So you are going to a meeting? Meetings are important, because they are the main avenue to collectively get our work done. To this day, meetings continue to be somewhat of an ordeal for many meeting goers. Many of us lack meeting management skills, including minimal experience in leading a meeting. Some of us don’t fully understand meeting protocol and some of us have unpleasant meeting manners. Others are well-versed in meetings and are valuable models for others to mimic.
This is normal, because most of us are at different points on the meeting expertise spectrum. Notably, large segments of meeting goers are volunteers who are not schooled in meeting etiquette. Thank you for your service! We are all learning and improving, especially when we are supported to do so.
Generally speaking, there are helpful practices to help make your meetings more meaningful. Things to consider are rudimentary. Did you receive the previous meeting minutes and agenda in advance? Is it clear why you’re having the meeting (purposeful goals)? Are you prepared for the meeting? An agenda ensures that you stick to the issues at hand.
Who has rushed into a meeting with an apology for being late? Did they start without you? The idea is to arrive fifteen minutes early for a meeting (earlier if you are leading the meeting). Don’t let time get away on you. Strive to start and end your meetings on time.
At the outset of the meeting, establish the meeting rules. Explicitly state that multitasking is discouraged (hint... turn off your phones). Abide by what your bylaws say about making and passing motions. Make it clear how decisions are to be made (majority vote, consensus, or other).
Do people interrupt each other or speak over one another? Remember to only speak when you have the floor. Ensure that all attendees feel included, especially when the goal of the meeting is to generate ideas. Introverts tend to hang back. Parliamentary procedure helps with inclusion and keeps meetings from detouring off topic.
Respect is a core value during meetings. Individuals who speak out of order should be reined in with dignity. Always recognize a person’s viewpoint, but use tactics in parliamentary procedure to keep things moving along.
Make a point to pace your meetings. Avoid digressions or going too slow. Meetings shouldn’t last more than two hours without a break. Some folks look forward to treats at meetings, but sugary snacks aren’t conducive to meetings. Go for protein and water if you’ll be snacking. Also, incorporate a good stretch to ramp up your energy level.
If you’ve had a meeting, then surely you’ve made some decisions. Review them at the end of the meeting announcing who will do what, by when, and how will they follow up. This reinforces understanding by all who are present at the meeting.
These are just a few insights about how to improve your meetings and make them more meaningful. For a more regimented and formal guide to meeting protocol, the leading resource about parliamentary procedure is Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (11th edition). Also, an interesting website is from Eli Mina at www.elimina.com