Tips on Running a Local Chapter Meeting

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Tips on Running a Local Chapter Meeting

by Apoorva Dayananda, State Secretary/Treasurer

 We have all been stuck in meetings that seem to last forever, where the discussion has no clear path, or the goals of the meeting are not clear. However, meetings are essential for communicating important information. And when conducted right, meetings serve as a powerful tool in ensuring the success of your organization.

Before you can ensure a successful meeting, there are steps that need to be taken. First, review the goals that you want to accomplish during the meeting. Then, determine if the meeting is necessary. While this may seem backwards, in determining what you want to accomplish, you will then evaluate the information that you want to present in the meeting. Most people view meetings as inconveniences, so, when planning a meeting, ask yourself if there is a more efficient way to communicate the information. For example, if there are no handouts or reminders, then send out the information through an email. However, if there is a substantial amount of information, then a meeting would be most effective.

You should also write an agenda detailing the topics that will be discussed during the meeting. An agenda is used to summarize the meeting; it can range from a bulleted list of topics on a handout, to a quick message at the beginning of a meeting. The main purpose of an agenda is to state the purpose of why you are conducting the meeting. According to Adam Bryant, writer for the New York Times, “The agenda provides a compass for the conversation.” If a discussion is not relevant to the meeting, the agenda can be used to steer the meeting back on course. An agenda can also direct the attendees’ attention to the most important aspects of the meeting and keep them focused. For meetings used to discuss certain issues, it is more beneficial to send out the agenda in advance in order for the attendees to already have ideas prior to the meeting, which can also increase productivity.

 In further preparation for the meeting, make sure you assign roles. While most chapters may already have a president, vice president, secretary, etc. some chapters do not. It is important to have someone to facilitate, someone to take notes, and someone to take the minutes. When everyone has a job, it helps ensure that the meeting is more focused.

When it comes to the actual meeting, start and end on time. It can be frustrating for the attendees that arrive on time to have to wait for the meeting to begin. Starting the meeting on time will establish an expectation of timeliness, which can encourage people to be prompt in arrival for future meetings. Along with starting a meeting on time, ending a meeting on time can promote the efficiency of discussion and help prevent it from getting off course. A way to help ensure that the meeting will end on time is by allotting a certain number of minutes to each task on the agenda; because of this, you can also ensure that you are accomplishing every task on the agenda.

Moreover, as a leader of a meeting, it is important to remember a few things. First, encourage discussion. Discussion is an important part of a meeting, and by allotting time towards it, you can still discuss while staying on schedule. While discussion is happening, it is up to you to make sure things stay on course. Second, at the end of the meeting, summarize the main points. While there may be a lot of discussion at your meeting, summarizing helps members leave the meeting with the information that you hoped to convey. Finally, never forget to host a question and answer session. This session is especially important for local meetings to ensure that no member leaves the meeting confused. 

After the meeting is over, always make sure to follow up. Send out meeting notes highlighting the main points of the meeting and detailing the important information, assigned tasks, and deadlines, on the same day as the meeting. By sending out an email, members will have a source to look back upon instead of solely relying upon their memory. Additionally, if there are tasks assigned to people at the meeting, always make sure to check up on their progress until they are completed with the task. The key to any successful meeting is in communication and preparation.

Maurice S. Henderson