Parliamentary Procedure Resources: Effective Meeting Tips
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Parliamentary Procedure Resources: Articles

GUERRILLA GUIDE TACTICS FOR ALL MEETINGS
(Parliamentary and Nonparliamentary): Part One

In my over thirty years of experience in meetings (both meetings using parliamentary procedure and not using parliamentary procedure, such as meetings in businesses) I have learned many tactics that can make the meeting more effective and efficient! Many of these tactics are explained in greater detail in my book The Guerrilla Guide to Robert’s Rule.  This article is a summary of the tactics that can be useful in all of the meetings you attend.  This is the first part of a multi-part article. 

Share Ownership of the Meeting

When attendees feel the meeting belongs to the meeting leader, all attendees expect the leader to keep the meeting in control.  When the meeting leader shares the ownership of the meeting with the attendees, all participants in the meeting take on the responsibility for making the meeting efficient and effective.  Some ways the leader can share the ownership of the meeting include: 

    • Ensure that all attendees know how and when to send in additions to the agenda, so that it is created by all attendees, not just the leader.  Email makes this very easy!
    • Before the meeting or at the beginning of the meeting, share agenda and estimated times for each item on the agenda.  Then all attendees can help keep the group focused on the agenda.
    • When leading the meeting, don’t dictate, facilitate!
    • Ensure that all attendees understand the reason an item is on the agenda and the desired outcome of that agenda item

The goal of the meeting leader is to have people coming to “our meeting”, not the meeting of the leader!

Purpose of Meeting Clear to All

So very often people go to a meeting knowing, at most, the proposed general subject matter of the meeting.  Then, when they leave the meeting, they are very disappointed that not much was accomplished at the meeting.  Not having a clearly defined purpose that is understood by all attendees sets the meeting up for failure.

The following are examples of four different purposes of a meeting:
Option #1: Our next fundraiser
Option #2: Determine the need for a fundraiser and, if applicable, the goals the fundraiser should attain
Option #3: Receive presentations on possible fundraisers and decide on our next fundraiser
Option #4: Receive a report from the Fundraising Committee on the next fundraiser and determine specific plans for that fundraiser

Think about how you would prepare for a meeting for each of the above stated purposes.  Very differently!  So if the attendees are to come prepared, the more specific purpose helps them do just that.

Think also of the frustration caused by going to a meeting where the stated purpose was Option #1, and from that you assumed that we were going to do Option #2 and in reality, the true purpose of the meeting was to do Option #4!   No matter how well Option #4 is done in the meeting, the person expecting to do Option #2 is going to be frustrated.  The meeting is set up for failure before it even began!

As silly as it sounds, force yourself to write the purpose out in a complete sentence, or at least a complete thought.  Then share that clearly stated purpose to all of the potential attendees.  If the purpose is clear before the meeting, you significantly increase the chances of people coming prepared.  If the purpose is not clear, meeting will probably not be focused.

No Agenda, No Meeting

Efficient and effective meetings demand an agenda.  In certain situations, that agenda should be very specific and detailed.  In other situations (e.g. when creativity is desired or it is an emergency meeting), the agenda may be very general.  But there needs to be an agenda!

Not only is it important to have an agenda, but you must make sure that all of the attendees have the agenda, preferably in advance of the meeting.  When everyone knows the intended agenda, every attendee becomes an equal participant.  Everyone helps keep the group on the agenda, instead of leaving that task up to the meeting leader. 

Even impromptu meetings should have an agenda.  For example, you call an emergency meeting because of a problem that just came up.  Before the meeting, or on the way to the meeting, think through what things must happen in order to accomplish the meeting purpose.  Then share those with the meeting attendees at the beginning of the meeting – or if there is a white board or flip chart, write them for all to see.  That way if you have missed something, then other attendees can point that out at the beginning of the meeting.

Sharing the agenda is an integral part of the concept of sharing the ownership of the meeting!

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