Make Your Meetings More Productive
Would you like to accomplish more in less time at your next chapter or executive board meeting? Well, read on for some great ideas on making your meetings more effective.
- Define your goal
A successful meeting begins with a clear purpose that is understood and agreed upon by the entire group. For example, the purpose of the meeting might be to plan a resume-writing seminar, or it might be to evaluate your progress toward the Merit Award. A good meeting should conclude with commitments, agreements, and solutions. Whatever the goal of the meeting, it should be stated clearly up front and then achieved.
- Watch the time
A good meeting begins and ends on time. The group should stay focused on the purpose of the meeting and save other less relevant issues to discuss outside the meeting. This will help the group to accomplish its goal in the time allotted. Signal when time is almost up. A warning gives the group time to wrap up final business. "We have about 10 more minutes, so let's go ahead and vote on this suggestion."
- Prepare and follow a detailed agenda
A prepared agenda distributed to the group in advance serves as a road map to help everyone stay on track. As you prepare to lead a meeting ask yourself these three questions: 1. What is the purpose of the meeting? 2. What materials/supplies do I need to bring? 3. What results do I want to achieve? Asking these questions will help you to focus on your priorities. When you have decided on your desired outcome, go back and map out the specific steps needed to get there. Decide what issues need to be discussed and in what order, then estimate the amount of time needed for each. This plan will become your meeting agenda. You can then determine the approximate length of the meeting and plan accordingly
- Encourage open discussion
The best meetings are characterized by an open atmosphere that fosters exchange of information and ideas. Peoples' opinions are respected and considered. Try to keep a positive tone. Ideas should be evaluated in an objective way by the group and personal criticism should be avoided. Remember to be a good listener and always thank the members for contributing. When appropriate, follow up a member's comment with a question for further clarification. Ask open-ended questions such as "What do you think of this idea?" directly to shy or quiet members to encourage them to contribute.
- Bring the group to consensus
For each agenda item, explain the problem or idea; open the floor for discussion; guide the group in defining possible alternatives; close the discussion and summarize the alternatives; then help the group decide on the action to be taken. List and evaluate the alternatives presented and allow the group to choose the best one.
- Summarize action plans
Summarize the meeting's accomplishments and future actions. Review the information covered and the decisions made. Remind each member of their responsibilities. "Today we decided to invite a speaker on the subject of diversity to our meeting on the 16th. Janet will ask the professional chapter for their recommendations, and Chris will check with the student activities office. Our next meeting will be Tuesday at 3:00 in room B. At that time we will review the information Janet and Chris have collected, rank our first, second, and third speaker choices, and assign two people to coordinate the invitations."
- Thank the group
Leave people feeling positive about the chapter and its efforts. Everyone works better with positive reinforcement. Be sure to recognize any individuals who made special efforts. "We really got a lot done today. Thank you all for your good ideas. Bill, I really appreciate the research you did on possible sites for our seminar, it was a big help."
- Follow-up after the meeting
Never assume that assignments will automatically be completed as planned. A smart leader invests a little time in follow up. It is a good idea to check with members to see if they are working on their assignments, or if they need any additional clarification or resources. "Hi Janet. I was just calling to see if you had any luck reaching the professional chapter about those speaker ideas. You haven't tried them yet? Why don't you give them a call tomorrow, it might take some time to reach someone and our next meeting is only three days away. Let me know if you need any help."