|Dear Meeting Guru,
We're having a professional association annual
planning meeting tomorrow night. At least 24 volunteers have committed
to attend. We have newly elected officers that will be providing
direction/leadership for the upcoming year. How do we manage the
opinions and thoughts of 24 volunteers in such a way as to make
the most of the time together and have everyone feel that they spent
their time wisely? The meeting will be held in a hotel function
room. Logistically, easels will be available as well as some type
of buffet food. The meeting will run from 69:00 PM.
When meeting with a large group of people, there are many challenges to deal
with. Especially the type of participatory meeting you're organizing, in which
you'd like everyone to have an opportunity to provide input. Below you'll find
some recommended tips to follow for the type of meeting you're planning.
The first few minutes of the meeting should be spent on introductions. This
will help create a friendly environment in which your volunteers will feel comfortable
contributing. Getting each individual to introduce himself in front of the group
will act as a warm-up for the discussion ahead. It's also a good idea to provide
a quick overview of the meeting's agenda. This will help provide focus for the
meeting and lets everyone know exactly what's planned.
If you or the newly elected officers have any information to share with the
volunteers, now is the time to do it! It's early in the meeting and most people
will feel alert and ready to listen. Having the presentations early in the meeting
also provides the background information necessary for the smaller breakout
sessions that will happen later in the meeting.
Next, divide the meeting participants into small groups of six or eight people
each. Assign one discussion leader and one easel to each group. The discussion
leader will be responsible for guiding the discussion and recording all ideas
on the easel. Spend 3060 minutes in these break-out groups brainstorming
ideas and getting input from all the volunteers. To get the discussion started,
the group leaders should write thought-provoking sentences on the easels related
to the ideas on which they'd like the group to expand. It's easier for the group
leaders if the brain-tweaking sentences are created before the meeting, when
there's more time to contemplate which questions might pull the right kinds
of information from the volunteers.
Now might be an appropriate time for a break. After an intense brainstorming
session, the participants are probably ready for some food! It's generally recommended
to have 15-minute breaks for each hour of meeting time.
After the break, the leader of each group should present a summary of the thoughts
and ideas his group generated. When each leader has presented, the best ideas
from each group can be narrowed down and voted on, if necessary. Any action
items or plans should be assigned at this time. This way, everyone leaves the
meeting with a clear understanding of who's responsible for what.
When you need input or ideas from a large number of participants, it's always
best to divide the participants into smaller work groups. Not only will this
help make managing the information and discussion easier, it also reduces the
formality created from a meeting with many participants. And, when the situation
is less formal, individuals are less likely to keep their great ideas to themselves.
Having the smaller break-out sessions will help the group make the most of the
time together and everyone will feel that their time was spent wisely.
I hope this information
will help make your meeting more effective. As Confucius once said, "I
hear and I forget. I see and I believe. I do and I understand." In other
words, you will understand by doing. Use my suggestions, but build on them each
time your group meets. After each meeting, evaluate what worked well and what
didn't. Then implement these lessons learned in your next meeting. Doing this
each and every time your group meets will allow you to have truly effective
meetings over time.
Until next time
may good meeting karma always be with you.