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Six Simple Tricks For Running A More Effective Nonprofit Meeting

Have you ever looked on your calendar and seen nothing but a wall of meetings stretched before you, seemingly keeping you from getting your "real work done"? Staff meetings can be one of the most or least valuable tools nonprofits have to get everyone moving in the same direction; below are some simple tricks to make your meetings more productive and less of a chore.

Is There a Reason to Have a Meeting?

  • Will people need to ask questions about the information being shared, or can it easily be shared in an email?
  • Are decisions being made, and does there need to be a discussion around them?
  • Are there problems that everyone needs to understand so they can help fix them?
  • Are there updates or deliverables that need to be reported so the group can understand the next steps?
  • Do certain team members have information or insights that are best shared in person, or do you need to ensure that everyone has heard the information?

Give Me an Agenda or Let Me Go

It seems so obvious but and like so many obvious things; providing an agenda is often not done. An agenda lets everyone in the room know why they are there, sets clear expectations as to what needs to be accomplished. If possible, send the agenda out well before the meeting begins so everyone can come in ready to go.

Do you have a weekly staff meeting Monday mornings? Send your agenda out near the end of the day Friday; this not only allows people to plan for the meeting but to finish up any deliverables they might have due.

On your agenda, limit the time for each agenda item i.e.

  • 8:00-8:05 Welcome and review the agenda
  • 8:05-8:10 Strategic planning retreat update
  • 8:10-8:25 Budget update and discussion

Get the Party Started on Time and Don't Run Long.

Have you ever sat in a room waiting for the person who called the meeting to arrive, or they say, "let's give everyone a few minutes to get here and get settled"? You feel your time is being wasted, and you can feel your enthusiasm for the work draining out of you.

Just as important as starting the meeting on time is ending it on time, preferably a few minutes early. This will builds trust with your team, allows people time to get to their next meeting, and, if you end early, allows people time to have those all-important "hallway conversations."

Schedule a Ten Minute "Pre-Meeting" Before the Meeting. 

Allowing people a few minutes of protected time before the meeting to prepare and review any documents.

Make the Meeting Short

Most meetings are scheduled for an hour, but people's attention spans are considerably shorter than that. TED talks are 18 minutes long for a reason. Most adults can only comfortably keep their attention focused for an 18-20 minute time span. Make sure you limit the discussion on any one topic to no more than 18 minutes.

The old saying "No one can remember more than three points" also holds. Use these two facts to your advantage by keeping each discussion point on your agenda brief and ensuring your meetings cover no more than three topics. If you are doing the math, meetings should be held to 54 minutes tops!

End With a Plan

Because everyone invited to the meeting had a reason to be there, make sure they are all walking out with something to do. End your meetings with a quick review of who will do what by when, and hold people accountable.

If anyone is walking out of the meeting without participating in the discussion, shared a deliverable, or has nothing due, perhaps their time could have been spent better elsewhere.

By taking the time to plan your meetings and working to make sure everyone has a reason to attend, you will ultimately save yourself time, have happy, more productive employees, and better, more valuable meetings.

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