As I described in one of my last posts, "Battling the Burnout Monster," I held a board meeting to help get me out of my funk. This is based on the "Life Board of Directors" life coach Anne Bruce describes in her book Discover True North. In her version, this is a set of people (friends, family, personal heroes—(un)dead, alive, or imaginary) that you can turn to or channel when you need guidance.
In my version, I assembled a team to come over and have a Beatrice the Biologist Board Meeting. It was incredibly helpful for me at this transitional time in my career, and I intend to hold such a meeting every year moving forward. I'm normally a completely independent worker and seek very little feedback or guidance on my Beatrice-ings. It's worked well in the past, but sometimes I need to poke my head out of my cave for a breath of fresh air and feast on the brains—I mean minds—of my friends.
I'd encourage any entrepreneur, content-creator, creative, etc. to hold one of these. It can give you insight into your work and its possibilities that you may never have considered before.
Here's how to do it!
Who to invite
Make a list of people who are familiar with what you do, whatever that may be. It's important that they know your strengths but are also familiar with your weaknesses. Think of people who regularly comment on or circulate your work who also share your creative and/or entrepreneurial spirit. It won't necessarily be all your closest friends. Remember to pick those that really know your work. I have very dear friends who don't follow all my Beatrice-ings.
At this junction you'll need to decide if you're limiting yourself to people that can physically attend, or if you'll include people who can teleconference in. I chose for my first meeting to only have people who could actually be in my kitchen. For my next one, though, I think I'll have one or two people on skype, google hangouts, or just on speakerphone. We shall see.
How many to invite
So you have a list of people. How many should you actually include? I would strongly suggest you keep it small. I know it can be hard to narrow it down, but you don't want to be overwhelmed with too many sources of input. I invited five people (not including myself), and it made for a good group dynamic and a diversity of opinions without feeling overwhelming. If I had taken into account the size of my dining room table, however, I might have made it even smaller. It felt a little cramped. Don't forget the actual physical limitations of your meeting space.
Length and start time
I told my board members to set aside three hours. This gave us enough time to settle in, get some food, get to business, and wind down. As far as when exactly to start, I went for a 3:00 PM start time. That way you don't have to fuss with a full meal, and everyone's relatively alert and ready to get down to business.
When scheduling, I used Doodle, which allows you to set a menu of days and times, and people click which ones they can make. It's a lot easier than emailing back and forth with availabilities.
Make sure people are properly hydrated, caffeinated, and blood-sugared. Here's what was on the Beatrice the Biologist Board Meeting menu:
- Iced tea
- Water with lemon (faaaaancyyyyyy!)
- Cheese and crackers
- Hummus and pita bread
- Chocolate covered almonds
- Mixed nuts
Keep it super simple. You don't want the food and drink to become distractions that eat up your board members' valuable time. Also, don't do anything that requires silverware. Finger foods for the win! And keep away from alcohol. That's a different kind of board meeting.
I got really into setting the table for my board meeting. Everyone had a plate for snacks, a glass, and a napkin, as well as their agenda and a pen. But I also gave each person a small plastic animal to fiddle with as they brainstormed, and I color-coordinated each plate setting.
You don't have to be quite so obsessive. Just make sure everyone has an agenda, something to write with, and something to write on.
Make a list of items you want to accomplish or career questions you want help answering. I went the ultra professional route of making packets for everyone in clear plastic sleeves.
I spent the first 20 minutes or so giving all my board members a low down on the business of Beatrice the Biologist. I gave them a financial overview of my expenses and revenue sources, my social media stats, my merchandise overview, and a timeline of my brand.
To stay focused, I made the goal of this first meeting to be three main things:
- Generate a mission statement.
- Go over all my ideas for future projects and solicit ideas from my board.
- Filter these ideas through the aforementioned mission statement and come up with three main areas I will focus on in the coming year.
If you're not sure what you'd like to accomplish in your board meeting, a mission statement by itself can be plenty. It draws in all your work and what you want to do into one cohesive exercise. I had a list of mission statements from brands that deal with science and education. I also printed out all the various ways I've described my work on my website, Patreon, Facebook, etc. Then we worked through mission-statement-focused questions such as, "What do you do? Why do you do it? What do you stand for?"
Notes and records
I recorded the board meeting on my phone and took notes on my agenda to refer to later. I listened to the recording the next day during a long drive and it provided yet more insight into my work and what I want do.
Party favors are not just for children's birthday parties, weddings, and fancy orgies. This is your opportunity to thank your board members and leave them with a token of your work. In my case, it was a paper bag of Beatrice the Biologist swag: stickers, magnets, a framed doodle, etc. Depending on your interested and brand, it might be hard to think of a related favor. In that case, reach out or leave a comment, and we can brainstorm favor ideas.
Are you going to host a board meeting? Let me know how it went or if you have any questions!