Once your group forms, whether it is a classic bike/ped committee or something you come up with your own name for–eventually it will hold meetings about its defining issue and goals. These meetings will sometimes happen after work hours or even on weekends, when people’s time is most tight and precious. It is imperative that meetings be efficient, effective, and productive! Below are some tips from the Alliance’s “Winning Campaigns” Workbook to help you hold good meetings.
Facilitating Effective Meetings
Volunteers need respect and professionalism even more than paid campaign workers, because they aren’t paid to be there. Well-facilitated meetings that respect your volunteers’ time and energy will keep everyone engaged and enthusiastic. Here are some tips for effective meetings.
- Time and place
- Choose a productive setting — for instance, don’t choose a venue that’s too large or public.
- Be mindful of length — keep it as short as practically possible and remember, after 90 minutes, people need a break.
- Begin and end on time.
- Prepare and test materials and hand-outs before the meeting starts.
- Build a strong agenda
- Include introductions.
- Role assignment.
- Agenda review (including times on each item).
- General announcements.
- Meeting Objectives and/or Work.
- Next steps and date to meet.
- Ensure good facilitation
- Be clear about your role and opinion.
- Guide group toward reaching decisions and next steps.
- Use brainstorming to get ideas on the table and prioritize those with greatest impact.
- Gently prod involvement and stifle dominance.
- Assign responsibilities.
- Identify metrics so you can identify that you have accomplished your goals.
Meeting facilitation glossary and toolbox
Announcement: A presentation that doesn’t require response. Should always end with “Contact ______later, if you want more information.”
Brainstorm: One person writes all the ideas that come up. There’s no criticism of any idea. This is a method that explores possibilities and encouraging creativity.
Go-around: Each person gets one chance to speak on the issue for a short time. It’s similar to a straw poll (see below), but slower and more informative. It’s very helpful to distinguish between the questions, “What’s best for you, personally?” and “What do you think the group should do?” (Both can be done, but in separate rounds, so the second can be informed by knowledge of others’ desires.)
Bike rack: Like a “Parking lot” (but breaking away from car-culture references), this is a technique to set aside ideas to discuss at a future time. Another alternative is the “Ice chest,” a method that keeps ideas cool and fresh for later.
Fishbowl: People most involved with, or with the strongest opinions about something, are designated as the only ones to speak for a specified period. This is used to clarify and negotiate controversies. After the fishbowl, the larger audience responds.
Straw poll: This method gets a sense for what the members of the group want without spending the time to hear from each member. This can help a group get to a decision point quickly.
Consensus: This describes a state of group agreement to proceed on a matter in a certain manner. Contrary to popular belief, consensus does not require all group members to have faith in the method chosen, but it does require that all feel their concerns were heard, considered, and, to the extent possible, incorporated in the group decision on what to do, or how vigorously to do it.
Source: Alliance for Biking & Walking “Winning Campaigns” Handbook