Keeping People Interested
Keeping a group active and involved is not always easy. The vast majority of groups that fall apart do so because of lack of excitement and interest in group events. You can do your part to create an atmosphere that encourages members to return to your group's meetings and events. Below are some ideas.
Always have greeters at the door at meetings and events to welcome newcomers. Make sure they sign in so that you can contact them later to invite them to events or add them to your list-serv. Consider inviting newcomers to assume leadership roles so they remain with the group.
Get to Know Group Members!
Help students find their place in the organization. Find out their burning issue and move them in that direction. Offer to have coffee with them to discuss their reason for getting involved. Create a Facebook group and interact on its Wall; discussions not finished during meetings can always be continued through e-mail or on Walls.
Act More, Meet Less
Most students, especially student activists, lead busy lives. The last thing most people want to do is sit in a meeting, so keep meetings short and fun. Also, instead of "meetings," hold events. Organize educational forums, put together an Equality Summit, or invite national speakers. Plan an annual fundraising event that combines entertainment with education, such as a dinner/dance.
Who doesn't love free food? Snacks can help set a casual tone for the meeting and also provide incentive for students to attend. If the choice for a student is between a quick dinner and attending your meeting, you won't win. Sorry.
Prior to the meeting, a chair should consult with the secretary regarding the agenda and allot time to each item. During the meeting, the chair must focus on the decisions required of the meeting, ensure that all participants are accorded adequate time, decide when to end debate on each topic, use appropriate questions to elucidate information or re-direct discussion, listen carefully to all contributions, and clearly summarize proceedings with an emphasis on decisions taken and future plans.
Create an Agenda, then Stick to It
An agenda is the single most valuable tool a chair has to keep control of a meeting and direct conversation. At a minimum, agendas should list the following:
- Meeting start time
- Meeting end time
- Meeting location
- Topics for discussion
- Which meeting participants are expected to be presenters or conversation leaders for each main topic
Encourage Group Discussions
This helps get all points of view and ideas. You will have better quality decisions as well as highly motivated members; they will feel that attending meetings is worthwhile.
Ideas, activities and commitment to the organization improve when members see their impact on the decision making process.
Keep Focus on Topic
As chair, feel free to ask for only constructive and non-repetitive comments. Tactfully end discussions when they are getting nowhere or becoming destructive or unproductive.
Keep Meeting Minutes
This is essential for future reference in case a question or problem arises. This also helps establish clear lines of responsibility. "I was supposed to do that?" will be a thing of the past.
Summarize Agreements Reached
End the meeting on a unifying or positive note. Thank everyone for coming and for their participation. Make members feel like their time is well-spent attending meetings.
Confirm the date, time and place for the next meeting (if one has already been scheduled). Place unfinished business on that meeting's agenda.