Yesterday I listened in on a webinar, Tips and Tricks for Making the Most of Every Meeting, organised by LMD’s Professional Development group and presented by Richard Huffine. Aimed largely at Board Chairs, so with very practical relevance for those of us in leadership positions within SLA, there was plenty of good advice which could apply to pretty much any meeting.
The key points of Richard’s presentation were as follows:
- respect everyone’s time – consider setting times on agenda, and never run late
- set groundrules together at the outset – e.g. 2 minutes per comment, critique ideas not people, “yes…and” thinking, ask what’s possible not what’s wrong
- keep reporting offline – no endless “this week I’ve been doing…” sessions
- use meetings to focus on reaching decisions
- stick to agenda – valid off-topic discussions should be tabled as a motion next time
- have people craft their motions in writing and keep ownership of them throughout the process
- take time to let people consider motions before decisions are taken – maybe have a focussed discussion and then postpone the decision for the next meeting
- end by reviewing commitments and ensuring everyone is clear on their assignments
A lot of good tips came up for improving the meeting experience for all participants, and I particularly liked the following pieces of advice:
- consider beginning the year with a Board retreat/social, so people can get to know one another. Failing that, at least bring in an interesting/personal element to the introductions – for example get everyone to open with a place they’d like to visit, or a book they’d recommend, not just name/position/job title.
- be clear why you’re inviting people to the meeting, and let them know what they need to do before, during and afterwards
- ensure that everyone feels like they have a contribution to make – to help them think, contribute and discuss, encourage people to consider the motion from their own perspective (so for the SLANY Board, I guess that would be how whatever it is would impact on membership/communications/fundraising/etc)
- remember that some people think out loud, whilst others need time to digest and consider
- use polling to make online meetings more interactive and engaging, and to capture what everyone thinks rather than just those who choose to speak out
- reach out to people individually afterwards if they don’t contribute at a meeting – “I didn’t hear your voice in that discussion, do you have anything to say about x”
Amongst all this, the stand-out piece for me was something that I knew already but still struggle sometimes to put into practice: the Chair’s task is to keep the meeting moving and the participants focussed.
I wouldn’t say that any of this was particularly surprising, but I certainly took away a clearer idea of how I need to behave in order to improve my skills at chairing meetings (which is absolutely something I need to work on!), as well as some practical tips for how I can help my participants get more out of the process too.
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