Meetings are a great way for a group to come together and make decisions on important issues. You might need a meeting to kick start a project, plan a campaign, gather some support or simply catch up and update everyone on progress. Whatever the reason, it’s essential to make sure that after all the talking something actually gets done.
Planning the meeting
It can be hard to please everyone. But you need to make it as easy and convenient as possible for people to come to your meeting. Ask around to find out if there’s a time when most people will be available.
If the meeting is hosted at school or uni, you could look for an empty classroom. Make sure you’ve found out what the process is for booking the room and picking up a key.
Check the venue has all the equipment you need and enough room for everyone to fit. Think about what you need, for example:
- Overhead projector
- Internet connection
- Chairs and tables
Be clear about your focus
Meetings can go off track very easily. Before you start, you need to decide why you’re meeting. It could be a regular group catch up or a meeting with a specific purpose. Either way, you need to keep your focus.
Let people know in time
As soon as you’ve nailed the time and place, contact everyone who’ll be coming to your meeting. You can do this via email, telephone or class announcement. If you’re not going to meet for a long time, make sure to remind people.
Organise a facilitator
A facilitator is a person who is in charge of meeting, directs the discussion and sometimes answers questions. The leader or elected president of the group is an obvious choice for this role. However, some groups decide to rotate their facilitators at every meeting to spread the involvement.
Write an agenda
An agenda is a list of topics that will be discussed at a meeting. A good agenda will make sure you stay on track and discuss everything that’s needed.
- Make sure the agenda is clear and concise, stating every topic for discussion
- Include an approximate time frame for each item
- Include some time for an open discussion
- Give the agenda out to everyone in advance by email or in hard copy
Agree on a decision-making process
If you haven’t already done this through a group constitution, make sure you devise a process together for making decisions that is clear, logical and well understood. The most obvious is a democratic vote with the majority winning.
At the meeting
If it’s your first meeting as a group, you may need to break the ice with some casual chat or some games to introduce yourselves. People will feel then more relaxed going into the meeting and will be more likely to participate.
Even at later meetings, you should always welcome and introduce any new members, and congratulate or show your appreciation for members who have done great work.
Appoint someone in advance as secretary or note taker at the meeting. Minutes mean that everyone in the group can look back at why and how a decision was made. The secretary should write down the main points in the discussion, highlighting any actions that need to happen, who is responsible and when they need to be completed.
Follow the agenda
It’s so easy to go off track, especially when you are meeting up with friends. But try your best to stick to the agenda as much as possible. Otherwise, you’ll have a really long meeting or a meeting that doesn’t go anywhere.
The job of the facilitator can be tough. But there are some tips to help keep the meeting under control and your popularity intact:
- Listen to people when they’re giving input and respond positively to this. For example ‘that’s a good idea’ or ‘that’s an interesting point’
- Don’t interrupt rudely – although you may need to politely wind up a long rant or hose down an angry reaction, it’s best to let people say their piece
- Keep things moving – part of your job is to keep an eye on the agenda and remind people of what needs to be decided
- Ask the right questions – make sure they’re clear and concise
- Don’t preach – it’s a conversation, so try to avoid lecturing any of the group members about their behaviour in relation to a task or project
- If you feel you need to raise a sensitive issue, think about saving it for a one-on-one conversation.
Remind everyone of the next meeting
At the end of every meeting, let everyone know when your next meeting will be held.
After the meeting
Reflect on what happened
It’s really important to sit down and assess your meetings. This will help you to make changes to your next meeting so it runs even more smoothly.
Ask members of the group for feedback on what they think worked and what they think didn’t work. Some people will be able to tell you straight away, while others may take a while to report back. One way to get structured feedback is to get people to fill out a survey or a questionnaire.
Circulate the minutes
You should let all the members of your group know what happened in the meeting, even the ones who couldn’t come along. The meeting minutes give people a snapshot of what was discussed and what needs to be done before the next meeting.
Remind people of the action items
If there were tasks assigned during the meeting, they should be included in the minutes. However the people who were supposed to do those tasks may need a friendly reminder from the group leader about what they’ve volunteered to do, and when it needs to be completed.