The right frequency of board meetings depends on the stage of the company, the status of the management team and the degree of involvement from board members.
Typically, a quarterly formal board meeting with somewhat shorter update calls halfway in between works well for more mature companies (post series A).
In younger companies it's not unusual to have board meetings every two months with update calls halfway in between, i.e. a monthly touchpoint with the board. Since very early companies tend to move faster, this is typically a good idea.
Two hours is typically the ideal length for a board meeting. It forces everybody to focus on the essential topics, yet leaves enough room for discussion.
Board meetings that dig deeper into a particular topic (e.g. a fundamental pivot of the company) can be longer, but that should be an exception.
Board materials should be sent at least 2-3 days in advance. Board members should be expected to review the materials before the meeting.
It's also a good practice to attach a read-only appendix with details in case a board member wants to drill into a particular aspect in more detail, e.g. a detailed KPI drill-down or details about product development.
Generally, board meetings should be held at a location where confidential discussions are possible. It's fairly typical to hold board meetings (post-COVID) at the location of the company, but make sure you have a meeting room where confidentiality is guaranteed, e.g. no thin walls, no glass walls where people can see projected slides, etc. While most board matters are not sensitive, you can restrict free discussion if people feel they can easily be overheard.
Time board meetings in such a way that results, e.g. quarterly sales results, can be discussed in a timely manner. For example, it doesn't make sense to schedule a meeting just before the end of the quarter because it won't be possible to discuss how the quarter will end up going.
Some CEOs like to have short preparatory calls with each board member in advance of the meeting. This is often a good way to address individual concerns, change priorities on the agenda or drill into topics that might not receive enough time on the meeting schedule.
Here's a sample meeting agenda.
In a pre- and post-COVID world, it's a good idea to have board dinners at least twice a year (lunches work too, but dinners are typically more relaxed). Socializing outside of the formal atmosphere of a board meeting helps the cohesion and dynamics of a board. Frequently great ideas are developed during a board dinner.
If possible in terms of timing, board dinners should be on the night before the meeting. If you plan it after, it's likely that some people already decide to leave, cut short the dinner, etc.
It's also often a good idea to invite members of the management team to the dinner. Board members like to get to know the team better, and often entirely new aspects are discussed during dinners.
If possible, you should have board dinners in a private room at a restaurant so that discussions without a noisy environment are possible and people aren't concerned about confidentiality.