How To Conduct Effective Committee Meetings

“Our committee meetings seem to go on forever!” said the volunteer with whom I was meeting last week. “And all we do is hear reports – we never seem to deal with anything substantive.”

Have you had similar comments from your Board members or volunteer committee members?

There are many articles and books talking about how to conduct effective meetings, but I think it’s time to pare it down to just a few key points.

First of all, we all know that every meeting should have an agenda.

Second, meetings must have a well-versed and prepared leader who is willing to serve as facilitator. Most often this is the volunteer leader who chairs the committee.  This person must encourage participation from each committee member and ensure that every voice is heard.  If not, you run the risk over the unfortunate “committee-meeting-in-the-parking-lot-after-the-real-meeting” syndrome.

Third, respect your volunteers’ time. There should be an agreed-upon starting time as well as a stopping time.  Meetings should start and end on time.  People who arrive on time should not be punished by having to wait on those who are tardy.  Start the meeting on time and let other folks experience walking into the meeting that is already underway, and soon their behavior is likely to change.  If, for some reason, things are still being discussed at the agreed-upon ending time, the committee should be polled to see if people will agree to meet a short while longer (say, 15 minutes) to complete the discussions.  This avoids the old adage: “Some meetings adjourn; others simply fall apart.”  Don’t let your meetings “fall apart” as people begin to drift away – mentally or physically!

How long should meetings last?  Here at Alexander Haas we promote that meetings be kept to a maximum of ninety minutes. If you tend to go much longer, people begin “checking out” in our experience.

There is much more to be said on this topic, but these three points should get you thinking about how you conduct your meetings.

A meeting that is well planned, agenda-driven, conducted efficiently within a set timeframe will help to set your organization apart from others.  Not only will you be thanking your volunteers for all they do for you – they’ll be thanking you as well!

What are some ways that you work to improve your committee meetings?