You can’t really have much of a political organization without meetings, which means that you need to make sure that the kind of meetings that you have serve the needs and purposes of your group or campaign.
But when it comes to typical “meetings”, (whether official group meetings, or project meetings), take time to do the things to make them more useful, (and not boring or a waste of time).
Here are some good tips for running meetings:
Have the Right Leader
Without having the right person to “run” a meeting, things can get off the rails pretty quickly and stay there. You need someone who can politely (but firmly) facilitate discussion to make things productive, and yet still keep it moving along. It’s not a job for just anybody who wants to “run” things.
Start on Time
Starting on time sets a professional tone and it’s respectful of those who show up on time. Meetings that are always starting late (because you’re late, or others are late), just encourages bad habits, and everyone will get used to never starting on time. And starting late usually means “finishing late”.
Have an Agenda
An agenda is the “plan” for the meeting, and you gotta’ have a plan. Make sure that there is an agenda, and that everyone has a copy – and that you follow it! Otherwise things will probably get off track, or you’ll spend too much time on one thing and not get everything done. Know what action items need to be resolved, (who, what, when, where). Repeat them to the group for clarification. Otherwise, you’re just meeting to meet, and what’s the point of that?
Don’t Over-stuff it
Don’t be so ambitious with how much goes into an agenda that it never gets done, or the meetings always run long and frustrate people. Remember, people like to talk, and most items usually take longer to cover than you may think. Make sure that you have enough time to do the things that need to get done.
Have Ground Rules
The most useful meetings are those where everyone participates but things stay focused, which is rare. Having some general ground rules that everyone agrees on can make things more productive. Things like: how much time you’ll spend talking about any issue; what subjects should comments be limited to; what’s off limits; and is what’s said supposed to be confidential? Try to get everyone to agree to whatever ground rules work for your group. You could even print them on the top of the agenda to keep them fresh in everyone’s mind.
Facilitate, Don’t Dictate
Part of the job of running a meeting is making sure that you involve and get good feedback from the people that are there. Otherwise you’re wasting an opportunity to get everyone’s collective minds focused on the job at hand. And how else can you know if people are getting what they want from the meetings or the group? Nobody has the market cornered on good ideas. Take advantage of the chance to do some brainstorming – just don’t let it drag on too long.
It’s not very productive to meet and then have the people who are there not really know what was decided or what’s expected of them after the fact. Summarize and review what was decided and note any action items, (who, what, when, where).
End on Time
Ending on time goes hand in hand with starting on time. People have other things to do and plan their lives around, so respect their plans. If you think that a meeting will need to go long, let people know ahead of time. Just remember, “long” usually means “boring”. And boring kills!
Be sure to follow-up with people who need to be followed up on. Don’t let things go undone between meetings, or you miss one of the main points of having a meeting to begin with.
Remember, volunteers are at a premium. If you’re going to take the time to meet, then you should take the time to get the most out of it. Keep these tips in mind and meetings will be more productive – and the group will appreciate it.