Effective Meetings and Leadership

Conducting a Meeting

Who’s Responsible?
The chair is the person in charge of a meeting. He/she has the authority to regulate a meeting and the responsibility to enforce rules, keep the order, and work toward the completion of business.

What Makes an Ideal Chair?
An ideal chair exhibits a variety of personal skills:

  • An ideal chair runs meetings firmly, stays on time, and succinctly summarizes points.
  • He/She should also be flexible in dealing with different attendees, open and receptive to differing opinions, and fair-minded so as to ensure all views are voiced and given equal consideration.
  • A good chair will also prevent irrelevant debate and maintain order whenever views may conflict.
  • Familiarity with bylaws and knowledge of attendees is also key.
  • A chair may exert enormous influence on the outcome of formal or informal meetings by using listening skills and helping participants focus on an agenda.

How Should the Chair Open the Meeting?
The chair should offer a short summary of the purpose of the meeting and the agenda.

What Should Be Done as Motions Are Brought Forth?
The chair should repeat the motion to ensure everyone has heard and understood it. It is extremely important that the chair remain neutral throughout the meeting, as it is his/her responsibility to cast the deciding vote if there is a tie.

What Should Be Done to Close the Meeting?
When all items on the agenda have been discussed and necessary actions agreed upon, it is the duty of the chair to close the meeting. The chair should ensure that all decisions are accurately recorded, follow-up procedures are set in motion, and the next meeting date, if necessary, is set.

In closing, the chair should always recap the business of the meeting, confirm committees, and end on a positive note. Thanking the participants for their attention and attendance is especially important in a volunteer organization. It may be common courtesy, but that small gesture will encourage them to attend the next meeting.

Preparing an Agenda

An agenda is a list of items that need to be discussed at a meeting. It should be short, simple, and clear. The chair may find it useful to consult with other participants or a committee to develop the agenda. If there are many issues to discuss, assign a time frame to each item. An agenda helps prepare those who attend the meeting.

Time spent preparing a well-thought-out agenda is an investment in an efficient and productive meeting. It ensures that participants are clear about the purpose of the meeting and why their contribution is important.

How to Begin an Agenda
Order topics logically and group similar items together to prevent repetition and save time. Agendas should begin with “housekeeping” matters, such as calling the meeting to order, taking attendance, and approving minutes from previous meetings. Unfinished, or old business, is often completed before new business is brought before the group.

Current issues, committee reports, financial reports, and decision-making should comprise the bulk of the agenda. Last on the agenda outline will be other business and scheduling follow-up meetings.

How to Encourage Focus on the Most Important Items
Participants are often most alert early in the meeting, so that’s a good time to discuss important items. Participants also appreciate agenda items that engage them by asking for their contributions.

What Else Should the Agenda Include?
An agenda should contain specific of the meeting’s date, time, place, and purpose. Attendees need to know what is expected of them and who will offer reports.

What Should Be Done Once an Agenda is Drafted?
Once you have a draft agenda, send it to other participants for comments, additions, or approval. Then make sure all participants get a copy of the final agenda well in advance of the meeting.

Meeting Participation

As a meeting participant, it is important to be well prepared. Focus on the meeting’s aims by reading the agenda and previous minutes in advance. What is your role? What do you have to contribute? Do you have research to support your position or view? Prepare accordingly.

Listen as Intently as You Speak
Listening in a meeting is just as important as speaking, sometimes even more so. Give each speaker your undivided attention. Don’t interrupt. Ask questions only for clarification or further information. Remember that listening involves more than just ears. It is also important to “listen” to people’s body language and convey attention through your own by looking at whomever is speaking.

Keep Notes
Minutes can be sketchy. Good notes give you better odds to accurately remember and repeat events.

Make the Most of Your Time to Speak
Preparation and confidence make others more likely to listen. When it is time for you to speak, be positive and professional. Speak clearly and confidently. Facial expressions and vocal tones are also important.

Your opening sentence should be attention-getting. You may only get one chance to have your say. Make certain your facts are right the first time. When you conclude, summarize your points or position.

Understand the Value of Time
As a meeting participant, the more prepared you are and the better your delivery, the higher the probability that your points will be remembered. Other people value their time too. If you listen carefully and contribute to the discussion, everyone will benefit.

Sample Agenda

Please download this PDF for a sample agenda.

Program Planning

Area PCARET committees hold two primary meetings each year. One is designated as the annual meeting. Some areas hold annual meetings in the fall and others in the spring. Some items suggested for the annual meeting are:

  • Introducing and/or using mixers to help members and attendees get to know each other
  • Distributing a list of current Area PCARET members
  • Conducting orientation for new Area PCARET members
  • Conducting normal business
  • Evaluating the winter activity of Area or State PCARET
  • Hearing the report from the National Lay Leaders’ Conference
  • Planning area legislative activities
  • Hearing a report from the nominating committee
  • Electing Area PCARET officers
  • Setting dates for future meetings
  • Receiving updates from Purdue University
  • Sharing county activities and program reports

During the second meeting, there are some similar and additional items to be considered:

  • Introducing participants
  • Collecting dues from counties
  • Evaluating area legislative events
  • Planning for visits to the Statehouse during the legislative session
  • Announcing upcoming dates for the State PCARET Conference and State Legislative Luncheon
  • Appointing the nominating committee for area officers
  • Presenting resumes for the National Lay Leaders’ Conference and to a three-year term on the State PCARET Committee
  • Planning programs to enhance PCARET members’ skills.
  • Receiving updates on Purdue activities
  • Sharing county activities and programs
  • Setting future meeting dates

Role of a PCARET Member

Experienced PCARET members may be asked to help with orientation of new members by serving as a mentor. As a mentor, your job is to help the new members integrate into the organization, understand his or her role, and take advantage of the opportunities that are available.

As a mentor, you are an informal link between the new member and the organization. You can support, challenge, and provide vision to the new PCARET member.

You are a teacher, a motivator, and a counselor.

Here are some ways you might help the new member feel welcome and become more familiar with PCARET:

  • Contact the new member by phone and make an appointment to meet with him/her prior to the next event
  • Welcome the new member at the first meeting and introduce him/her to others
  • Be available to answer questions regarding roles and responsibilities, legislative functions, legislators, and organizational participation
  • Invite the new members to go with you to meet a legislator or staff member
  • Offer transportation to an Area or State PCARET event

Remember that you don’t have to have all the answers. You might even learn a few things while serving as a mentor.

By sharing your expertise, ideas, feedback, and friendship, you will make a valuable contribution to the organization – fostering a great new member.