Effective meetings take A: Adequate planning and preparation; B: Behaviors that foster group interaction; and C: Communication, the key to success.

Communication needs to start approximately a week prior to the meeting send out the agenda, the ground rules, and any other materials members need to review before the meeting.

There are numerous communications that need to occur during the meeting. Be sure that introductions are made near the opening of the meeting, so that all participants will be aware of who is present. It is always a good idea to review the group s ground rules, for the awareness of new persons, but also so that regulars continue to keep them in mind. Depending on the type of meeting and purpose and maturity of the group, some team building exercises might be in order. There are numerous team building books which can be used for this purpose, three of which are How to Lead Work Teams by Rees, Team Power by Temme, and Committees That Work by the University of Minnesota Extension Service.

Processes need to be used during the meeting to encourage and monitor participation by participants. The degree and type of participation, of course, will depend on the type of meeting. Generally, participation is desirable from all members of the group. If participation is not occurring with certain individuals or segments of the gathering, it could be due to one or more reasons. If one or a few persons are dominating the meeting, most others will be hesitant to try to interject. If this happens, it is up to the chair to open up opportunities for others to speak up by asking them directly, directing a discussion which gives everyone around the table or room a turn, or asking the dominate person to give others an opportunity to speak. Some persons present may not feel free to speak because they feel they are at odds with the group direction, purpose, various actions, or members themselves. If this is the case, provide some type of format whereby they can express their dissatisfaction or concern. If it will cause too much disruption in the meeting, or if they are not willing to speak to the entire group, a special input meeting or survey, or a personal visit from someone else in the group to hear the person out might help.

Another common communication problem during meetings is side conversations, whispering, taking cell phone calls, working on computers, etc. These sorts of behaviors should be addressed in the ground rules established by the group prior to the meeting and must be enforced by the meeting chair. As soon as the chair is inconsistent in enforcing ground rules, they will cease to exist.

And, what about that person who is openly and vocally antagonistic? Depending on the type of meeting and where you are in the meeting, it is usually best to allow the antagonist an opportunity to voice their concern. Sometimes, just the opportunity to vent will be what is needed. However, the leader of the meeting must exercise the power delegated to them as chair to keep the antagonist s comments within the specified time given them to speak, and to cut off those behaviors that may be interpreted as verbal or physical attacks against members.

The chair should close each meeting with a brief summary of those items covered and what the final action was concerning them, what assignments were made, timelines or deadlines established, etc.

Following the meeting, distribute minutes or notes of the meeting including transcriptions of flip charts, reminders of action items and responsibilities, and any other resource or supporting materials that the meeting determined would be helpful. These things should be sent within a week of the meeting. Meeting minutes should include: kind of meeting; date; place; starting time; members present; presiding officer; approval of past minutes; balance of the treasurer s report; action taken on motions or decisions made; vote, if counted; other items that may affect the body; adjournment and time; and the secretary s or recorder s name and signature.

Bill Taylor Weston County Extension Office The University of Wyoming is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution.

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