We are often talking to members about their challenges in promoting for their communities, and a common thread is ‘agreeing how to get things done’. As a member of a small community herself, and a seasoned chair, team leader and strategist, we asked Jo, CEO of The Touring Network, “how best to run a successful community meeting in 10 steps?”.
“It’s important when working in a team of any type to hold meetings to ensure your project / group are all clear about what is happening and what is expected of them. Community group meetings are notoriously tricky to run, often with some strong personalities thrown in. People are passionate about what happens on their doorstep because it affects them and their families. People aren’t paid to be on a committee, they give up their time freely. Try to ensure they feel respected for this.
Running a meeting successfully is really down to a few key points. Your basic aim is to make sure everyone understands the topic and is able to contribute effectively.
- First things first – be prepared! Send an agenda in advance of the meeting, along with any relevant papers (this could be finance documents, reports etc). Ideally this should be sent a couple of weeks in advance to make sure everyone has had time to read and digest anything important. Make sure the date and time of the meeting are clear along with the venue.
- When writing the agenda make sure you have a topic and a desired outcome for each agenda item. Some items will be purely voting/decision making others will require more discussion and deliberation. Plan the order and sequence of conversations to manage people’s energy.
- Meetings don’t need to take all night! Be economical with time as people will have more energy. If your meeting is becoming a longer affair, consider taking a break for a short walk and for people to recharge.
- Avoid surprises – Don’t ‘table’ documents. Don’t give documents for people to comment or vote on at the meeting. It’s impossible for anyone to read and understand everything at such short notice!
- If you have invited an expert or speaker to the meeting to highlight a current issue which requires a decision, be clear about roles and responsibilities in relation to decision making; do you want the ‘expert’ to help with decision making or do you want to consider their information and decide amongst yourselves?
- Be a great chair – There is an art to chairing a meeting well; your job is to create the conditions for a successful meeting. Some people think that the Chair is there to make all the decisions…the chair is actually there to ensure the meeting runs well and on time, to make sure everyone has a voice, and that important issues get addressed. Good leaders speak when everyone has had their say, and then ask for feedback.
- Have a “parking lot” for items which are not pressing. Lots of issues come up in meetings – some of which are relevant and timely, others which are important but can wait. Have a flip chart where you can write the latter and address them in a different meeting.
- Take notes (minutes). It’s difficult to chair a meeting and take notes too – give this task to someone else but that ensure results meet your quality expectations. Agree a format for note taking and for ease of following actions etc. It’s a really important part of the meeting as the notes are there to remind you what the action points were and who was to do them.
- Be prepared for controversy – not everyone is going to have the same point of view. Make sure you allow everyone to air their opinions without being judged. The chair should challenge behavior which shuts down others’ opinions. If there are strong differences the conversation could go round in circles. The chair should manage this by hearing the different opinions and judging the best way to move forward. Try to have facts to back up your opinions and listen to queries.
- Make sure you’ve ordered in tea / coffee and cakes ! You’ll be thanked for this”
If you find these tips form Jo helpful, or would like to add some of your own, please do join the conversation over in our members area.
If you’re not a member yet, but would like to see more tips like this, then take a look at how we help over here.
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