Running a Meeting
Leading Your First Meeting
The first activity that directly affects the membership is the first meeting of the year. A dynamite first meeting makes a winning first impression on members and creates optimistic expectations for the term ahead.
You’ll find in this chapter an extensive plan for such a first meeting. We have in mind a group that has not met for several weeks, and is expecting a large number of potential new members to arrive as the new membership year begins. Such meetings often occur after summer vacation periods. We have witnessed one such meeting when more than 300 people showed up, without much warning! Unfortunately, the officers were unprepared, and the results were chaotic. A “What the Sam Hill happened?” discussion with the officers the following day helped us to develop the ideas that follow.
Let’s begin with six absolute Don’ts:
- Don’t talk too much (remember apathy?)
- Don’t start late; it sets a pattern.
- Don’t feature any kind of outside program (not this meeting!).
- Don’t ask for volunteers!
- Don’t call on anyone for a “report” if it can wait until a later meeting.
- Don’t read the minutes of the last meeting; it was many weeks ago, and nobody cares! (Anybody who really does can read them later!)
Next, we suggest your leadership team read through the next few pages, consider ideas, select those that seem to fit your needs, then create a definite plan for your own first meeting.
Before The Meeting Starts…
- Have a “team plan”… make sure that everyone knows the total plan and is prepared for his/her part in it.
- Make sure the meeting place can be easily identified from the outside, that it is well lighted for a night meeting. Put up signs to get people to the room and a sign at the entrance, visible when the door is open or closed, that says something friendly, such as “Welcome New Members!”
- Make sure that all meeting announcements and posters say clearly: “We start on time and adjourn early!”
- Be sure that the agenda is ready beforehand, have copies for everyone, or be ready to project it on a screen, write it on newsprint, or otherwise post it for all to see.
- See that the seating encourages maximum interaction among members and guests, that everyone can see the podium and hear what is going on, and that extra chairs are easily accessible. If you can, set up the room so that latecomers will enter at the rear, minimizing interruptions once you are under way
- Bring nametags and several marking pens.
- Bring Membership Information Cards and a quantity of pens and pencils.
- Prepare a display of club mementos… photos, your scrapbook, awards, newsletters, brochures, etc.
- Prepare and bring enough copies of a printed handout about the organization for every person. Include a statement of the group’s mission/purpose, a list of the officers and how to contact them, a list of opportunities for future involvement and whom to contact about each one, and a summary of recent organizational achievements.
- If one is available, check to make sure the microphone is ready for use.
As People Enter the Room
Remember… you don’t want their first impression of the organization to be their last!
Have old members come early and greet newcomers as they arrive, help them make out nametags, and talk with them individually or in groups of two or three. The “veterans” can also help with the other pre-meeting suggestions below.
- Give everyone a Membership Information Card. Ask them to fill it out, and then collect them immediately.
- Give everyone the printed handout about the organization; invite him or her to look it over before the meeting starts.
- Give everyone a copy of the meeting agenda and/or program, explaining those items that require further information.
- Take everyone on a tour of whatever displays you have, or at least invite them to look them over.
- Invite each person to join, in a friendly, non-pushy way. If they’re interested, take them to the membership table; follow up after the meeting with those not yet ready to join.
Starting the Meeting
- Ask team members and all other veterans present to help get everyone settled. Announce that it is time to get under way. At this point it is helpful to move membership and handout tables just outside the door to greet and sign up latecomers before they enter.
- Introduce yourself. Personalize it and give people some information about who you are. Something like this: “Hi, everybody. Welcome to the Club! My name is Charlie Brown, and I am your president for the coming year.”
- Welcome all new people attending and give them individual recognition, if at all possible. If time allows, let them introduce themselves.
- Welcome all returning members, and give them individual recognition similar to that afforded newcomers.
- Acknowledge continuing members who have achieved special recognition (e.g.: community leaders, scholarship recipients, class or school officers, etc.).
Presenting Your Organization
- Allow each officer to participate in the meeting in some major way. This helps out the president, gives them recognition, and lets others know who they are.
- Explain the purpose of the organization, referring to the preprinted handout you gave to each attendee.
- Explain the organization’s committee structure. If it is the least bit complex, visual aids will be a big help, keep it short and simple.
- Highlight major past accomplishments and refer to the displays.
- Review those continuing projects that will require involvement of the membership in the coming year.
- Describe important upcoming events and emphasize how members and newcomers can get involved.
- Explain important decisions the group may face during the year.
- Announce committee appointments or name the appointments that will be made. Tell members how they can get on a committee.
- Encourage members to come up with new program ideas (speakers, films, and fund-raisers). Pass out cards on which they can jot down ideas; collect them at the end of the meeting.
- Just for fun, have an auction, a drawing, a simple contest, or play a get-acquainted game.
- Show slides or videos of past activities of the group.
- Have refreshments.
- End the meeting by introducing the key members again and ask them to go to designated areas of the room when you adjourn to be accessible to interested persons.
- Invite everyone to visit with the key members, and to turn in their idea and Membership Information cards.
- Announce the next meeting — date, time, place, any items of business and the program.
- End the meeting on time and at a high point of interest, not when members are exhausted or impatient.
- Make it easy for folks to locate individual leadership team members to chat with or to volunteer for various projects or a committee.
- Have old members seek out first timers who were not quite ready to join at the beginning of the meeting. Encourage veterans to ask newcomers if they have any questions, but not to oversell!
- Have the “put-it-back-together” team clean up and put things away.
- After it’s all over, be sure the secretary writes up the minutes and the treasurer deposits any money!
- The membership chair should begin to set up the Membership Information Card file to help various committee chairpersons identify and recruit new committee members.
- The leadership team should evaluate the meeting, share individual feedback, and plan for the next meeting.
The meeting we’ve just described seems a little “heavy” compared to anything you have ever experienced. It is, but if your team puts together the right combination at the outset, you have a good chance of a successful season ahead. Such a carefully prepared meeting gets a lot of people acquainted, involved, and on their way home early. And — most important — they will probably be back next meeting! You probably will not want to do everything suggested above– few groups do! Your leadership team’s jobs are to select the important things, and do them well!