Meetings and committees seem to have been with us forever.
Apparently the first meeting ever was held way back in the early stone-age, prehistoric. I think it was on Tuesday. Just after lunch.
In those days, it was, “Man's” job to go out and “slay the prey.” Then he had to bring it home for “Woman”, who had to figure out how to cook it.
The problem was, that Man was slow and basically naked. The prey on the other hand had warm fur and it could run like an antelope. Actually it was an antelope, only nobody knew this because they hadn’t come up with a name for it yet. “Hairy animal that chases lazy man” just didn’t cut it with the men for some reason.
Eventually someone said, "Maybe if we just sat down and did some brainstorming, we could come up with a better way to hunt our prey!"
I’m paraphrasing that a little. It probably was more like “ugh” “sit”.
This plan went extremely well. It was a lot warmer sitting in a circle, especially being naked, so they agreed to meet again the next day, and the next and the day after that.
Here’s where the women come in. They pointed out that, prey-wise, the men hadn’t produced anything, and the human race, all 15 of them, were pretty much starving.
The men agreed that this was serious and said they would put it right near the top of their "agenda".
At this point, the women, who were primitive but not stupid, gave up on Man and started eating plants.
This, is apparently how modern agriculture was born. It never would have happened without meetings. Man seems to have taken credit for it though!
The modern business meeting, however, might better be compared with a funeral.
Think about it, you have a gathering of people who are wearing uncomfortable clothing and would rather be somewhere else. The major difference is that most funerals have a definite purpose.
It seems that nothing is really ever buried in a meeting. An idea may look dead, but it always seems to reappear at another meeting later on. If you have ever seen the movie, "Night of the Living Dead," you have a rough idea of how modern meetings operate. Projects and proposals that everyone thought were killed constantly rising up from their graves to stagger back into meetings and eat the brains of the living.
There are three key components that form the basis of every successful meeting: the Terms of Reference, the Agenda & the Minutes. If your committee is new, your Terms of Reference should be created in advance of your first meeting and would likely be an important item on your agenda. In essence, it is a set of guidelines or rules if you will, that describes the purpose of the committee, what you hope to achieve and why, as well as how you will achieve the goals that you develop.
If your committee has been in operation for a while before you have taken on the leading role, one of your first steps should be to review the Terms of Reference. They may be outdated and need to be updated.
The following lists provide you with questions and tips to ensure the effectiveness of your committee meeting.
Terms of Reference
- What is the purpose/mandate of the committee/meeting?
- How often will meeting occur?
- Who will be on the committee?
- How will decisions be made?
- What is a quorum?
- Does this committee have any authority?
- Who will chair the committee and for what term?
- What is the role of the chair? Neutral or facilitative leader?
- Terms of conduct i.e. interpersonal communication, respect
- Committee member’s responsibilities
* Agenda & minutes should be prepared by a secretary if committee size permits
Most Important! Be realistic about what you can accomplish during a meeting.
- Include the title of the group or meeting at the top of the agenda.
- Include the day, date, start & end times, and location of the meeting.
- Ensure that all the agenda items relate to the meeting’s objective.
- Have a policy that all new agenda items must be presented to the Chair prior to the agenda being printed.
- E-mail tentative agenda to committee members requesting additions/deletions, including a deadline for submissions.
- Write out each agenda item as a goal or an action.
- Identify resources for each agenda item.
- Prioritize agenda items.
- E-mail the formalized agenda 1-2 days before the meeting.
- Provide a paper copy of agenda at the meeting.
- Make your agenda professional looking use letterhead or logo.
- Take advantage of white space.
- At the start of the meeting ask for any additions or deletions.
- Be aware of hidden agendas!
- Keep minutes of the meeting for future reference in case a question or problem arises.
- Develop a formalized standard format for your minutes.
- Write up and distribute minutes within 3 or 4 days.
- Assign action tags for follow-up.
- Assign dates for follow-up.
- Put unfinished business on the agenda for the next meeting.
- Note attendance and absences.
- Minutes should encompass the ideas expressed not necessarily the exact words of the presenters.
- Actions & decisions made should include specifics.
- Extra copies of previous minutes should be available for review.
Compiled by Rae Stonehouse