Tips for Good Meetings

As we begin to organize our local communities, meetings will be a vital listening space for making plans and mobilizing people to take action. It's important to be very conscious of how we run our meetings to adapt to the people who are in the room. We should acknowledge each other's differences openly and encourage people to see things from the perspective of others.

Providing a safe and open space to all who attend is vital for building is vital for building a local leadership that is flexible and diverse. Be fully supportive of all who attend regardless of their life experience or expectations. Encourage people to see things from the perspective of others. Acknowledge differences openly and identify any roadblocks to participation.

No matter how many times we have organized a meeting, mistakes will happen despite our best intentions. So please remember: there is no one "correct" way to do anything, and mistakes are how we learn to be supportive of those who are different than ourselves.

Meeting Roles

Facilitator – The facilitator is the person responsible for:

  • Starting and ending the meeting on time
  • Creating the agenda based on other peoples input
  • Presenting the agenda for review
  • Setting times for each discussion topic
  • Introducing each topic and suggesting how it will be discussed
  • Keeping the discussion focused on topic
  • Coordinating a decision-making process
  • Bringing each discussion to a close
  • Closing the meeting by reviewing what decisions have been made, also, allowing time for evaluation of feelings and productivity
  • Setting the time/location for the next meeting
  • Thanking people for coming

Scribe – The scribe is responsible for writing ideas up on a flip chart so that everyone can keep track of what has been said.

Note-taker– The note-taker is responsible for taking detailed notes of what transpired at the meeting and typing them up into minutes for distribution to all participants.

Timekeeper – The timekeeper is responsible for letting the group know when a discussion time is almost over, 5 minute warning, and for letting them know when time is up.

Participants – This is everyone in the meeting besides the facilitator. Responsible for helping the facilitator do her/his job by following ground rules, keeping on topic and being aware and sensitive to the needs of the group.

Stacker – (Optional) The stacker is responsible for keeping a list of who wants to speak. This role can also be done by the facilitator.

Vibes Watcher – (Optional) The person who keeps tract of the feelings in the room. Tries to make sure that everyone if fully being heard.

Snack Master – (Optional) The snack master is responsible for bringing libations and snacks to feed people's growling stomachs. Food can help people focus on the discussion, especially if the meeting if during a meeting time or in the evening.

Components of an Agenda

  • Check-in / Introduction: quick go around to get people talking in the space. Help set a tone of openness and accountability for our feelings and attitudes by letting everyone know what you're bringing to the meeting (a good mood, a distracted state, a busy mindset, etc).
    • Ice-Breaker / Trust Games (optional): Sometimes it helps to start meetings with a short, light-hearted game, or set aside a special event where participants spend time doing these kinds of activities together, which can make a huge difference in how people are able to relate on an interpersonal level. You can find various resources for these exercises at:
  • Objectives: what is the purpose of the meeting? What needs to be accomplished by the end? Lay these items out upfront so that everyone is clear and on the same page. 
  • Schedule: the order of items and times so that everyone can see what's weighted most important and when each item will be discussed.
  • Agenda Review:a quick review and agreement on the agenda by the whole group helps to keep a group on topic and to promote transparency.

  • Announcements: can place these at the beginning or the end but if you don't put them somewhere people will find a way to insert them in and they can be disruptive. Make sure announcements are not discussed.
  • Appreciations: not required, but a nice way to foster a group culture of acknowledging people for their hard work. We're all volunteers, it is important that we appreciate each other individually when a job is well done or someone takes on a big task.
  • Old Business: items ongoing or not finished from the meeting prior.
    • Work Updates: give a brief update on any current work or activities by the group. This will be give new participants an idea of how they might get involved.
  • New Business: new items not discussed in prior meetings.
  • Evaluation: a quick go-around to close out the meeting. Ask everyone to say something that worked well and a suggestion for improvement for next time.
  • Breaks (optional):keep in mind that human beings can only sit through a two hour meeting without getting really antsy. If your meeting will be longer than that be sure to build in a break. Keep in mind that a break can totally change the vibe of the meeting. That can be good or bad. Use quick impromptu breaks when you need to change the tone or re-focus the energy.

Troubleshooting Meetings

There is no such thing as a "perfect" meeting. Having a purpose, being organized, getting good leadership and being flexible to changing things if needed are important strategies for creating good meetings that people will want to return to. However, not everything always goes smoothly. The following are tips on common issues that can get in the way of a good meeting:

Tips for facilitators

1. When a point is being discussed too long:

  • Summarize, or;
  • Suggest tabling the question for a later time.

2. When two members get into a heated discussion:

  • Summarize points made by each and turn discussion back to the group, or;
  • Invite the two to stay after the meeting when the three of you can talk it over.

3. When coping with a "one-man" show:

  • Interrupt with a statement giving the speaker credit for his or her contribution, but politely asking him or her to hold any other points until later, or;
  • Interrupt with "you have brought up many that will keep us busy for a long time. Would anyone like to take up one of these points?"

4. When a speaker drifts from the subject:

  • Interrupt, give them credit for the idea but explain that they are departing from the main point, or
  • Put up to the group the question of whether it wants to stray from the outline or follow it, or
  • Bring the discussion back to the topic by using the related idea as the transition.

5. When a member has difficulty in expressing him/herself:

  • Build up his/her confidence by expressing appreciation for what he/she has said and then re-phrase his/her material with a preface such as "Is this what you mean, Nancy?"

For additional ideas for facilitating good meetings, watch the webinar below:

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