Introduction to meetings
Meetings are essential for discussions, sharing information, making decisions, solving problems and developing relationships. It is important to run meetings that are efficient and productive, that empower staff and volunteers and generate activity.
Types of meetings
How to organise and run formal meetings, such as annual general meetings (AGMs) and hui Māori. This includes looking at different decision-making styles.
Less formal meetings
Most community organisations run less formal meetings which commonly include:
- checking the minutes or notes from the previous meeting
- checking correspondence and finances
- hearing progress reports on projects and workers activities
- checking on the progress of your business plan (if you have one), and
- other matters important to the group.
Less formal meetings are usually relaxed, but it's important to make clear decisions that are recorded with majority support. It's up to the organiser or chairperson of the meeting to make sure that happens. Even if the group isn't used to moving, seconding and voting on motions, it's good practice to adopt a formal resolution process for financial and other important decisions. This can be achieved by the meeting organiser or chairperson saying: Is it agreed that we _________? and having the decision recorded.
Checklists for well run meetings
Well run meetings produce good results. If meetings aren't run well, you may not achieve what you set out to and participants may not want to come back. Meetings can also take up a lot of people's time so you need to make sure they are run smoothly.
Below are some checklists for ensuring your meetings (both formal and informal) are successful.
Before the meeting checklist
Effective meetings are planned in advance. Make sure that:
- the reason for people meeting face-to-face is clear
- people are invited well in advance
- the time and venue are appropriate for the people you are inviting (check for accessibility, childcare, time to fit with parenting responsibilities etc.)
- the objectives of the meeting have been communicated and understood
- any reports and/or background papers or financial statements about which decisions need to be made are circulated before the meeting so they can be read and digested
- people have been reminded about any jobs that need to be completed by the time of the meeting
- the physical environment is prepared beforehand (check for warmth, fresh air, light, appropriate seating arrangements, water etc.)
- appropriate visual aids are in place e.g. whiteboard and markers, sheets of paper, overhead projector, computer(s), data show, recording equipment etc.
- any other resources needed for the meeting have been collected
- any displays are assembled
- there is an agenda that people attending have had time to discuss and/or suggest items for
- the chair or facilitator knows they will be taking on that role
- the minute-taker knows they are responsible for taking the minutes.
During the meeting checklist
The way a meeting starts is critical to its success. People need to feel welcome and included, and if possible, have the opportunity to introduce themselves.
It's the role of the chairperson or facilitator to:
- guide the meeting procedure
- make sure the meeting starts on time
- know whether it's appropriate to begin with a karakia or prayer (particularly if the group is Māori, Pacific Island or church-based). Some other words of welcome such as inviting people to focus their minds on the matter at hand and share their joint purpose.
- welcome members and invite introductions
- be aware that people may face difficulties arriving on time (such as child-minding) or different cultures may follow different timeframes
- if there are latecomers, welcome them, give them a moment to settle, then tell them what the group is doing
- list any ground rules that have been developed by the members e.g. agreements about confidentiality or one person speaking at a time (see Ground rules)
- read and call for apologies
- where appropriate, advise of housekeeping details e.g. time and length of meeting breaks, location of toilet facilities, etc.
- set a timeframe for the meeting and keep to it
- allow some time at the beginning of the meeting to add additional items to the agenda
- keep to the agenda
- use a range of tools or interventions to assist the group to complete its task, e.g. summarising, clarifying, reflecting, suggesting options, encouraging participation, raising energy levels, seeking agreement and resolving conflicts
- avoid voicing their own opinion unless it's necessary
- as part of the closure, ensure that it's clear what is to be done by whom and when
- thank everyone for attending the meeting
- where appropriate, end with a karakia, prayer or song.
It's the role of the minute-taker to record agreed decisions and tasks from each meeting. Unless there's a particular reason, it's not necessary to record discussion. The minute-taker should record:
- meeting time, date and venue
- names of those present and any apologies
- name of meeting chair or facilitator and minute-taker
- the purpose of the meeting
- the matters for discussion, agreed action points or decisions made, the person responsible for those actions and completion dates
- date, time, venue and purpose of next meeting.
Ground rules for a meeting should be developed by the group attending and should be adhered to by everyone. These rules should cover:
- respect for other people no interrupting, no long monologues, no personal attacks or abuse. Allow space for everybody to express their views
- confidentiality agreement on whether meeting content may be discussed outside the meeting
- responsibility everybody agrees to take responsibility for timekeeping, keeping to the agenda and voicing opinions in the meeting rather than afterwards
- decision-making how are decisions to be made, by consensus or voting? If consensus can't be achieved, at what point will alternative decision-making methods be used, and who will decide?
After the meeting checklist
After the actual meeting has finished, the following jobs need to be carried out:
- confirm any action plans and follow-ups
- get the minutes checked by the chair or meeting organiser and the minute-taker
- arrange the timeframe for circulation of minutes, new reports, background papers, and the next agenda
- circulate the minutes (sometimes on their own, sometimes not long before the next meeting when reports and background papers called for at the meeting can go out at the same time).
- check that the room is returned to the state it was in prior to the meeting.