Running an Effective Meeting

Students in New England plan a composting campaign
Students in New England plan a composting campaign

Successful meetings ensure that your team can get things done, TOGETHER! Effective meetings have three simple parts: preparation, roles, and facilitation. Getting things done as a team has never been so easy!

PREPARATION

Remember your MAPS:

  • Materials: What will you need to make the meeting successful? Common supplies are pens, paper, markers, flip chart or blackboard, chalk, projector, computer.
  • Agenda: Before the meeting, make a list of items you need to discuss and take action on. Include who will lead each section and how long you think it will take. Things to include in the agenda:
    • At the start of your meeting, go over the agenda and ask if anyone has anything to add.
    • Start with any action items that were left over at the end of your last meeting to check in on progress.
    • Think of ways to make the meeting interactive. Will you be making posters? Is there a game you can play to get to know each other better?
    • End the meeting by going over the action items people should work on before the next meeting.
  • People: Who needs to be at the meeting? Make sure you’ve communicated ahead of time so folks know when and where the meeting is and what you’ll be discussing or doing, so they’re excited to make it. Send a notice over email lists and to your friends, put up posters, make an announcement at school, call and text people.
  • Space: Choose a place that is big enough for your group, has decent lighting, and isn’t too noisy. You want it to be accessible (including to wheelchairs, if possible) and easy to find.

ROLES

The roles people play can change for each meeting, or folks can volunteer to be in a role for multiple meetings. The intention is to help your meeting move smoothly. Here are some roles you want to consider filling:

  • Facilitator: Guides the conversation & keeps things on track. A good facilitator doesn't make decisions for the group, but helps the group come to compromises or agreements.
  • Co-Facilitator: Assists with prep and steps in to help the facilitator as needed.
  • Time Keeper: At the end of each agenda item, or if conversations are going long, reminds the group of what time it is. Is the meeting on track or are we running late? Helps the group adjust agenda items to fit the time.
  • Note Taker: Makes sure that someone is writing down what you decide from each agenda item and who is responsible for making sure each task is taken care of before the next meeting. This person should type up and share the notes with everyone in attendance within 2 days after the meeting.

FACILITATION

A facilitator’s role is to guide the conversation, not take over the meeting. Below are some other tips for how to best facilitate your meeting:

Student leaders in New York City

  • Share the floor: Arrange (before the meeting) to have somebody else present each item.
  • Encourage the expression of various viewpoints: The more important the decision, the more important it is to have all pertinent information (facts, feelings, and opinions) on the table.
  • Expect differences of opinion: When handled well, they can contribute greatly to creative solutions.
  • Be suspicious of agreements reached too easily: Ask questions in a different way to make sure that people really do agree on essential points.
  • Don't let discussion continue between two people: Ask for comments by others. After all, it is the group that needs to make the decisions and carry them out.
  • Hold people to speaking for themselves: Encourage your members to speak from their own experience instead of making broad-generalizations. Instead of saying, "some people say,” or "we all know,” say, “I believe,” or “I know.” Even though this is scary in the beginning, it will build trust in the long run.
  • Agreement builds power: Keep looking for minor points of agreement and state them. It helps morale and team building.  
  • Encourage people to think of fresh solutions: Look for possible compromises and commonalities of opinions.
  • Laugh! In tense situations or when solutions are hard to reach, remember humor, affirmation, quick games for energy, change of places, small buzz groups, silence, etc.