Let’s face it: hearing the word “meeting” can be cringe-inducing. We’ve all experienced bad, pointless meetings.
Yesterday YNPN Triangle NC members met over coffee to air out our meeting grievances and talk about how we can make them better. Whether you are the facilitator or a participant, we all have a role to play to ensure these interactions foster real actions that move our organizations closer to achieving our mission and provide an inclusive space for feedback, collaboration, and evaluation. Our members generated a few tips to get us started.
1. Have an agenda. Respect the agenda.
Do not underestimate the power of a clear agenda. These outlines give your meeting a distinct purpose and should make plain why people are at the table. The agenda should outline desired outcomes and action steps. A best practice to ensure the meeting is inclusive and collaborative is to assign names of individuals to lead different sections of the agenda. Also be sure to add time constraints for each item and stick to them. Often facilitators try to cram too much in too short of a time period. Err on the side of “less is more.” You can always add topics if there is extra time and support from the room.
2. Generate shared agreements/norms for how meetings will operate.
Shared agreements or norms are the guiding principles for how your particular gathering of individuals will treat each other during your time together. These guidelines should be drafted with everyone in the room, and once the group has given consensus on the agreements, the norms should remain visible at every future meeting, whether hung up on the wall or included on agendas. These norms can help eliminate infamous meeting pet-peeves. For example, a popular norm is the concept of “1 diva, 1 mic,” meaning only one person speaks at a time. Here are a few other shared agreements that YNPN Triangle NC members have used:
- Step up, step back. Be aware of how much you speak, and make sure you are allowing other people to contribute to the group.
- Seek solutions, not problems. It’s okay to flag challenges, but frame them with the desire to get answers, not continue to re-hash what went wrong.
- Be present. Turn off those cell phones. Don’t check that email.
- Permission to use your feet. If you feel like this meeting is not pertinent to you, you can go without repercussion.
- Throw glitter. This is the opposite of "throwing shade." Make sure you are celebrating successes and good work!
3. Rotate facilitators.
We often allow the most senior person on staff to facilitate meetings. Defaulting to this practice reinforces power dynamics, which can hurt organizational culture and the ability for certain staff to be heard. Establish a rotating schedule for meeting facilitation, especially for staff meetings. It also provides an opportunity for emerging leaders to practice facilitation. It is a skill that we all need to hone!
4. Shake-up meeting formats.
Think about how you could incorporate small group or even paired activities in a meeting, even if you have a small team. Providing the opportunity for more intimate conversations will reduce anxiety for those uncomfortable speaking in front of groups and can help lessen power dynamics amongst team members.
5. Establish clear next steps.
Create clear action items and assign them to people with specific deadlines, or it will all be for naught! In follow-up communications, reiterate the action items, who is responsible for them, and when they are due. Whether you use a spreadsheet, a shared document, Slack, or other project management tools, be sure that all of your meeting participants are comfortable using that technology. We can’t expect people to complete their follow-up items if they cannot access the tool.
Meetings do not have to be a time-suck. We can do better, y’all! Share your own meeting tips with us on Twitter @YNPNTriangleNC.