Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Giving Good Meetings

Are your meetings endless and unproductive? Do you dread the approach of your next board or committee meeting? Are commitment, creativity, and attendance dropping? Here are some guidelines for making your meetings more constructive and fun:
  • Do a meeting reality check. If you didn't have to be there, would you go to your meetings? Think about meetings you have attended that have been effective, and use them as a role model.
  • Don't hold a meeting just to have a meeting. Could your business be accomplished more easily and appropriately via email, or in an executive session? If most of your agenda involves simple reporting, consider alternative methods of communication - or just give your group a month's vacation.
  • Avoid Robert's Rules of Order. Did you know that Robert's Rules were developed by an Army officer in 1876? It's not 1876 anymore, and you are definitely not in the army. Robert's Rules are rigid and restrictive. And contrary to popular opinion, there is no legal requirement that requires non-governmental nonprofit organizations to follow them. Instead, work with your Board to develop simple procedures and rules of conduct that are appropriate to your organizational culture.
  • Stick to a timetable. After two hours, no one attending any meeting will be paying much attention or at their best. Establish a timeline for your discussions, appoint a timekeeper, stay focused and on task, and get out of there in no more than 120 minutes.
  • Provide thorough and clearly written materials in advance. And be sure to remind committee members if they have assignments to complete prior to the meeting. Then pray that everyone will read the notes and come prepared.
  • Allow some time for fun. Nothing improves a meeting more than a good laugh.
  • Finish with a summary and action plan. Always designate the final 5-10 minutes to summarizing what has been accomplished and coming to agreement on next steps, including a timetable and who has volunteered to do what.
Meetings get a bad rap, but there are good meetings and bad meetings. Take the time to make your meetings fun, focused, effective, and productive - and turn them into important tools towards creating partnerships and community, sustaining volunteers, supporting staff, and furthering the mission of your organization.