MEETINGS, MEETINGS, MEETINGS...

As a friend of mine once said, It always seems the case that meetings are viewed as BORING, LONG, WORTHLESS, and TOTALLY UNPRODUCTIVE.

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

The first thing that must be done to improve meetings is to break meetings down into their individual elements. Meetings are comprised of FIVE major parts:

pre-planning stage
The agenda
The Meeting/Rules of Procedure
The Minutes
Evaluation

The second thing that must be done is to ORGANIZE these parts so that they are effective, efficient, and FUN

WHAT'S THE CATCH?

There is NO CATCH... except maybe that there are certain elements of meetings which need attention. These are parts whic can truly make or break the smooth-running nature and productiveness of a typical busines meeting.

The ELEMENTS are:

Human Awareness
Pratt-falls of Meetings
Facilitating Comments
Leadership Skills.

Oh and before I forget... PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE

Your meetings are up to you and the members to make Effective, Efficient and FUN -- but read on and find out how others complete this taks and have GREAT MEETINGS!

PRE-PLANNING FOR MEETINGS

IN order to "get ready" for your meeting, the leader and the group must utilize check list systems (like short seen in APPENDIX 1 taken from Taking Your Meetings OUr of the Doldrums, 1988). There are many questions which must be asked to ensure a well-planned and organized meeting. Among these are:

All right, so now you've planned the particulars of the meeting, but what will be the BUSINESS of this meeting which whill accomplish the GOALS of having the meeting. This, my friends, is in AGENDA PREPARATION.

WHEN NOT TO DELEGATE

1) Situations when you have to change someone's behaviour or that involves another's morale.

2) Confidential matters

3) Someting you would not be willing to do yourself.

4) The "Hot Potato." Do not delegate potentially controversial tasks or something "hot" that you don't want to deal with.

AGENDA PREPARATION

In Appendix 2, You will see a sample agenda planner. This will assist you in preparing your agenda for the meeting. But Michael, first things first -

What is an AGENDA? An agenda contains the order of items which will need to be covered during the meeting. An agenda should be in APA Style (Roman Numerals, Large letters, Arabic numerals, small letters). The following is a sample agenda:


I. Call To Order

II Invocation

III Roll Call/ Attendance

IV Approval of Minutes of Last Meeting

V Officer Reports
A. Treasurer
B. Secretary (If Applicable)
C. Parliamentarian (If Applicable)
D. Vice President
C. President

VI. Standing Committee Reports

VII. Special/Ad Hoc Committee Reports

VIII. General Orders/Unfinished Reports Contains the following:

IX. New Busines

X. Announcements

XI. Pass the Gavel

XII. Program (Can also be at the beginning of meeting, ie V.)

XIII. Adjournment

ALWAYS REMEMBER: People support what they create. Get members input into the agenda and they will reflect their interest in the meeting.

Now that your meeting is prepared, your agenda is written and distributed, and your attitude is POSITIVE --- Let's Run a Meeting!

MEETING SKILLS/RULES OF ORDER (Parliamentary Procedure)

An effective meeting is one in which everyone gets to express their opinions, all business is brought to a logical conclusion, and all parties leave happy and invigorated… Is this guy in a dream world, or what?

It CAN happen! Meetings can be a benefit to an organization if the leader and members understand the purpose of a meeting, the goal(s) of this particular meeting, and are committed to these purposes from beginning to end.

WHY ARE THESE PEOPLE SLEEPING?

A common question asked by meeting leaders. But before you ask that of your advisor, ask yourself:

KEEP IN MIND!!!

PARLIAMENTARY PROCEDURE

The most misunderstood part of running a meeting, but if used correctly, the most effective tool in making meetings efficient and worthwhile.

Parliamentary Procedure is a set of "rules" for helping groups make decisions.

Robert's Rules of Order is the publication which contains the rules which the Parliament of England conducts business. Henry M. Robert first published Parliamentary Procedure in 1921 and his "Rules of Order" (usually found in America under Sarah Corbin's Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised) is usually recommended for groups to use in conducting business meetings. Groups should, if they don't already, have included in their constitiution what will dictate parliamentary law in meetings.

WHY USE PARLIAMENTARY PROCEDURE?

In APPENDIX 3, you will find a chart of how to handle motions - but first, the basics. What is a Motion? A motion is a business to be brought before the meeting for consideration and action. The MAIN MOTION is that motion which introduces business to the organization.

For example: If I want to propose to the group that we allocate $500 to the Special Olympics Games Committee for refreshments during the events, I would phrase this "I move that we allocate $500 to Special Olympics for refreshments." Then I need a SECOND.

What is a SECOND? A Second is someone else in the group who agrees that this piece of business is worth discussing at this particular time. If there is not Second, the motion cannot be considered by the group until there is another member of the group who wants to discuss this motion. Next, the Chair calls for DISCUSSION.

What is Discussion? The Chair says, "Is there Discussion to the Motion?" At this point, members of the group discuss how they feel about the motion on the floor. This is the trickiest part of the meeting for the Chair. As Chair, you must attempt to keep people on the motion and not on other matters. One of the best ways to do this is to constantly have the secretary read the motion when you feel the discussion is getting sidetracked. Well, discussion is going fine, and it seems like it's ending. It's time for someone to CALL THE QUESTION of MOVE THE PREVIOUS QUESTION.

What is Calling the Quesiton?
-This means that whomever said it is ready to vote. This may not be true of all members. The Chair can ask if there is further discussion. If there is, either the group can continue discussion, or make motion to close discussion. Closing discussion requires 2/3 of a vote. When discussion is closed, the motion moves on to a VOTE.

What is a Vote and How Can We Conduct a Vote?
-Before a vote, the secretary must restate the motion so all members realize what they are voting on. Also, the Chair must establish what response is appropriate for each side of the vote - ie, Those in favor of giving $500 to Special Olympics for refreshment, please respond by saying "Aye". This is an example of a voice vote. You can also vote by: Secret Ballot, Roll Call Vote, Show of Hands, or any other creative method your group can come up with to make it interesting. Remember to ask for ABSTENTIONS - even not wanting to vote on a certain issue is saying something, don't let these members slip without expressing some kind of opinion.

This is Parliamentary Procedure in its most basic form. You can also TABLE A MOTION, introduce PRIMARY or SECONDARY AMENDMENT, make a POINT OF ORDER or POINT OF PERSONAL PRIVILEGE, etc…

Seems like an awful lot to learn… IT IS!

This is why I suggest your organization to appoint a Parliamentarian to learn Parliamentary Procedure, teach it to the group, and keep the group in check during the meetings. How can a Parliamentarian learn how to properly use Robert's Rules, here are a few suggestions:

1) Get source materials - books, videos, etc. Study the concepts and begin incorporating the rules one-at-a-time. Don't go too far too fast. It might be helpful for each member to serve as Parliamentarian for part of a meeting to learn how to best use Robert's Rules.
2) As you feel comfortable, practice sessions could include "humorous motions" - this can make Parliamentary Procedure enjoyable. The only caution is to not carry these motions into the regular business meeting.
3) Make a game out of terms and actions and play as often as you can to get used to using terms correctly. The group my want to play a "Family Feud" type used to that person's authority.
4) Practice, Practice, Practice!!!

Minutes - The most important notes you can have

With the advent of more and more computers in Student Activities and Student Government Offices around the country, minutes have become much easier than they were in the "old days" (pre-1980). The Minutes are the (hopefully) accurate, written record of what has transpired during a meeting. Usually, the Secretary is responsible for the minutes, but in some organizations without a Secretary, it might be more fair to rotate responsibility for the minutes. Whomever accepts the responsibility must realize a few things.

1) Minutes need to be taken carefully. Minute-takers must write people's words down as accurately as possible - if people are misquoted, they will not be very happy. Minute-takers should not hesitate to ask people to repeat their statements (especially Main Motions) so they will not be misquoted. Good handwriting is important as the minute-taker is not always the minute-typist.

2) Creativity may be needed to get members to read minutes. I have seen secretaries use cartoons (Far Side and Life in Hell are always winnder in college) in the body of the minutes to make reading the minutes more enjoyable. Other minute-takers have placed false information in the minutes and "tested" members as to whether they read the minutes before they approve them. (CAUTION: If this method is used, you must make sure that the joke/false information is pointed out and the actual minutes are passed out to be approved.)

3) Minutes should be typed immediately following the meeting. This way, information and business is still fresh in the mind of the minute-taker. After typing, minutes should be copied and sent out to members so tat they have the minutes before the next meeting. A notation should be made of business that was tabled or unfinished in the last meeting so that they can be placed on the next meeting's agenda.

4) A good method of highlighting things which individuals stated in the meeting would be "taken care of by the next meeting" is to use ACTIONITEMS, i.e. ACTION ITEM: Michael De Rosa will present his overview of the educational experience he had at the NACA Conference in Chicago at the next meeting.

REMEMBER: Minutes should be filed and brought to every meeting!

Evaluation - Or How To Make Meetings Better Everytime!

How did we do? Do you ask this after every meeting of your group? If you don't how do you know 'how you are doing?' Why evaluate - Here's why:

1) Timing is crucial to being an effective meeting leader. Your timing will improve with feedback. You may even want to videotape a meeting and see how you deal with conflict, how your communications skills effectively relay messages to the membership, and, generally, how you act as a leader of a meeting. It is hard to be videotaped, but it can be one of the most worthwhile teaching tools.

2) Use both written and verbal evaluations for fellow officers, membership, and your advisor. The more feedback, the better you will become. Make the information you gained available to the membership so that they can see you honestly care about their opinions and will improve your leadership of the meeting so that they can have effective, efficient and fun meetings!

3) Do you follow up on those issues which you promised members you would complete? Are you going to be accountable in your word, or will members doubt you when you make statements or promises. Do you thank special guests or members after meetings? The phrase, "A little kindness goes a long way" is especially true in groups who have meetings.

4) The minute the meeting has ended, do you already have your eye on the next agenda? If you are excited about your meetings, it will motivate you to work ahead of schedule to prepare everyone for the next group gathering.
5) PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACITCE…

Good luck… Have GREAT Meetings!

Human Awareness

To help make you a more effective meeting leader, answer the following questions:

MEETINGS are made up of INDIVIDUALS. No meeting will be successful if you cannot find a way to include every member in a significant way. You must always remember the number of roles ("hats") we wear as leaders. Diplomacy and tact are two traits which will get you as far as a meeting leader. Ask yourself how to deal with the following personalities in a meeting:

The Glory Seeker
The Radical Non-Conformist
The "Big Mouth"
The Shy, Reserved, or Quiet Perons
The Argue-"er"
The Latecomer
The Early-Leaver

The Following are HINTS FOR MEETING PRESIDERS:

1) Help all to view the process not as a debate but as a quest.

2) Center upon real differences. Avoid arguments over technicalities.

3) When general and abstract problems are proposed, ask for illustrations.

4) Share with the group, at the beginning, a rough outline of the process, so they feel that they "know where they are going."

5) The responsibility to initiate discussion when there is none lies with the presider.

6) Keep eyes open. Watch members non-verbal cues.

7) Avoid tangles over words and definitions. The meaning of any term is not its definition, but as many concrete experiences which have become tied up with the general phrase.

8) Draw out shy people with friendly encouragement.

9) Get brief statements, not speeches. Facilitate discussion. Keep tihngs moving.

10) The leader not comment on every contribution.

11) Summarize often. Orient and guide.

12) In summaries, bring together the areas upon which all in the group have agreed

13) Try to see leadership as a service-function for the group, rather than a characteristic of a "gifted individual." Handle business by general consent.

14) Work for consensus rather than majority control. One person against a hundred may still have enough right in his/her idea so that the rest though make some modification in their attitudes.

15) Trust the group. There is no person in it who is not superior to the rest at least in one respect. The experience of all is richer than the experience of any. The group as a whole can see fruther and more truly than its best member.

Pratt-falls of meetings

Why "Pratt-falls," well, I currently work at Pratt Institute and have had the opportunity to run into all of these THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR IN MEETINGS:

1) No clear, agreed-upon agenda - We talked about the importance of having a written, pre-meeting agenda to all the members. Groups must agree to go toward a certain goal. As they said in Alice in Wonderland, "IF you don't know where you are going, how will you ever know if you get there?"

2) Leaving the process of the meeting to fate - Separate out the power (authority) and content (subject matter) from the PROCESS (how the meeting proceeds). A meeting leader must facilitate, not wait for luck. Facilitating is helping the group stay on track, on time, reaching for the goal, etc.

3) Speeding off without a map - Ask: Where doe sthid meeting fit in the overall plan for dealing with the issue? Take time for the planning process -GO SLOW NOW TO GO FAST LATER!

4) Mixing purposes - Be clear (by using your agenda) wether you're planning a procedure (drawing the map) for dealing with a topic, or actually dealing with it. In other words, are you laying out the steps you'll take or taking a step. One purpose at a time.

5) Too many agenda items - Always ask "Are the goals realistic within the timeframe?" Don't set your group up for failure with an over-ambitious agenda.

6) No mutual agreement on what the problem is

7) Jumping-in with the solution -- There is a danger in coming in with or arriving at a pet solution before clearly identifying or agreeing on the problem with other involved. "Buy-in" assures support.

8) Shifting focus - Stay on the same subject; use the same process. For example, either brainstorm or evaluate ideas, not both at the same time.

9) Lack of Visual Helpers - Find a way for participants to follow the subject as the meeting proceeds. Use audio-visual helpers to help everyone focus on the content flow.

10) Unclear or Incomplete Action Items or Decisions - Pin down the who, what, where, why, and how on the spot. Check out all agreements made during the meeting at the end of the meeting.

11) Too many participants: the wrong participants: missing key people - When agendas have many items, more people need to be there even though they are only involved in one item.

12) Meeting being dominated by two people - When this occurs, pull back and ask someone to facilitate. Don't miss the opportunity to make the most of your staff; make the most of the opportunity to participate yourself too!

13) Not taking time to assure mutual understanding - Learn the issue facing other members. Explain your own positions. Ask the other people to repeat back in their own words what they hear you saying. This will head off frustration and reluctance to cooperate.

14) Uneven preparation - Varying Levels of understanding - Set up a way for people all to be prepared to talk about the issues at the same level of understanding.
15) Premature Motions - Don't make a motion until the problem is adequately discussed and analyzed. If you can't agree on the problem, you probably can't agree on the solution (the motion). Premature motions divide the group and create artificial disagreements.

By the way, you don't have to be at Pratt to make Pratt-falls… These happen in meetings everywhere - from college Program Boards to corporate board rooms!

  Michael A. De Rosa Jr.

Pratt Institute

Chapel Hall/200 Willoughby Avenue

Brooklyn, New York 11205

(718)636-3422