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Small Talk

In most it is normal and necessary to make "small talk" in certain situations. Small talk is
a casual form of conversation that "breaks the ice" or fills an awkward silence between
people. Even though you may feel shy using your second language, it is sometimes
considered rude to say nothing. Just as there are certain times when small talk is
appropriate, there are also certain topics that people often discuss during these moments.
Small Talk: Who, What, Where, When, Why?
WHO makes small talk?
People with different relationships use small talk. he most common type of people to
use small talk are those who do not know each other at all. hough we often teach
children not to talk to strangers, adults are e!pected to say at least a few words in certain
situations. It is also common for people who are only ac"uaintances, often called a
"friend of a friend", to use small talk. #ther people who have short casual conversations
are office employees who may not be good friends but work in the same department.
$ustomer service representatives, waitresses, hairdressers and receptionists often make
small talk with customers. If you happen to be outside when the mailman comes to your
door you might make small talk with him too.
WHAT do people make small talk about?
here are certain "safe" topics that people usually make small talk about. he weather is
probably the number one thing that people who do not know each other well discuss.
Sometimes even friends and family members discuss the weather when they meet or start
a conversation. %nother topic that is generally safe is current events. %s long as you are
not discussing a controversial issue, such as a recent law concerning e"ual rights, it is
usually safe to discuss the news. Sports news is a very common topic, especially if a local
team or player is in a tournament or play&off or doing e!tremely well or badly.
Entertainment news, such as a celebrity who is in town, is another good topic. If there is
something that you and the other speaker has in common, that may also be acceptable to
talk about. 'or e!ample, if the bus is e!tremely full and there are no seats available you
might talk about reasons why. Similarly, people in an office might casually discuss the
new paint or furniture. here are also some sub(ects that are not considered acceptable
when making small talk. )iscussing personal information such as salaries or a recent
divorce is not done between people who do not know each other well. $ompliments on
clothing or hair are acceptable* however, you should never say something +good or bad,
about a person-s body. .egative comments about another person not involved in the
conversation are also not acceptable/ when you do not know a person well you cannot be
sure who their friends are. 0ou do not talk about private issues either, because you do not
know if you can trust the other person with your secrets or personal information. %lso, it
is not safe to discuss sub(ects that society deems controversial such as religion or politics.
1astly, it is not wise to continue talking about an issue that the other person does not
seem comfortable with or interested in.
WHERE do people make small talk?
People make small talk (ust about anywhere, but there are certain places where it is very
common. 2ost often, small talk occurs in places where people are waiting for something.
'or e!ample, you might chat with another person who is waiting for the bus to arrive, or
to the person beside you waiting to get on an aeroplane. People also make small talk in a
doctor-s or dentist-s waiting room, or in "ueues at the grocery store. %t the office, people
make small talk in elevators or lunchrooms and even in restrooms, especially if there is a
line&up. Some social events +such as a party, re"uire small talk among guests who do not
know each other very well. 'or e!ample, you might talk to someone you do not know at
the punch bowl, or at the poolside. It is called "mingling" when people walk around in a
social setting and talk to a variety of people.
WHEN do people make small talk?
he most common time for small talk to occur is the first time you see or meet someone
on a given day. 'or e!ample, if you see a co&worker in the lounge you might say hello
and discuss the sports or weather. 3owever, the ne!t time you see each other you might
(ust smile and say nothing. If there is very little noise, that might be an indication that it is
the right time to initiate a casual conversation. 0ou should only spark up a conversation
after someone smiles and acknowledges you. )o not interrupt two people in order to
discuss something unimportant such as the weather. If someone is reading a book or
writing a letter at the bus stop it is not appropriate to initiate a conversation either.
%nother good time to make small talk is during a break in a meeting or presentation when
there is nothing important going on. 'inally, it is important to recogni4e the cue when the
other person wants the conversation to stop.
WHY do people make small talk?
here are a few different reasons why people use small talk. he first, and most obvious,
is to break an uncomfortable silence. %nother reason, however, is simply to fill time. hat
is why it is so common to make small talk when you are waiting for something. Some
people make small talk in order to be polite. 0ou may not feel like chatting with anyone
at a party, but it is rude to (ust sit in a corner by yourself. %fter someone introduces you
to another person, you do not know anything about them, so in order to show a polite
interest in getting to know them better, you have to start with some small talk.
Talking about the
• 5eautiful day, isn-t it6
• $an you believe all of this rain we-ve been having6
• It looks like it-s going to snow.
• It sure would be nice to be in 3awaii right about now.
• I hear they-re calling for thunderstorms all weekend.
• 7e couldn-t ask for a nicer day, could we6
• 3ow about this weather6
• )id you order this sunshine6
Talking about current • )id you catch the news today6
events • )id you hear about that fire on 'ourth Storey6
• 7hat do you think about this transit strike6
• I read in the paper today that the Sears 2all is closing.
• I heard on the radio today that they are finally going to
start building the new bridge.
• 3ow about those 8eds6 )o you think they-re going to
win tonight6
At the oice • 1ooking forward to the weekend6
• 3ave you worked here long6
• I can-t believe how busy9"uiet we are today, can you6
• 3as it been a long week6
• 0ou look like you could use a cup of coffee.
• 7hat do you think of the new computers6
At a social event • So, how do you know Justin6
• 3ave you tried the cabbage rolls that Sandy made6
• %re you en(oying yourself6
• It looks like you could use another drink.
• Pretty nice place, huh6
• I love your dress. $an I ask where you got it6
Out or a walk • 3ow old-s your baby6
• 7hat-s your puppy-s name6
• he tulips are sure beautiful at this time of year, aren-t
• 3ow do you like the new park6
• .ice day to be outside, isn-t it6
Waiting somewhere • I didn-t think it would be so busy today.
• 0ou look like you-ve got your hands full +with children
or goods,.
• he bus must be running late today.
• It looks like we are going to be here a while, huh6
• I-ll have to remember not to come here on 2ondays.
• 3ow long have you been waiting6
Step 1
Practise. Converse it! ever"one "o# co$e across% cas!iers& aiters& peop'e
"o#(re in 'ine it!& nei)!*ors& co-or+ers an, +i,s. C!at it! -o'+s #n'i+e
"o#rse'-& -ro$ seniors to teena)ers to to#rists.
Step .
/ea, ever"t!in)% coo+*oo+s& nespapers& $a)a0ines& revies& pro,#ct
inserts& $aps& si)ns an, cata'o)s. Ever"t!in) is a so#rce o- in-or$ation t!at
can *e ,isc#sse,.
Step 1
Force "o#rse'- to )et into s$a'' ta'+ sit#ations& 'i+e ,octors( aitin) roo$s&
coc+tai' parties an, o--ice $eetin)s. Accept invitations& or !ost "o#r on
Step 2
I$$erse "o#rse'- in c#'t#re& *ot! !i)! an, 'o. Te'evision& $#sic& sports&
-as!ion& art an, poetr" are )reat so#rces o- c!at. I- "o# can(t stan,
S!a+espeare& t!at too is a )oo, topic -or ta'+.
Step 3
Keep a 4o#rna'. Write ,on -#nn" stories "o# !ear& *ea#ti-#' t!in)s "o# see&
5#otes& o*servations& s!oppin) 'ists an, ca''s "o# $a,e. T!at stor" o- t!e
'on)-,istance operator $is#n,erstan,in) "o# co#', *eco$e an openin) 'ine.
Step 6
Ta'+ to "o#rse'- in t!e $irror. Ma+e a ran,o$ 'ist o- topics an, see !at "o#
!ave to sa" on t!e s#*4ects. 7ase*a''& /#ssia& *#tter& !ip-!op& s!oes ...t!e
$ore varie, "o#r 'ist& t!e *etter.
Step 8
E9pan, "o#r !ori0ons. :o !o$e a ne a". Tr" s#s!i. P'a" pin*a''. :o
on'ine. Paint a aterco'or. 7a+e a pie. Tr" so$et!in) ne ever" ,a".
Step ;
7e a *etter 'istener. <i, "o#r *oss 4#st sa" s!e s#--ers -ro$ $i)raines= <i,
"o#r ,octor 4#st !ave tins= T!ese are opport#nities -or $a+in) s$a'' ta'+.
Step >
Wor+ on con-i,ence& overco$in) s!"ness an, an" -ee'in)s o- sta)e -ri)!t.
/e$e$*er& t!e $ore "o# +no& t!e $ore "o# +no "o# can ta'+ a*o#t.
Presentation Skills
o Presentations and reports are ways of communicating ideas and
information to a group. But unlike a report, a presentation carries the
speaker's personality better and allows immediate interaction between all
the participants. A good presentation has:
o Content- It contains information that people need. But unlike reports, which
are read at the reader's own pace, presentations must account for how much
information the audience can absorb in one sitting.
o Structure - It has a logical beginning, middle, and end. It must be sequenced
and paced so that the audience can understand it. Where as reports have
appendices and footnotes to guide the reader, the speaker must be careful not to
loose the audience when wandering from the main point of the presentation.
o Packaging - It must be well prepared. A report can be reread and portions
skipped over, but with a presentation, the audience is at the mercy of a presenter.
o Human Element - A good presentation will be remembered much more than
a good report because it has a person attached to it. But you still need to analyze
if the audience's needs would not be better met if a report was sent instead.
The Voice
The voice is probably the most valuable tool of the presenter. It carries most of
the content that the audience takes away. One of the oddities of speech is that
we can easily tell others what is wrong with their voice, e.g. too fast, too high, too
soft, etc., but we have trouble listening to and changing our own voices.
There are four main terms used for defining vocal qualities:
o Volume: How loud the sound is. The goal is to be heard without shouting.
Good speakers lower their voice to draw the audience in, and raise it to make a
o Tone: The characteristics of a sound. An airplane has a different sound than
leaves being rustled by the wind. A voice that carries fear can frighten the
audience, while a voice that carries laughter can get the audience to smile.
o Pitch: How high or low a note is. Pee Wee Herman has a high voice, Barbara
Walters has a moderate voice, while James Earl Jones has a low voice.
o Pace: This is how long a sound lasts. Talking too fast causes the words and
syllables to be short, while talking slowly lengthens them. Varying the pace helps
to maintain the audience's interest.
o Color: Both projection and tone variance can be practiced by taking the line
"This new policy is going to be exciting" and saying it first with surprise, then with
irony, then with grief, and finally with anger. The key is to ov er - ac t . Remember
Shakespeare's words "Al l t he wor l d' s a s t age " -- presentations are the
opening night on Broadway!
There are two good methods for improving your voice:
1. Listen to it! Practice listening to your voice while at home, driving, walking, etc.
Then when you are at work or with company, monitor your voice to see if you are
using it how you want to.
2. To really listen to your voice, cup your right hand around your right ear and
gently pull the ear forward. Next, cup your left hand around your mouth and direct
the sound straight into your ear. This helps you to really hear your voice as
others hear it...and it might be completely different from the voice you thought it
was! Now practice moderating your voice.
The Body
Your body communicates different impressions to the audience. People not only
listen to you, they also watch you. Slouching tells them you are indifferent or you
do not care...even though you might care a great deal! On the other hand,
displaying good posture tells your audience that you know what you are doing
and you care deeply about it. Also, a good posture helps you to speak more
clearly and effective.
Throughout you presentation, display:
o Eye contact: This helps to regulate the flow of communication. It signals
interest in others and increases the speaker's credibility. Speakers who make eye
contact open the flow of communication and convey interest, concern, warmth,
and credibility.
o Facial Expressions: Smiling is a powerful cue that transmits happiness,
friendliness, warmth, and liking. So, if you smile frequently you will be perceived
as more likable, friendly, warm, and approachable. Smiling is often contagious and
others will react favorably. They will be more comfortable around you and will want
to listen to you more.
o Gestures: If you fail to gesture while speaking, you may be perceived as
boring and stiff. A lively speaking style captures attention, makes the material
more interesting, and facilitates understanding.
o Posture and body orientation: You communicate numerous messages by
the way you talk and move. Standing erect and leaning forward communicates
that you are approachable, receptive, and friendly. Interpersonal closeness results
when you and your audience face each other. Speaking with your back turned or
looking at the floor or ceiling should be avoided as it communicates disinterest.
o Proximity: Cultural norms dictate a comfortable distance for interaction with
others. You should look for signals of discomfort caused by invading other's
space. Some of these are: rocking, leg swinging, tapping, and gaze aversion.
Typically, in large rooms, space invasion is not a problem. In most instances there
is too much distance. To counteract this, move around the room to increase
interaction with your audience. Increasing the proximity enables you to make
better eye contact and increases the opportunities for others to speak.
o Voice. One of the major criticisms of speakers is that they speak in a
monotone voice. Listeners perceive this type of speaker as boring and dull. People
report that they learn less and lose interest more quickly when listening to those
who have not learned to modulate their voices.
Active Listening
Good speakers not only inform their audience, they also listen to them. By
listening, you know if they are understanding the information and if the
information is important to them. Active listening is NOT the same as hearing!
Hearing is the first part and consists of the perception of sound.
Listening, the second part, involves an attachment of meaning to the aural
symbols that are perceived. Passive listening occurs when the receiver has little
motivation to listen carefully. Active listening with a purpose is used to gain
information, to determine how another person feels, and to understand others.
Some good traits of effective listeners are:
o Spend more time listening than talking (but of course, as a presenter, you will
be doing most of the talking).
o Do not finish the sentence of others.
o Do not answer questions with questions.
o Aware of biases. We all have them. We need to control them.
o Never daydream or become preoccupied with their own thoughts when others
o Let the other speaker talk. Do not dominate the conversation.
o Plan responses after others have finished speaking...NOT while they are
speaking. Their full concentration is on what others are saying, not on what they
are going to respond with.
o Provide feedback but do not interrupt incessantly.
o Analyze by looking at all the relevant factors and asking open-ended
questions. Walk the person through analysis (summarize).
o Keep the conversation on what the speaker says...NOT on what interest them.
Listening can be one of our most powerful communication tools! Be sure to
use it!
Part of the listening process is getting feedback by changing and altering the
message so the intention of the original communicator is understood by the
second communicator. This is done by paraphrasing the words of the sender and
restating the sender's feelings or ideas in your own words, rather than repeating
their words. Your words should be saying, "This is what I understand your
feelings to be, am I correct?" It not only includes verbal responses, but also
nonverbal ones. Nodding your head or squeezing their hand to show agreement,
dipping your eyebrows to show you don't quite understand the meaning of their
last phrase, or sucking air in deeply and blowing out hard shows that you are
also exasperated with the situation.
Carl Roger listed five main categories of feedback. They are listed in the order in
which they occur most frequently in daily conversations (notice that we make
judgments more often than we try to understand):
1. Evaluative: Makes a judgment about the worth, goodness, or
appropriateness of the other person's statement.
2. Interpretive: Paraphrasing - attempt to explain what the other persons
statement mean.
3. Supportive: Attempt to assist or bolster the other communicator
4. Probing: Attempt to gain additional information, continue the discussion, or
clarify a point.
5. Understanding: Attempt to discover completely what the other communicator
means by her statements.
The main enemy of a presenter is tension, which ruins the voice, posture, and
spontaneity. The voice becomes higher as the throat tenses. Shoulders tighten
up and limit flexibility while the legs start to shake and causes unsteadiness. The
presentation becomes "canned" as the speaker locks in on the notes and starts
to read directly from them.
First, do not fight nerves, welcome them! Then you can get on with the
presentation instead of focusing in on being nervous. Actors recognize the value
of nerves...they add to the value of the performance. This is because adrenaline
starts to kick in. It's a left over from our ancestors' "fight or flight" syndrome. If you
welcome nerves, then the presentation becomes a challenge and you become
better. If you let your nerves take over, then you go into the flight mode by
withdrawing from the audience. Again, welcome your nerves, recognize them, let
them help you gain that needed edge! Do not go into the flight mode! When you
feel tension or anxiety, remember that everyone gets them, but the winners use
them to their advantage, while the losers get overwhelmed by them.
Tension can be reduced by performing some relaxation exercises. Listed below
are some tips to get you started:
o Mental Visualization: Before the presentation, visualize the room, audience,
and you giving the presentation. Mentally go over what you are going to do from
the moment you start to the end of the presentation.
o During the presentation: Take a moment to yourself by getting a drink of
water, take a deep breath, concentrate on relaxing the most tense part of your
body, and then return to the presentation saying to your self, "I can do it!"
o You do NOT need to get rid of anxiety and tension! Channel the energy into
concentration and expressiveness.
o Know that anxiety and tension is not as noticeable to the audience as it is to
o Know that even the best presenters make mistakes. The key is to continue on
after the mistake. If you pick up and continue, so will the audience. Winners
continue! Losers stop!
o Never drink alcohol to reduce tension! It affects not only your coordination but
also your awareness of coordination. You might not realize it, but your audience
Keep cool if a questioner disagrees with you. You are a
professional! No matter how hard you try, not everyone in
the world will agree with you!
Although some people get a perverse pleasure from putting others on the spot,
and some try to look good in front of the boss, most people ask questions from a
genuine interest. Questions do not mean you did not explain the topic good
enough, but that their interest is deeper than the average audience.
Always allow time at the end of the presentation for questions. After inviting
questions, do not rush ahead if no one asks a question. Pause for about 6
seconds to allow the audience to gather their thoughts. When a question is
asked, repeat the question to ensure that everyone heard it (and that you heard it
correctly). When answering, direct your remarks to the entire audience. That
way, you keep everyone focused, not just the questioner. To reinforce your
presentation, try to relate the question back to the main points.
Make sure you listen to the question being asked. If you do not understand it, ask
them to clarify. Pause to think about the question as the answer you give may be
correct, but ignore the main issue. If you do not know the answer, be honest, do
not waffle. Tell them you will get back to them...and make sure you do!
Answers that last 10 to 40 seconds work best. If they are too short, they seem
abrupt; while longer answers appear too elaborate. Also, be sure to keep on
track. Do not let off-the-wall questions sidetrack you into areas
that are not relevant to the presentation.
If someone takes issue with something you said, try to find a
way to agree with part of their argument. For example, "Yes, I
understand your position..." or "I'm glad you raised that point, but..." The idea is
to praise their point and agree with them. Audiences sometimes tend to think of
"us verses you." You do not want to risk alienating them.
Preparing the Presentation
To fail to prepare is to prepare to fail.
Great presentations require some preplanning. First, there should be an outline
of preparing and conducting a meeting, such as acquiring a room, informing
participants, etc. A presentation follows the same basic guidelines as preparing
for a meeting.
The second step is to prepare the presentation. A good presentation starts out
with introductions and an icebreaker such as a story, interesting statement or
fact, joke, quotation, or an activity to get the group warmed up. The introduction
also needs an objective, that is, the purpose or goal of the presentation. This not
only tells you what you will talk about, but it also informs the audience of the
purpose of the presentation.
Next comes the body of the presentation. Do NOT write it out word for word. All
you want is an outline. By jotting down the main points on a set of index cards,
you not only have your outline, but also a memory jogger for the actual
presentation. To prepare the presentation, ask yourself the following:
o What is the purpose of the presentation?
o Who will be attending?
o What does the audience already know about the subject?
o What is the audience's attitude towards me (e.g. hostile, friendly)?
A 45 minutes talk should have no more than about seven main points. This may
not seem like very many, but if you are to leave the audience with a clear picture
of what you have said, you cannot expect them to remember much more than
that. There are several options for structuring the presentation:
o Timeline: Arranged in sequential order.
o Climax: The main points are delivered in order of increasing importance.
o Problem/Solution: A problem is presented, a solution is suggested, and
benefits are then given.
o Classification: The important items are the major points.
o Simple to complex: Ideas are listed from the simplest to the most complex.
Can also be done in reverse order.
You want to include some visual information that will help the audience
understand your presentation. Develop charts, graphs, slides, handouts, etc.
After the body, comes the closing. This is where you ask for questions, provide a
wrap-up (summary), and thank the participants for attending.
Notice that you told them what they are about to hear (the objective), told them
(the body), and told them what they heard (the wrap up).
And finally, the important part - practise, practise, practise. The main purpose of
creating an outline is to develop a coherent plan of what you want to talk about.
You should know your presentation so well, that during the actual presentation,
you should only have to briefly glance at your notes to ensure you are staying on
track. This will also help you with your nerves by giving you the confidence that
you can do it. Your practice session should include a "live" session by practicing
in front of coworkers, family, or friends. They can be valuable at providing
feedback and it gives you a chance to practice controlling your nerves. Another
great feedback technique is to make a video or audio tape of your presentation
and review it critically with a colleague.
We all have a few habits, and some are more annoying than others. For
example, if we say "uh," "you know," or put our hands in our pockets and jingle
our keys too often during a presentation, it distracts from the message we are
trying to get across.
The best way to break one of these distracting habits is with immediate feedback.
This can be done with a small group of coworkers, family, or friends. Take turns
giving small off-the-cuff talks about your favorite hobby, work project, first work
assignment, etc. The talk should last about five minutes. During a speaker's first
talk, the audience should listen and watch for annoying habits.
The next time the person gives her or his talk, each audience member should
wave the corresponding sign in the air whenever they hear or see the annoying
habit. For most people, this method will break a habit by practicing at least once
a day for one to two weeks.
Tips and Techniques for Great Presentations
Eleanor Roosevelt was a shy young girl who was terrified at the
thought of speaking in public. But with each passing year,
she grew in confidence and self-esteem. She once said,
"No one can make you feel inferior, unless you agree with
o If you have handouts, do not read straight from them. The audience does not
know if they should read along with you or listen to you read.
o Do not put both hands in your pockets for long periods of time. This tends to
make you look unprofessional. It is OK to put one hand in a pocket but ensure
there is no loose change or keys to jingle around. This will distract the listeners.
o Do not wave a pointer around in the air like a wild knight branding a sword to
slay a dragon. Use the pointer for what it is intended and then put it down,
otherwise the audience will become fixated upon your "sword", instead upon you.
o Do not lean on the podium for long periods. The audience will begin to wonder
when you are going to fall over.
o Speak to the audience...NOT to the visual aids, such as flip charts or
overheads. Also, do not stand between the visual aid and the audience.
o Speak clearly and loudly enough for all to hear. Do not speak in a monotone
voice. Use inflection to emphasize your main points.
o The disadvantages of presentations is that people cannot see the punctuation
and this can lead to misunderstandings. An effective way of overcoming this
problem is to pause at the time when there would normally be punctuation marks.
o Use colored backgrounds on overhead transparencies and slides (such as
yellow) as the bright white light can be harsh on the eyes. This will quickly cause
your audience to tire. If all of your transparencies or slides have clear
backgrounds, then tape one blank yellow one on the overhead face. For slides,
use a rubber band to hold a piece of colored cellophane over the projector lens.
o Learn the name of each participant as quickly as possible. Based upon the
atmosphere you want to create, call them by their first names or by using Mr.,
Mrs., Miss, Ms.
o Tell them what name and title you prefer to be called.
o Listen intently to comments and opinions. By using a l at er al t hi nk i ng
t ec hni que (adding to ideas rather than dismissing them), the audience will feel
that their ideas, comments, and opinions are worthwhile.
o Circulate around the room as you speak. This movement creates a physical
closeness to the audience.
o List and discuss your objectives at the beginning of the presentation. Let the
audience know how your presentation fits in with their goals. Discuss some of the
fears and apprehensions that both you and the audience might have. Tell them
what they should expect of you and how you will contribute to their goals.
o Vary your techniques (lecture, discussion, debate, films, slides, reading, etc.)
o Get to the presentation before your audience arrives; be the last one to leave.
o Be prepared to use an alternate approach if the one you've chosen seems to
bog down. You should be confident enough with your own material so that the
audience's interests and concerns, not the presentation outline, determines the
format. Use your background, experience, and knowledge to interrelate your
subject matter.
o When writing on flip charts use no more than 7 lines of text per page and no
more than 7 word per line (the 7 7 rule). Also, use bright and bold colors, and
pictures as well as text.
o Consider the time of day and how long you have got for your talk. Time of day
can affect the audience. After lunch is known as the graveyard section in training
circles as audiences will feel more like a nap than listening to a talk.
o Most people find that if they practice in their head, the actual talk will take
about 25 per cent longer. Using a flip chart or other visual aids also adds to the
time. Remember - it is better to finish slightly early than to overrun.
3olding 2eetings
0ou can evaluate at the
end of each meeting to see
how well it went. %sk the
• 7hat worked6
• 7hat didn-t work6
• 7hat can we do
! "ou are the chair###
0ou are the leader of the
meeting. 0ou...
• put together an agenda
• start and end the
meeting on time
• keep the meeting
• make sure everyone
who wants to talk gets a
chance get people at the
meeting to vote on
$aking decisions
%etting the agenda
he agenda is like a
program for the meeting.
It lists the things that will
happen at the meeting in
the order they will
happen. 0ou can set the
agenda in advance or at
the beginning of the
7rite your agenda on a
chalk board or flip chart.
0ou can give people the
agenda before the meeting
if it is ready.
Taking minutes
he record of what
alk about how you can
improve your meetings.
0ou can make decisions by/
• talking things over
• reaching a group
• voting
7hen members of a group
disagree, you might need to get
more information or form a
smaller committee to study the
happens at the meeting is
called the minutes.
he secretary can take
minutes or group
members can take turns.
0ou can write down who
was at the meeting, where
and when it happened and
what you talked about.
2ake copies of the
minutes and give them to
the group members.
2eetings are an important part of the operations of any effective not&for&
profit community organisation. )epending on the si4e and structure of your community
organisation, there are a number of different meetings that may be held including/
• meetings of the organisation-s management committee or board*
• meetings of members of your community organisation*
• management meetings*
• an annual general meeting
Meetings are unpopular because they take up time--usually that of many people.
However, there are good meetings and there are bad meetings. Meetings can be an
excellent use of time when they are well-run. Unfortunately, the converse is also
true, and it seems that time-wasting, poorly run meetings are far too common.he
main "uestion though is&7hy do we have hold 2eetings6'or which the possible answers
might be&
: #rientation
: Planning
: Information Sharing
: )ecision 2aking
here are many different forms of a 2eeting could be held. hey are&
: 'ace to 'ace
: $onference $all
: Internet chat session
: ;ideo $onferencing
7hile preparing the %genda for the meeting ,one should keep the following in mind&
: <athering the Items
: Placing the Items
: )eveloping the imeframe
: $irculating the %genda
<uidelines for 2eetings&
• )o not talk when someone else is talking.
• ake turns speaking and listening.
• 8espect others.
• %gree to disagree sometimes.
• )o not put down someone else-s idea.
• .o smoking.
• .o perfume, aftershave or other strongly scented products.
<olden 8ules for Effective 2eetings
Golden Rule #1: Run your meetings as you would have others run the meetings
that you attend.
Golden Rule #2: Be prepared and ensure that all the participants can be as well.
Distribute the meeting agenda a day before the meeting and make sure everyone
has access to any relevant background materials. articipants, of course, have the
obligation of reviewing the agenda and background materials and arriving at the
meeting prepared. !f the meeting organi"er has not provided ade#uate information
about the ob$ectives of the meeting, the participants should take the initiative to ask.
%o one should arrive at a meeting not knowing why they are there--and what is
supposed to be accomplished.
!f there is nothing to put on the agenda, the organi"er should ask him&herself
whether there really needs to be a meeting.
Golden Rule #3: Stick to a schedule.
'tart the meeting on time and end it on time (or even early). 'tarting on time
re#uires discipline by the organi"er and the participants. *rriving late shows a lack of
consideration for all those who were on time. +ut if all participants know that the
organi"er is going to start the meeting right on time, there is a much greater
likelihood that everyone else will make the effort to be punctual.
,inishing in a timely manner is also crucial. !f everyone agreed that the meeting
would last an hour, the meeting should not run any longer than that. -eeping the
agenda realistic is important, of course. ,inally, if only ./ minutes are re#uired to
accomplish the meeting ob$ectives, the meeting should end after only ./ minutes. !t
would be a waste of everyone0s time to let it go on any longer than that.
1he time for which the meeting is scheduled is also important. 'cheduling regular
meetings for inconvenient times (e.g. after the end of the official work day) can have
a very negative impact on morale. 2mergencies are a reality for most organi"ations
and may necessitate meetings at odd times, but routine meetings should be
scheduled at a time that is reasonably convenient for the participants.
Golden Rule #4: Stay on topic.
Most groups have at least one person who tends to go off on a tangent or tell stories
during meetings. 3hether this is the organi"er or one of the participants, all meeting
participants have the responsibility of gently guiding the meeting back to the
substantive agenda items. 1his should not be done at the expense of all levity, of
course, as that is an important ingredient for esprit de corps. *lso, storytelling can
be very useful if it is being used deliberately as a coaching or teaching tool. *s a
rule, however, someone needs to guide the discussion back to the agenda if the
meeting becomes clearly off track.
Golden Rule #5: Don't hold unnecessary meetings.
4arefully assess how often routine meetings really need to be held. ,or example, if
you have daily staff meetings, how productive are they5 4an they be held less
fre#uently5 6r, perhaps, can they be held standing up someplace and kept to a few
minutes5 'taff meetings are crucial vehicles for maintaining good communication in
the office, but it is important to find the right balance between good communication
and productive uses of time.
Golden Rule #6: Wrap up meetings with a clear statement of the next steps and
who is to take them.
!f any decisions were made at the meeting (even if the decision was to 7study the
issue more7) the meeting organi"er should clearly summari"e what needs to be done
and who is going to do it. !f the organi"er fails to do this, one of the participants
needs to speak up and re#uest clarification of the next steps. 1his is crucial. !f the
participants leave the meeting and no one is accountable for taking action on the
decisions that were made, then the meeting will have been a waste of everyone0s
Tips on holding eective & productive meetings'
(Adapted from Amnesty International's Student Organizing Guide)
• )esignate a facilitator & $hoosing a person to facilitate the meeting keeps the
meeting moving and develops leadership skills. #ver time, rotate facilitators to
give anyone interested a chance to learn this important skill.
• Establish an %genda & 7rite it on the board, invite people to make additions and
changes at the beginning of the meeting. Stick to the agenda as much as possible,
but recogni4e that fle!ibility is a facilitation skill.
• Start and end times & 0our time is precious. 8espect everyone-s time by sticking
to the time limit, and set it out on the agenda.
• Stick to it & %s the facilitator, it is your responsibility to make sure that the
meeting stays on track. herefore, if someone begins to discuss something that
isn-t on the agenda, "table" the issue. If the issue being discussed is larger and
programmatic in nature, write it down on a list of future broader issues to
consider. If the issue is smaller and more detail&oriented in nature, write it on a
post&it&note. Place both the list and the post&its on the wall ne!t to the agenda and
tell those attending the meeting that you will talk about those issues, after you
have come to the end of the initial agenda.
• Encourage participation & Seek balance between those who speak a lot and those
who do not. Solicit ideas and suggestions from "uieter and new members.
• Seek commitments & Encourage members to sign up for specific tasks, e.g.
tabling, postering, action committees, etc. =eep track of who has committed to do
what and follow up with those individuals.
• %void detailed decision&making & his should be reserved for other planning or
committee meetings. 7rite decisions that need to be made on post&it notes and
discuss them after the meeting.
• Post&it note paradise & %fter you have made it through the initial agenda, go
through the post&it&notes and decide whether each issue is an organi4ational
matter to be discussed by the entire group at the ne!t meeting, or whether it is a
matter to be discussed by a smaller focus group, and then perhaps later be brought
back to the larger community.
7hen you-re choosing a time and place find out...
• if the place you want is available
• if there is something else going on at the same time that might take people away
from your meeting
• if the presenters you want are available
• if the place is wheelchair accessible
• if the place has enough rooms
• if there is enough parking.
If you-re serving food...
• find someone to provide the food or do it yourself
• figure out the cost per person plus ta!es
• decide what you want to serve when. )epending on the time of day, you can serve
snacks or a meal. )on-t forget the drinks.
(People think better on a full stomach ,
Post&2eetings 'ollow up&
Summari4e the meeting results and follow up & 2ake sure students leave the group
knowing which decisions were made, which need further discussion and when they will
be discussed, and which responsibilities were assigned. his helps create a vision of
what-s happening ne!t and where the chapter is headed. hank those who helped plan the
meeting and thank all of the participants for making it a successful meeting.he 2eeting
could be summeri4ed in the following methods&
: 2inutes
: %ctions
: Sidebars