Meetings and your Community-Business Partnership

Conducting regular meetings is an important part of your community business partnership.

Ideas will be floated, important decisions made and issues discussed.

But so many meetings turn into boring marathons of needless talk and lack of direction with outcomes not clear to anyone. They drain time, energy and enthusiasm.

The best meetings spur partnerships on to achieve more. Tight, focussed, effective meetings tackle the most important, pressing and strategic decisions and issues. Participants leave knowing they have contributed to the partnership taking another step in the right direction.

Be prepared.
Confirm before the meeting:
  • What needs to be looked at.
  • What issues need to be addressed.
  • What decisions need to be made.
  • Who needs to attend.
Compile an agenda.
  • Attach any background papers like reports, proposals and budgets, and ideally include any clear recommendations for action.
High-energy and urgent items.
  • Items that need energy for clear thought and fresh ideas should be placed near the beginning of the agenda.
  • Also, be aware that some people may need to leave early, so schedule urgent items for early in the meeting as well.
Agenda length.
Don't make the agenda too long.
  • Loading too much onto one agenda is a recipe for people becoming tired and the meeting to drag on.
  • Keep things shorter - between 90 minutes and two hours should be viewed as being at the longer end for a meeting - particularly if it is held at night.
  • Consider putting time limits on each item. The limits can be extended if necessary at the meeting and are not meant to gag discussion - they can be used as a prompt so major issues receive the most attention.
Behaviour Guidelines.
Have guidelines for meeting etiquette to ensure good behaviour. Some ideas include:
  • Don't interrupt.
  • Allow attendees to express their viewpoints.
  • Listen and be open to different ideas.
  • Try to be constructive in any criticism.
  • Keep debates issues-based and not personal.
  • Ban mobile phones.
Focus on resolutions.
  • Let everyone have their say but keep discussions focussed on resolution of the issue.
  • It may be necessary to refer the issue to a working party or a partnership member to report back at the next meeting.
Have one person take minutes.
At the end of the meeting, everyone should be aware of the decisions taken and who's responsible for various actions.

Brief items.
Keep any "housekeeping" or routine matters - attendance/apologies and matters arising from the minutes of the last meeting - as brief as possible.

Distribute minutes.
Make sure the minutes are distributed as soon as possible after the meeting so the discussion is still fresh in everyone's mind.

For a detailed run-down, refer to the Orchestrating Great Meetings Help Sheet, available at the Our Community website's Community Management and Training Centre.