As we head into Spring (and the same thing happens in the Fall), we are facing meetings in every area of our lives! If you are leading groups of volunteers, there is likely a window of a few months in the Spring and Fall that are meeting heavy. When we are trying to get people to work together, we have to create a platform for them to work together. Most of the time, this involves meetings. Whether you are meeting in person for the first time in a LONG time or you are still primarily virtual, you want people to want to come to your meetings. Last week, I hosted a Masterclass, Meetings your Members will Love (you can still watch the recording!) and today I’m highlighting some of those key concepts as we consider eight elements of effective meetings.
Purpose needs to be the foundation of every meeting. Your purpose influences whether your need to meet at all, how you format the meeting, who you invite and the agenda you develop. The first four elements of effective meetings are connected to purpose.
In order to conduct an effective meeting, we need to be clear about why we are meeting and how a meeting will accomplish this purpose. If our purpose can be accomplished through an email or a recorded video, then we may not need to meet. Alternatively, if we need to discuss an important issue and identify collective solutions, then a meeting is necessary. Find someone in your coalition willing to keep asking “Why are we meeting?”
Once you are clear about your meeting purpose, then you can ask “Who needs to attend the meeting?” When you know who needs to attend the meeting, you can plan the meeting in a way to maximize engagement from those who most need to attend. Even though you may want to invite everyone to every meeting, this may not help you accomplish your meeting purpose and may not be the best investment of time from your coalition members. Think carefully about who needs to be involved in order to accomplish the meeting purpose. Also, remember, you may not currently have the right people involved to accomplish the meeting purpose. You may need to recruit new coalition members or partners.
Knowing your meeting purpose and the attendees needed to accomplish that purpose will guide you toward your meeting format. If you are working together on a project and need to share information, you will want to consider a video chat or in-person meeting option. If your meeting is to “check in” with someone you work with regularly, you may be able to do this through a phone call. One of the best ways to incorporate exercise in the middle of the day is to host a phone call meeting where you can walk and talk! Also, check in with your standing meetings. If your meeting purpose does not always require a meeting, then some of these can be converted to email or other formats.
We all work on deadlines. If we are asking our coalition team to do something without a date attachedOne of the biggest challenges in coalition meetings is being realistic about meeting time and agenda items. When you reflect on the meeting purpose, consider the 1-3 items that need to be on the agenda in order to accomplish that purpose. If you are taking the time to meet (and it is not designated as a webinar), leave enough time in the agenda for discussion, engagement and decision making throughout the meeting.
When you are meeting in order to accomplish more together than you could individually, you have to keep people at the center of your meetings. How do you engage participants? What is important to the participants? Why would people want to be part of your meeting?
#5 Figure out the best people for facilitation and coordination
Some people may be really comfortable with handling coordination and logistics but would prefer not to facilitate. Others are highly skilled at facilitation but would prefer for someone else to handle the coordination. Utilize the strengths of your staff and team to figure out the people who are best suited for each of the meeting roles. While every role is important to an effective meeting, facilitation is often the difference between a meeting that people loathe and a meeting people love. When considering the right person to facilitate, consider the following important facilitation responsibilities: Sets expectations, guides discussion, engages participants, demonstrates respect, pays attention, resolves (and/or manages) conflict, maintains momentum, summarizes discussions. You want the person(s) facilitating the meeting to be energetic, engaging and able to guide the participants toward accomplishing the meeting purpose. Who has the skills, ability and interest in facilitating each of the meetings? Depending upon the meeting, you may need to seek an outside or external facilitator in order to accomplish your meeting purpose.
In order to conduct an effective meeting, you need to set expectations before, during and after the meeting. Remember that the meeting participants have not been thinking about this meeting nearly as much as you have. If possible, send the agenda at least a week in advance and clearly articulate what you will be doing and how you want them to be engaged. When you begin the meeting, remind participants of the meeting purpose. As you send the notes and action items from the meeting, make it clear how they can stay engaged in action items from the meeting.
Once you have figured out purpose and people-related elements, you can focus on planning. Remember that planning ALWAYS takes more time than you expect and to allow for the right amount of time to host an effective meeting. I recently calculated the number of tasks needed for a typical video chat meeting and came up with 25 tasks!
When planning a meeting, recognize all of the logistics needed for the meeting to work effectively. Also, consider the people responsible for each aspect of the meeting plan (see #5 on the best people for facilitation and coordination). This is the aspect of meeting planning that can quickly become overwhelming and time consuming. Recognize that there are multiple details and logistics needed to plan a meeting. Allow yourself more time than you think it will take to manage the meeting plan and recruit people to implement the meeting plan with you.
You may have facilitated a fantastic meeting where you engaged participants, made important decisions and made progress on your most important projects; however, the real test of an effective meeting happens after the meeting is over. Once you have had an effective meeting, it is critically important to follow-up as quickly as possible to keep the momentum, progress and relationships going. During these days of ongoing online meetings, it can be really challenging to find the time to follow-up because you have the next meeting – and the next – and the next. Before you host your next meeting, schedule time on your calendar for follow-up for that meeting!
So what about you? Which of these elements would you like to practice implementing with your next meeting?