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How to Run an Effective Meeting

August 16th, 2011. Filed under non-profits,Social Good

how to organize an effective meetingLet’s face it, most meetings feel like a waste of time. They seem pointless and boring at times. You often have to drag yourself to the conference room for the monthly regular meeting, where all your colleagues sip their coffee and zone out. But if you are involved in organizing volunteer projects or leading the social good charge in other ways, it’s inevitable you’ll have to have a meeting.

So how does one run a truly effective meeting? First we should find out what type of meeting you are running most of the time. This is important so that you can tailor your leadership style to the kind of meeting you are holding.

The first type of meeting is the action-oriented meeting. This type of meeting is intended for solving pressing and time sensitive issues and problems. Before the meeting, you have to make sure that everyone is well prepared to suggest a solution. This is to avoid wasting time in coming up with solutions and instead, be prepared to debate and discuss the suggestions that were given.

Creative meetings are for brainstorming and coming up with ideas and solutions for a particular agenda or issue. Make sure the meeting adheres to a specific time constraint. Once you get a group of people thinking creatively, it’s easy for time to slip away.

Short-term planning meetings will involve a lot of team interaction and you have to make sure that everyone agrees on one same idea and goal. Depending on the scope of the project, you may need to have more than one, perhaps with each different segment of your group.

Long-term planning meetings will involve almost everyone in the group. This is the chance for the volunteers to see and understand the long-range goals. It’s human nature to get caught up in the details of something and forget the big picture, which is why and who you are helping in undertaking this particular project.

Tips for an Organized Meeting

Assign roles. This will not only give volunteers something to do when they are at the meeting, but make them feel they have more invested in the project as a whole, as opposed to just following orders. It also allows you, the facilitator, to be free to lead discussions and presentations. Some roles you may consider:

Greeter: Checks people in as they arrive, makes sure that the leader has everyone’s contact information so they can receive the meeting minutes and any other pertinent information after the meeting.

Timekeeper: handle the official start of the meeting and when it should end. The timekeeper will remind the facilitator how much time is left for the meeting.

Note Taker: records every important thing that was discussed and hands out minutes as needed.

Whiteboard writer: During brainstorm sessions, writes ideas on the board (or easel pad) as they are shouted out.

Take charge from the start. Everyone will listen to you and engage in your discussion if you exude confidence and take charge in every aspect of the meeting. Show everyone that you really know what you are talking about, and everything that you talk about is relevant and useful. You can best do this by being well-prepared in advance.

Stick to the agenda. Ideally, an agenda should have been sent out along with the meeting notification, so that the attendees can have a chance to review the items up for discussion and bring anything to the meeting that they would like to discuss. At the meeting, stay on track by sticking with the agenda items. No concerns should be left unaddressed, however, so be sure to include a little extra time at the end of the meeting for attendees to discuss any items that need to be immediately discussed but which may not have been on the agenda.

Engage. Ask the attendees questions to get them vocal and keep their interest. Remember that a good meeting is a two-way communication. Be open to everyone’s opinion, ideas, and suggestions. Keep track of everyone’s input and don’t forget to thank them for the ideas they present.

Close with clear expectations. An effective meeting should close with everyone knowing what is expected of them and what they should do for the following weeks or months. Hold a Q & A after the meeting so the volunteers have a chance to ask for clarification on any point.

Follow-Up. Send out meeting minutes within a few days of the meeting, while the points are still fresh in everyone’s mind. Along with the minutes, you might want to consider sending a survey to ask for input on the meeting and points that may need to be improved for the next time.

What tips do you have for holding effective meetings? Share with us your thoughts in the comments below!


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  1. Meeting’s will get you in trouble if…

    -You let them break up your workflow and interrupt commitments that require full attention.

    -They focus too much on words, abstract concepts and things and do not have a “next step” clearly communicated.

    -The require no preparation on your part or other participants in the meeting.

    -They are convened without an agenda that is distributed before hand.