6 Hacks for Productive Committee Meetings

6 Hacks for More Interesting Committee Meetings

Committee meetings are a fact of volunteer life in school and club committees – after all, we need the constant cycle of collaboration, planning, debrief, rinse, repeat.

These meetings get a bad rap, though, for being ‘information overload’ and going around in circles. And long.

So, how can we make committee meetings more interesting and productive? Fear not! Provided you have a strong committee chairperson, here are some ‘hacks’ to help you keep things energised and on task.

  • Hack 1: Make it interesting

You do not need to turn up with a fruit bowl on your head, but you do need to consider what is on the agenda. Does it matter, I mean really matter? Have you noticed that when there’s a serious issue on the agenda that you get more people to turn up?

Think deeply about what is affecting your group and allow time for some discussion. Everyone wants to feel they are making a contribution. And that goes above and beyond just increasing a bank account and approving meeting minutes.

Should you allow girls to wear pants as a part of their uniform? Do you allow students to use the playground before and after school? Should you ask your club members about ideas for reducing fees? A lot of this discussion will depend on your principal or head coach. Have a good discussion with them about how you can start to bring the real issues to the table.

If your structure is split into a management committee or school council and the role of your committee is more of a support role, this is no reason to avoid the big-ticket issues!!! Let everyone know that you are canvassing feedback to send up the chain and you want input from everyone.

  • Hack 2: Catering

You can’t go wrong with food. It makes everything better. Meetings after hours may warrant a platter or two of nibbles. While a morning meeting might see tea, coffee and biscuits set out. Over lunch, a tray of sandwiches might be fuel for meeting productivity! Oh, and chocolate, because… chocolate.

  • Hack 3: Getting to know you

Committees are often seen by ‘outsiders’ as being cliquey. You may have been on your committee for a long time and know everybody well, but new members can (and often do!) feel intimidated if they don’t know anyone. This fact is easy to forget when you are palsy-walsy with the people you’ve served on umpteen disco glow-stick tables with!

Make sure you are nice to EVERYONE that takes the time to attend your meetings.

I’m going to bang on a bit here because this bit’s important. Nice doesn’t mean ‘not being mean’. It means going out of your way to ignore your own bestie and shift yourself out of your comfort zone. Be present with the newbies who, brave and true, have rocked up to your meeting.

Repeat after me: ‘New members are a precious treasure.’

Don’t let them go without a warm welcome and a couple of questions like ‘what brought you along’ and ‘how good are you with an excel spreadsheet’. OK, maybe not the spreadsheet thing.

Here’s an idea, set aside the first few minutes of your meeting for everyone to introduce themselves and bring some familiarity to the group. You’d be surprised how comforting it can be to ‘put a face to a name’. For those early-in-the-year meetings, you could even include some time for icebreakers and having some fun. We all crave connection so just do it. Connect and create opportunities for others to connect.

  • Hack 4: Send reminders of meetings and pre-circulate the boring stuff

Alert people to upcoming committee meetings and save time at your meeting by tabling relevant documents (agenda people!) in advance. These can include minutes from the previous meeting, subcommittee and treasurers or financial reports and even possibly the principal’s report. This will let you quickly accept these documents and allow you to move on without having to wait for attendees to read everything on the spot.

  • Hack 5: Guest speaker/presentation

Add a little bit of interest and invite a guest to speak to the group. A business leader or community member who can give advice on something your group is doing might add that injection of enthusiasm for your group to get motivated about a current or upcoming project. It doesn’t have to be long (please don’t let it be long – that would defeat the purpose!) but it’s another way to create a broader connection within your community.

Another idea may be for one of your members to put together a digital presentation to highlight an event or idea for your group or even a wishlist project. A more interesting way to present information and get volunteers more motivated to contribute.

  • Hack 6: Encourage discussion but also set time limits

You have to be careful here because I know from personal experience at one of my earliest committee meetings that shutting down a discussion in the interests of pressing on with the agenda can be very deflating and demotivating.

But we all know that meetings can drag on and on and on. So while we have to get firm, remember to be a little more gentle with your first-timers who aren’t (yet!) jaded from years of committee meetings 😉

Clearly state your topics of discussion on your agenda. Also clearly state how long you are prepared to discuss each of these topics. Stick to it! Any discussions exceeding the time limit can be held over until the next meeting. Be diplomatic but not dismissive of any points raised. Everyone’s opinion is valid. The expression I love most at meetings: ‘We’ll park that one for later’.

Some committees find it useful to set a physical timer to keep to time frames. Your committee members will thank you for respecting the donation of their time.

Go forth and meet productively!

So, the bottom line is: Meetings don’t need to be intensely painful! You can’t fully escape the boring bits (let’s be honest), but you can minimise them. Meetings are an important opportunity for connection and contribution. As long as you always keep that in mind (and don’t just go through the motions) you’re a long way there already!

Mandy Weidmann is Australia’s ‘Fundraising Whisperer’ – publisher of the Fundraising Directory and author of the Practical Fundraising Handbook for School and Club Volunteers. Mandy believes that parent volunteers shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel all the time and is passionate about providing resources to make fundraising easier (and more fun). Click here to learn more about school and club fundraising ideas in Australia.

Originally published April 20, 2017

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