Simple tips to revitalize and energize meetings

A few key details in meeting organization can help members’ time and energy investment pay off.

Michigan State University Extension understands that if you have served on a volunteer board, you realize how much time and energy is required to fulfill your commitments. These include: attending meetings, reading and understanding information provided in your board packet, preparing to discuss agenda items and learning as much as possible about the organization in order to effectively make decisions for the present and future.

Jan Masaoka writes in “The best of the board café,” that there are many ways to energize and ensure successful board meetings. Here are a few simple tips that are both easy to try and will make a difference.

  • Make sure everyone has a name tag or name tent for every meeting. Some boards meet very infrequently, and it is easy to forget names of people you see a only few times each year. This is especially true if you are a new board member. In addition, guests may attend your meetings, and this will help everyone to be called by name.
  • List commonly-used acronyms and their meanings on the agenda. How confusing is it when you don’t know what all of those abbreviations mean, whether they refer to your own or partner organizations?
  • Indicate the expected action for each item on the agenda. Is the discussion intended for general information only, or should a decision be made?
  • All board members should participate in discussion. If there are some who typically listen more than talk, then they should be asked occasionally for their thoughts on a specific matter.
  • Include staff or committee reports in the board packet for distribution and reading prior to the meeting, especially if intended simply to convey information. Accept these reports by the Board through a Consent Agenda. If a decision is needed concerning the work of a committee, that would remain a separate agenda item.
  • Have planned discussions concerning one important aspect facing the organization at each meeting.
  • Acknowledge genuine disagreement among board members, encourage respectful dissent and ask for any “dumb” questions for clarification.
  • Look for minor ways to make the meeting more comfortable, including adequate space for everyone to work. Provide light refreshments with a focus on healthy snacks and plenty of cold water. Adjust the thermostat to be comfortable. People become drowsy if the room is too warm and will complain if too cold.
  • Ensure the meeting will adjourn at the published agenda time. Keep track of time prior to the end of the meeting, and ask if people want to stay longer to discuss unfinished agenda items or address only critical items and focus on the rest at future meetings.
  • In addition, ask your board members for their thoughts about the board meetings. Use an anonymous survey to ask what they like best, as well as least, about meetings. Does the agenda focus on important items? What could be done to encourage better discussion? Does the meeting time/location fit still fit current schedules?

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