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Meetings

Rules and Best Practices for Meetings

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Advice on successful community meetings


The website CityLab features a story this week that challenges people to make better meetings. "9 Annoying Things That Ruin Community Meetings..." focuses on the "don'ts," but here's some "dos" that can help you make your next meeting more productive.

1. Set the room for success. "Most meeting spaces are not places where...'joy goes to die.'" The article suggests organizing the chairs in a circle or arc so everyone can see everyone else. Keep everyone on the same level-no stages or podiums. The message to meeting attendees is: "We're all equal."

2. Prevent "mic hogs" from dominating. You know the problem: "I just have one question" turns into a rant. A good chairperson can and should cut off longwinded participants. Think about your favorite radio talk shows where hosts can say: "We got it! Would anyone like to respond?"

3. Encourage the quiet people to speak up. Leaders often know could contribute and can ask them to speak up. Sometimes a reluctant participant will open up if there are smaller breakout groups. Sometimes a group leader who is hanging out in the back of the room can identify interesting side conversations that should be shared and signal the moderator. Reward quiet people with comments like "I hear what you're saying..."

4. Flatten out the hierarchy. A participant who claims to have lots of experience or expertise might intimidate other participants. Gently remind the group that every opinion is welcomed. Avoid the appearance of "Big I's and little u's."

5. Stay in control of the meeting. If the moderator is pushing her/his own ideas, the meeting will easily get out of control. RHINO encourages groups to have two leaders: a social leader whose job is to encourage participation and involvement and a task leader who focuses on issues. Social leaders should be the meeting moderators.

6. Encourage participants to speak plainly. Eschew jargon and acronyms! Unfamiliar words and acronyms can discourage participation. Many meeting participants will hesitate to say "what does that mean" for fear of seeming dumb in front of others.

7. Transform negativity. When a meeting participant says "nothing can be done" or something negative, the moderator needs to remind the participants of other situations where collective action has worked. An example of success that is within peoples experience of the participants can quickly offset "bad vibes."

8. Encourage dialogue. A successful meeting will be a learning experience not a boxing match where participants throw punches to land points. A moderator can encourage presenters to explain their positions by asking 'Why do you think that?" or "help us understand better what would happen." Sometimes when issues are really polarized, ask each side to explain the other side's position. A technique like this can give each a chance to walk in the other side's shoes.

9. Avoid fake meetings. The purpose of a meeting is to make decisions. If there are no decisions to be made...don't hold a meeting! If the issue is already decided, send out a flyer or or hold a press conference. This can be a tricky problem for groups that have a "regular monthly meeting." One idea is that leaders need to plan to have an issue to present at every meeting. But if the group is more social, maybe have a business meeting one month and a social meeting on the alternate month. Social meetings could include movies, bingo, speakers or craft activities.

As leaders develop the knack of controlling disruptive behaviors and promoting participation, members will start to look forward to meetings. No one is born knowing how to run a meeting. Three ways to learn are observing other groups, asking for feedback from participants, and reading up on the subject.
posted February 21, 2016
 Planning a meeting
  • Time when most tenants can attend.
  • Place where all tenants can attend:  a public space (not a private residence) that has physical access
  • Give people a REASON to attend, not just a duty to attend.  Plan guest speakers, specialized content, important decisions to be made.
Rules for behavior at meetings
Avoid gossip:that will divide the members
  • no personal attacks
  • no name calling
  • no comments that stigmatize a class of tenants (seniors, families with children, minority groups)
Curtail long winded speeches or frequent speakers.  Keep the discussion lively...not boring




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