Meetings…. my weeks are filled with many meetings. Meetings with staff, meetings with donors, meetings with volunteers, meetings with clients and even meetings to plan meetings. There are some meetings I attend, some meetings I am in charge of, and other meetings that are so unproductive that quite truthfully, I wish I wasn’t even attending (lets be honest, you’ve been there, too).
Having a productive meeting is not an accident. Here are some tips to make the most of your meetings:
A productive meeting starts well before the actual meeting. It is important to equip your attendees with the information necessary to come to the meeting prepared. Provide any documents or information attendees need to know in advance, so they have an opportunity to review them prior to the meeting. This will not only save time, but lead to a more beneficial and thoughtful discussion of the issues at the meeting.
Even “free-flowing” meetings need an agenda. An agenda outlines what topics will be discussed during the meeting. There are situations where it is necessary for agendas to have time limits for each topic, and other situations where it is only necessary to outline the topics in discussion order. The key to a successful agenda is to outline the appropriate amount of topics that can be adequately discussed in the time allotted.
It is key to engage those participating in the meeting in a meaningful discussion about the items on the agenda. In more formal meetings, Robert’s Rules of Order is followed to conduct the meeting and discussion in an orderly manner. In less formal meetings, it is simply necessary to create an environment where ideas and concepts can be openly discussed in a manner that leads to a shared understanding of the final decisions or next steps.
At the end of the meeting, it is important to recap the decisions reached at the meeting, to ensure everyone is on the same page. It is also important to determine what next steps are necessary and who is responsible for carrying out those next steps. Don’t walk away from a meeting without ensuring there is a common understanding of what was decisions were made and what is to happen next.
I am sure at some point this week you will attend a meeting, whether it is a formal meeting of a nonprofit’s board of directors or an informal staff meeting at the water cooler… whatever type of meeting it is – I hope it is a productive one!