5 Less-Common Tools to Running a Meeting

I’m terrible at volunteer organizations. I procrastinate. I show up late. And I’m terrible on email. Thing is, we’re all like that to some extent.

I’ve been working for different organizations my entire life, and I’m obsessed with analyzing human behavior, so here are a couple tips you WON’T read in every-other-blog-post on this topic. I was inspired after attending the last NetIP Board Meeting. NetIP is the Network of Indian Professionals, and I happen to have been the VP of Seattle, President of Seattle, and now National Liaison to San Francisco’s chapter. But I think a lot of these tips will work for meetings in-general.

  1. Minutes & Agendas: Everyone talks about meeting minutes. Everyone talks about agendas. And meeting minutes and agendas are certainly lovely to look at. The thing that really kicks people in the pants, however, is if the Minutes have action items like “Next Meeting, Prasid will update the group on pricing for the venue” – when I read this, I’m going to actually be prepared to present this. And in-case I’m lazy and don’t read minutes or agenda items, then I’ll learn quick. Because next meeting, you use last-time’s Minutes as this time’s Agenda, and you go through, line-by-line, preferably with the entire Agenda on a projector or printed-out, so everyone can see-clearly where your Agenda is coming from, and everyone sees that Prasid is supposed to be presenting, and Prasid gets publicly-shamed if he isn’t prepared.
  1. Working sessions – oftentimes, a meeting has a specific purpose that’s separate from everyone’s day-job, like a non-profit or task-force or (in Microsoft-speak) a v-team. Oftentimes, there just isn’t time in your life to work on these non-day-job priorities. You have a day-job. Isn’t that enough? So a working-session is nice, because you’re using the time that you would have spent “meeting” actually “accomplishing” so everyone walks-away feeling productive. Which is a nice change from meetings where clearly everyone is unprepared, and the tension is palpable.
  1. Communicating between meetings. One of the greatest leaders I ever met was a girl named Anita who was founding-President of TiE YE Berkeley. I was amazed by how much work she managed to get out of me and Prashant, and most of it wasn’t stuff she asked-for during meetings – it was things she asked for on the phone, in-between meetings. Email sometimes doesn’t work well – we all have a lot of it. And at the end of the day, your priorities are a function of your day-job which pays the bills, and who you really care about. Because I deeply respected Anita, and felt something for the cause, I couldn’t say no to her, and so I did whatever she asked for, by whatever deadline she gave me. So, please, leverage the human connection, and pick-up-the-phone.
  1. Make them famous – find creative ways to give your team recognition. CC them on emails, when you’re sending something to a broader-group about this team’s work or accomplishments. If there’s an event – like a division meeting or the big gala you’ve been planning, make-sure you find a way to differentiate who was on the board/v-team – an “Organizer” nametag perhaps.
  1. Most important – setting the date & time of the next meeting. Invariably, we go 8 rounds over email later trying to schedule a time that works for everyone – do it while everyone is in the room, and has their calendar up, and they’ll mostly-commit. It’s a miracle. And this last meeting, when I forgot to bring-it-up, the Purvi (President of NetIP SFBA) did it herself – which tells me she noticed it works. =)

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