Now that we know the purpose of our committee meeting, how to plan one and how to craft an agenda, it’s showtime! Time for the meeting to take place. Let’s look at getting everyone set, running the meeting, and following up afterward.
Setting up the meeting
- Make sure the room layout is conducive to an efficient meeting. Ideally all participants should be able to see and hear each other. Avoid arranging people in rows with the chairperson at the front of the room, like a classroom. This works well in a training or lecture situation, where information is being delivered from one person to the group. Colloquy is important in a committee meeting. Try to arrange chairs and tables in a circle or square with everyone facing inwards.
- Be sure there is enough room for participants to work. If everyone is shoulder to shoulder with no place for papers and notebooks, much time will be spent shifting around and shuffling papers, which can be distracting and cause participants to lose attention.
- Adjust the temperature of the room if possible to a setting that is comfortable for most. If it’s too warm, people tend to doze off, especially in the evening after a long day at work. Be sure there is adequate lighting.
- Meeting at a public place such as a coffee shop can be convenient and promote fellowship but can also provide distractions. They are usually noisy, with people coming and going, and your discussion could be disturbing to others around you as well.
- If you can’t make your meeting room work for you, try to find another place to meet.
- Distribute any written materials before getting started. Most materials should have been distributed in advance, but any last-minute additions should be passed around at this time.
At the meeting
- Call the meeting to order on time. Don’t wait for stragglers. You want to respect those who made the effort to be there. Naturally, this means that you be on time yourself – in fact, a few minutes early is best, especially if you need to clarify anything with specific individuals first.
- Proceed through the agenda with an eye on the dual functions of keeping on time and getting things done. A properly constructed agenda will help facilitate this.
- Vary your meeting management style depending on where you are in the agenda. More on two different ways to oversee the meeting in a future article.
- Do your best to keep everyone on topic. Allow everyone who wishes to speak to do so, and deal with monopolizers and other troublemakers appropriately. More on this in a future article as well.
- Keep an eye on the clock, and move things along to stay on time.
- Know basic parliamentary procedure and use it. Most important is the process of a motion, ensuing discussion and a vote to resolve an issue. I’ll explain parliamentary procedure in the next article in this series.
After the meeting
- While putting things away, go back through your notes and look at the items you’ve noted for followup by others. Check with them to make sure they understand what was discussed and what they need to do prior to the next meeting.
- Double check with the secretary to fill in any missing information. It’s easier to do it now, in person, while the meeting is fresh in your mind than later, when you’ll have to rely on your own notes and collaborate by e-mail or phone.
- Inform the committee when and where the minutes can be accessed. It’s a good idea to post or e-mail them as soon as possible after the meeting, but in any case, make sure participants have the minutes well before the next meeting so they can review them and offer any corrections or additions that come to mind.
- Report back to the committee or committee secretary when action items have been completed or when there is progress, and ask others to report to you when they have progress to report
- Keep lines of communication open. Make sure all committee members are on e-mail distribution for committee matters. Don’t just put a few names in the Cc: line. All committee members should be in on the discussion. Or, use a group management service like Yahoo or Google Groups to store documents and send e-mails.
Next: Parliamentary procedure
Previous articles in this series:
- Effective committee meetings: Introduction
- Effective committee meetings: The purpose of meetings
- Planning committee meetings
- Agenda planning