By Samantha Armstrong/ AS Graduate Advisor
No matter how many meetings I attend, formal or informal, it seems I am always on the lookout for what they provide in the way of effective meeting strategies or how they could be improved. I must admit there are often instances when I personally dread going to a meeting because I know that it has a good chance of being boring, long, and unorganized. In fact, there have even been times that I, myself, have conducted such meetings. What I know though, is that with proper planning and preparation it is possible to hold meetings that are both effective and fun.
Meetings have several functions. They give people a chance to discuss and evaluate goals and objectives, keep people updated on current events, and provide a chance to communicate and keep the group or two people cohesive. Meetings allow people to pull resources together and engage in decision-making processes. If the facilitator of the meeting starts with a careful plan and finishes with a thorough follow-up, the meeting should progress smoothly and be beneficial for all! The following are some tips taken from George Mason University’s Center for Service and Leadership to help make your next meeting successful, productive, and even fun.
Before The Meeting:
1. Define the purpose of the meeting. If you cannot come up with a purpose, don’t have a meeting!
2. Develop an agenda with the officers and advisor.
3. Distribute the agenda and circulate background material, lengthy documents or articles prior to the meeting so that members will be prepared and feel involved and up-to-date.
4. Choose an appropriate meeting time. Set a time limit and stick to it, if possible. Remember, members have other commitments. They will be more likely to attend meetings if you make them productive, predictable and as short as possible.
5. If possible, arrange the room so that members face each other, i.e., a circle or semi-circle. A leader has better control when she or he is centrally located.
6. Choose a location suitable to your group’s size. Small rooms with too many people get stuffy and create tension. A larger room is more comfortable and encourages individual expression.
7. Use visual aids for interest (posters, diagrams, etc.). Post a large agenda in front of the room for people to refer to.
8. Let members know in advance where and when the next meeting will be held.
During The Meeting:
1. Greet members and make them feel welcome - even late ones when appropriate.
2. If possible, serve light refreshments, they are good ice breakers and make your members feel special and comfortable.
3. Start on time. End on time.
4. Review the agenda and set priorities for the meeting.
5. Stick to the agenda.
6. Encourage group discussion to get all points of view and ideas. You will have better quality decisions as well as highly motivated members. They will feel that attending meetings is worth their while.
7. Encourage feedback. Ideas, activities and commitment to the organization improve when members see their impact in the decision making process.
8. Keep conversation focused on the topic. Feel free to ask for only constructive and non-repetitive comments. Tactfully end discussions when they are getting nowhere or becoming destructive or unproductive.
9. Keep minutes of the meeting for future reference in case a problem arises.
10. The leader should be a role model. Listen; show interest and confidence in members. Admit mistakes.
11. Summarize agreements reached and end the meeting on a unifying or positive note. For example, have members volunteer thoughts of things they feel are good or successful, reciting the group’s creed, or a “good of the order.”
12. Set a date, time and place for the next meeting.
After The Meeting:
1. Write up and distribute minutes to members within 3 or 4 days. Quick action reinforces the importance of meeting and reduces error of memory.
2. Discuss any problems during the meeting with other officers. Create improvements.
3. Follow-up on delegation decisions. See that all members understand and carry-out their responsibilities.
Here’s to your future meetings being effective and fun!