One of the fastest ways to send your members into the land of apathy and have them go MIA – missing in action – is to conduct meetings that waste their time and leave them feeling that nothing gets accomplished. To generate greater participation from your members, ensure that your meetings are productive and that members feel their time is well spent, follow these ten tips:
1. Determine the purpose and desired outcomes of the meeting
Lewis Carroll wrote, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” If you don’t know why you’re meeting, how will you know if your meeting has been successful? By establishing the purpose of your meeting in advance, you give focus to the group, enable participants to arrive with similar expectations, and save time and increase the success of the meeting. Frequently, the business at hand can be completed more efficiently, effectively and economically by alternative means.
2. Determine who needs to be present
Referring back to your purpose will enable you to select the most appropriate attendees. In some situations, it may not be necessary for every person on a committee or task force to be present for every meeting. This is especially true if the meeting focuses on only one aspect of a project that is related to only some members’ responsibilities. Consider your attendee list with the idea of including only those most essential to the business at hand.
3. Determine the starting and ending time
Participants are more likely to commit their time if and when they know exactly how much time is required. Meetings that wander aimlessly or go over their intended length can be a turn-off to members and volunteers. Include on your agenda both the staring and ending times for your meeting . . . and then stick to it!
4. List projected attendees on the agenda
When people see their name in print, and realize that others are expecting them to be present, participation increases.
5. Send all information and background materials with the agenda.
Whether participants read all materials before the meeting is their choice. By sending materials in advance, particularly electronically, printing and reproduction costs are reduced and time to distribute materials during the meeting is saved. Then a simple “yeah” or “nay” vote on the consensus items will save valuable time during the meeting.
6. Determine the order of agenda items, the persons responsible and the time allocation for each agenda item
Use an agenda format that includes not only the sequence of the items, but also the person who is responsible for that part of the agenda, and the length of time allocated for that portion of the meeting. This increases the likelihood that the person(s) responsible will come prepared and it keeps the meeting on track.
7. At the beginning of the meeting, vote on the agenda.
Getting agreement to the agenda at the beginning of the meeting enables the leader to keep people on track and to reduce time-wasters. If members exceed the time limit for the allotted topic, refer back to the agenda and see if the group wants to vote to change the agenda. Most time, you will find that folks want to follow the agenda to which they have committed and continue to move forward, thus stopping extraneous conversation.
8. Designate a time keeper
Have one person designated as “time keeper” to help the meeting leader to stay on track with agenda items. This role can be rotated from meeting to meeting, giving more participants an opportunity to have a role in the success of the meeting.
9. Create a group memory.
Ensure the minutes are recorded during the meeting in a way that is visible to all. This can be done on a flip chart or with the use of a laptop, projector and screen. By making the minutes visible to all, potential conflicts can be reduced, people can better remember what has transpired and it is easier for participants to remain on focus.
10. Stick to the agenda!