Improving conditions for bicyclists is hard work and takes good planning and organizational skills. There's no getting around it - any successful movement for change requires meetings, and probably lots of them. Whether you are organizing a face to face, teleconference or online meeting, the tips below will assist you in making sure your meeting is a success.
A good meeting is well organized, brief, to the point, interesting, and everyone has the chance to have his or her say. No one dominates. People leave it thinking, "I wish there were more meetings like that." You know that you were important in that meeting and that meeting was important to you!
Why is a good meeting so rare? Because it takes work to organize a successful one. Since all community groups and campaigns are built on regular meetings, it's important to make them good.
Whether we are talking about a candidates night, where 500 people are expected, or it's a board meeting for 15, there are certain basic guidelines that should help improve your meetings.
- Understand that a meeting is the middle of a process of preparation and follow-up. Every minute of preparation and planning is well spent. In fact, in basic community organizer training, we say that each minute of meeting time should have an equal amount of time spent on preparation and debriefing. Preparation should include everyone who'll take a leading part in a meeting and should anticipate what might happen and plan for those "what-ifs."
- With that being said, don't over plan. If you can eliminate surprises in advance, however, you can deal with the business of the meeting more efficiently.
- Start on time. This is a courtesy to those who bothered to get there at the advertised time and sets a tone from the start that your group means business. It also creates a good habit. Similarly, end the meeting at the scheduled time. Respect that people have other commitments and "shelf" nonessential items until your next meeting or follow up on those items via email if feasible.
- Start with introductions, which will help people - especially new people - know who is at the meeting. Even old members may not remember each other's names. Use name tags if you can. If it is a big public meeting, introduce the speakers and leaders. Also, try group introductions: "Would all those from Lansing please stand? Now all those from Grand Rapids." The purpose is to make people feel comfortable, to get them involved, and to develop a sense of why everyone is there. Introductions should include peoples' names and organizational affiliation, if any. At your first meeting of a new initiative it can also be useful to have people very briefly (one or two sentences) state why they are interested in the topic at hand.
- Certainly get a sign-up sheet with everyone's name, address, phone numbers, and email addresses clearly printed. Follow-up is easier if you know who was there. It can also help people feel that their presence is noted and important. You can also use the sign in sheet to create a Google Group or other online communication tool to help continue dialogue on issues in between meetings.