for their own piece.

Do all of this with ease using BoardPro

Creating your meeting agenda has never been easier with BoardPro. Although one of the most important tasks undertaken by a board administrator, it is often the most costly and time consuming. With BoardPro, build an agenda by cloning an existing agenda, or use the best practice template. BoardPro’s signature smart tools are at your fingertips, to automate the regular tasks of confirming the minutes, and reviewing the interest register and action list.

Build agendas effortlessly

Creating an agenda in BoardPro is effortless and intuitive. What’s better is that once you’ve built your first agenda, you can clone it for the next meeting. Customise the structure of your agenda by adding as many sections and agenda items as required. Need to change the order, or add a new agenda item? Simply drag and drop your items into a new place in the agenda, and watch as they automatically re-number for you. For each agenda item you can write a purpose, select a presenter and allocate a time allowance. You can also attach supporting documents for each agenda item, which will collate into the board pack.

Screen Shot 2022-09-28 at 12.11.24 PM

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7 Tips To Write Perfect Answer In Board Exam 2022

Did you know writing perfect answers in board exams can score more marks in exams? So, in this article, you will discover the 7 tips to write the perfect answer in board exam 2022. You cannot compromise with hard work and studies however combining smart studying with writing a perfect answer may result in a 90 or above.

board exam 2022

If you are appearing for the board exam in 2022, you need to learn how to write answers before sitting for the exam. It makes no difference how well you prepare if you don’t know how to channel your knowledge and hard work effectively. 

Moreover, if you’ve completed your board exam syllabus , check these 7 tips to write the perfect answer in board exam 2022.

1. Invest In Reading Your Question Paper

Read your question paper

The first tip for board exam 2022 is to not rush while writing answers after getting your question paper. You should spend at least 5-8 minutes studying your paper, then mark the easy questions with a checkmark and the difficult ones with a circle. After that, you’ll be able to discover which sections are the easiest to attempt first. If its section is A, B, C, or D. 

You must decide the section you want to begin first. My advice is to start with the most difficult and time-consuming part. Furthermore, because your brain is more relaxed and active at the start, it will be easier for you to attempt tough answers in the beginning

. Alternatively, you can also start with easier questions first to get as many scores out of them as possible. As a result, you must select what is best for you.

2. Circle Or Tick The Attempted Questions

Tick the attempted question in board exam 2022

This board exam 2022 advice may sound obvious, but trust me when I say, it will help you in avoiding anxiousness. Sometimes students finish writing answers so quickly that it’s natural for them to hurry through to the next questions while forgetting or skipping to attempt some questions. To ensure that you don’t miss a question, circle or tick them all in your question paper.

3. Don’t Underestimate The Value Of Even a 1 Mark

One of the main rules for writing board exam 2022 is to attempt all questions even if you don’t know the answers. Furthermore, there is no negative marking, so answering every question will not harm you in any way. Simply go for it. 

Leave those questions till the end so you don’t waste time thinking about them. As a result, write the relevant answer and you never know, you might get a few points. Furthermore, did you know that some students fail to clear the cut off just by 1 mark? Students can’t get into their desired college for just 1 score is something big. So, don’t underestimate the role of a single mark.

Related Article: Effective Practices To Follow A Day Before Your Board Exams

4. Write-In Agreement With The Marks

write answers for all question in board exam

If it’s a 1 mark question, don’t write more than one or two lines for it. It’s a complete waste of time, and also you won’t get extra marks for it. So, you need to write your answers accordingly. Furthermore, if it’s a 5 mark question, don’t write more than 8-120 words for that answer. 

So, avoid writing stories and focus on to-the-point writing. Moreover, if you write answers based on the marks, you will save time and score higher. So, this is also one of the effective time management tips for board exams.

5. Write Neat & Clear Answers

write neat answers

When you write for your board exam, make sure to write clear, neat, and well-structured answers. It takes time and effort to examine the answers. Thus, it can be very frustrating for the teacher if they are not clear and precise enough. Finally, allowing for better clarity, neatness, and penmanship for the answers will offer you an advantage over other answer sheets with poor writing. 

Write the headline with a black pen, mention question numbers, and underline the important words. Furthermore, if you are taking MCQs, make sure to write the MCQ number/letter along with the answer and not just the chosen answer.

6. Be Calm During Exams

Stay calm during exams

Board exams often come with stress, fear, and tension. But such emotions make kids anxious during the exam or while seeing the paper. Make sure to be calm, practice breathing techniques, and stay focused on giving your best. If you don’t stay calm, it might lead to forgetting answers, getting distracted, or skipping questions. 

Therefore, always stay focused on the questions by concentrating on the answers and writing well. Make sure to write down the questions and answers clearly and thoroughly so that you can score well in board exam 2022. Furthermore, eat brain-boosting foods to enhance your focus and concentration.

7. Wrap Up & Don’t Forget To Revise

Revise after writing in board exam 2022

It’s one of the most vital tips for board exams. Students always tend to skip revising their answer sheets and this can be the biggest blunder for you. Dedicate your last 15 minutes to revising and reading your answer sheets to check your silly mistakes or any spelling errors. 

So, make sure to thoroughly read your answer sheets after completing your exam. Furthermore, rechecking will assist you in locating your errors as well as determining whether or not you attempted all of the questions.

Related Article: 8 Smart Study Tips For Board Exams 2022

Final Words

 If you’re working hard and studying for board exams, make sure to write effectively in your board exams. So, if you combine your hard work with good writing skills, you can score much better in these exams. If you are feeling overwhelmed by a board exam, Consider the smart study tips along with these 7 tips to write the perfect answer in board exam 2022.

So, it’s time to say goodbye to sweaty palms, anxiousness, fear, and constant overthinking because PiggyRide is here to help you. Moreover, eat well, take proper sleep, complete your syllabus, solve previous years’ question papers, and keep these tips in mind to write effective answers. PiggyRide is taking all the necessary efforts to make sure that you do well in your upcoming board exams. Moreover, if you need any personal assistance and 1:1 doubts clearing sessions, Visit PiggyRide and contact us at +91 63 64 63 62 63. We will help you get in touch with our expert teachers to help you clear your last-minute doubts. 

WRITTEN BY: Nidhi Arora

Hi Friends! I am Nidhi Arora. I am working as a content writer with PiggyRide. I graduated from Delhi University with a bachelor's degree in literature and am currently pursuing an MA in Literature. I am an enthusiastic reader and a dedicated writer.

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