Have you ever been sitting in a meeting, tapping your pencil on the desk (or maybe aimlessly doodling), and thinking “When can I leave this dreadful meeting? There’s so much I’d rather do with my time.” I’m certain you probably have; for those of you that haven’t – consider yourself lucky!
Meetings act as the best way to connect general members with the executive board and as a channel for keep everyone in touch and up to date with the happenings of your organization. Throughout the past few years, I’ve had my fair share of running and attending meetings ranging from those that are incredibly awkward to those that are engaging and fun. After having these experiences through March of Dimes, Student Volunteer Council, Alternative Breaks, and Princeton AlumniCorps, I now feel as though I have a strong grasp on meetings that are successful and well-done, to others that may need a bit of improvement. Here are some tips and strategies I believe are incredibly helpful in running an effective meeting:
1) Prior to your meeting, send out an email or text blast to your members. Remind them of the upcoming meeting and also give them an idea of what you might discuss. You don’t have to lay everything out beforehand, but a general gist will help make sure everyone’s “in the know.” When people feel that they know what’s going on, they feel more valued and are more likely to show up.
2) Start off with something light-hearted or personal! Share a story that inspired or touched you in the past week, a motivational quote, or a funny joke that kept you in stitches. Alternatively, begin with an ice breaker or team builder to make sure everyone feels included, present, and excited for the rest of the day. Meetings can feel like they’re dragged out and people are just talking “at you,” but if you begin with an attention-grabbing activity, members are less likely to zone out.
3) Be sure to put talking points in order, and have an agenda if necessary. When the board members are randomly speaking and all the information is being chaotically disseminated, general members will find the organization unprepared and become disinterested – if you’re not organized and well-informed about your talking points, why should they be invested? Also, I’m a big fan of not wasting paper, so in many of our meetings, our Communications Coordinators/Secretaries take “meeting minutes” and electronically send them out afterward through GoogleDrive (something everyone can access anywhere and any time).
4) No one wants to be in a meeting longer than necessary. Keep it short and to the point, like this tip.
5) Open up the floor for everyone who wants to speak or anyone who wants to share their opinion (respectfully, of course). Monopolizing speaking time and not allowing others to openly discuss a matter that’s important to them can have a negative impact on how the executive board is perceived. Additionally, members appreciate when you ask for their input, especially when it’s an important issue or a decision that will have a deep effect on their lives.
6) Incorporate fun, recognition, and rewards. I cannot stress this enough. Surprise your members with sweet treats, bring them bowling during a meeting time (if your organization is small enough), play a game to get people up and moving. Similarly to my second tip, keeping people engaged and excited about coming to meetings is key. We recently sent our Student Volunteer Council members on a Rutgers-themed scavenger hunt as part of our “fun”, after a long week filled with hard work! Make sure everyone in your organization knows you appreciate and recognize them for a job well done, and that you can work hard and play hard.
I don’t treat these tips as the “Golden Standard” for having a successful meeting, but these are some of the strategies I’ve witnessed that have seemed to work, which will leave members feeling informed, engaged, and passionate about the organization. I try to use these strategies as much as possible, but I too have to work on running meetings more effectively. If you have any other tips, feel free to share in the comments below – I’d love to hear them!