Meeting Engagement

By Allison Magat
Chair of Center for Community Engagement & Leadership

Have you ever been sitting in a boring, unorganized or chaotic meeting? Chances are you left feeling miserable and wondering why you spent your valuable time attending. On the flip side, have you ever been to a meeting that made you feel motivated, excited or inspired? You probably felt good afterwards, and began looking for more ways to get involved.

People feel good about being involved in a meeting that is well facilitated, interactive and results-oriented. Making sure that the outcome of this meeting is successful takes leadership from a lay and professional partnership. In order to create the ideal meeting, three areas must be addressed: Prework, Meeting Management, & Follow Up.

Prework
Meetings serve many purposes including information sharing, decision making, status checks and brainstorming. The decision about who to invite depends on what you want to accomplish. This may seem obvious, but it’s important to ask yourself — who needs to be part of this conversation? When deciding who to invite, determine what you will consider a “good outcome” and make sure to have the right people in the room.

You should be able to define the purpose of the meeting in one or two sentences at most. For example, “this meeting is to plan the new campaign strategy” or “the purpose is to discuss succession planning.” Additionally, it’s important to never plan a meeting whose goals can be met with an email. Meetings should not be a series of committee reports with little or no time for discussion. Instead, the reports and agenda should be sent out beforehand, with the assumption that people read all the documents and come prepared to discuss them.

Meeting Management
Now that the pre-work and planning has been completed, you should be able to facilitate an effective meeting. Making sure you have access to your organization’s mission, vision and values is an essential part of engaging your members.

Additionally, having a few basic rules of engagement will help the meeting run more smoothly and make people accountable for their behavior. Ask your members to share their ideas for rules of engagement and have your boards decide on the top three to five that should be adopted. Examples of these rules of engagement may include the silencing of cell phones/electronic devices, the expectation that everyone is present for the full duration of the meeting and an emphasis on the importance of mutual kavod/respect.

One of the hardest tasks of running an effective meeting is time management. As the facilitator, make sure that all members respect the time allotted for the meeting and use your agenda as a time guide. Most importantly, the facilitator needs to help the group stay focused and productive by setting a positive, productive tone for interaction among members. As the meeting facilitator, it is important to manage discussion, encourage brainstorming and participation, synthesize the conversation and then call for a decision.

Evaluation, Action Steps, and Follow-up
Receiving feedback right afterwards is essential in order to improve the meeting process for next time. Don’t wait until the next day to ask for feedback. Instead leave five to 10 minutes at the end of the meeting for evaluation or ask for written feedback. Sending out minutes will record who attended, what was discussed, any decisions made and any action items assigned. The minutes should be distributed to all members, whether or not they attended. Lastly, follow-up between meetings as a “check-in” will be helpful in deciding if members need assistance with their action items.

Following these guidelines will pave the path for a successful meeting that is productive, dynamic and exciting! Members will look forward to future meetings and will know that their time was valued and appreciated.

Check out resources for meeting management and engagement created by The ASSOCIATED’s Center for Community Engagement and Leadership>>

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Filed under Leadership Development, Professionals

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