Effective committee meetings: Introduction

How many times have you been asked to attend a meeting but you had no idea what the meeting was for? It’s like being ambushed or held hostage – you don’t know who’s going to be there, how long it will take, what’s going to be discussed, or – worst of all – what you’ll be asked to be prepared to contribute. It’s an unsettling feeling, something you may dread looking forward to, and certainly that sense of the unknown will be remembered more than what, if anything, was accomplished at the meeting. Sometimes you just walk away and say to yourself, “did we actually do anything?”

Other times, meetings will follow no path, consist of a lot of chit-chat,  tangent discussions, and an occasional agreement or vote on something that should only take a minute or two, or not need to be voted on at all.

If your committee meetings are poorly structured, poorly planned, poorly run – it’s no wonder they’re poorly attended and not very effective. As Committee Chair, one of your jobs is to conduct periodic unit committee meetings, and to get the most out of it, you should learn how to have effective meetings.

Much has been written about the subject of meetings – their purpose, structure, method of conducting, and outcomes. I recently came across a book published by the Harvard Business School Press titled Running Meetings.* It’s more of a pamphlet than a book – only 95 pages – and while it doesn’t break any new ground in the subject of meetings, it condenses most of the important points of meetings into a very readable summary that should only take about an hour of your time to work through, if that. While it concentrates on business meetings, most of what’s written applies to us Scouters as well.

I taught a class a couple years ago at our University of Scouting on conducting effective unit committee meetings. The material I presented is too much to go into in one post (it was actually too much to fit into one hour), so I’ll be offering  pieces of it here on the Blather in the coming weeks.

I’ll start out with the number one takeaway from my class:

  • Have, and follow, an agenda
  • Start and end on time

Everything else leads up to these points and helps you to accomplish them. This basic advice, when followed, will lead to the best use of everyone’s time and resources, keep you organized and on track, and let you and everyone else come away with a feeling of accomplishment when the meeting’s done. Topics I’ll cover will include:

  • What are meetings for?
  • An effective committee meeting
  • The committee chair’s role
  • The people issues
  • Staying organized
  • Committee functions

In the meantime, feel free to contact me with any questions or issues you’d like to see discussed, and please leave your comments on my posts. I’m interested in what you have to say.

*In the interest of full disclosure: This link, and the other Amazon links to the right, will earn me a few cents when you purchase these items. It’s not enough to buy the coffee for the next campout, but it’s a help. And for what it’s worth, Harvard Business School has a great blog with management ideas you can use, which you’ll also find listed under my leadership links. Thanks!

Next: The purpose of meetings


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2 Replies to “Effective committee meetings: Introduction”

  1. Death by meeting is a particularly horrible torture.
    What does a two page ‘how to’ guide on running effective meetings look like?
    It’s all up to the chairperson to keep things running smoothly.

    1. Clarke, Thanks for your comment and affirmation. In future posts I’ll go into some of what I’ve found to be effective. A two-page “how to” guide? I can boil it all down and include it at the end of the series – thanks for the suggestion! There’s a lot more to the subject than I ever thought there would be until I started researching it!

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