There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and meetings being a waste of time. A goal for any meeting organizer should be to organize meetings that are concise, meaningful, and engaging. Here are five simple tips to help make your chapter meetings more appealing so you can finally ditch those fines. They are independent of one another, so try any of the tips below and see how it works for you!
1. Coordinate your content
Storyboards are a way to organize scenes in a movie to aid in the filming process and to ensure that the core message of the movie carries through from start to finish. Movies can have dozens of characters, several sub-stories, and hundreds of explosions, but good ones wrap all of that content into a neatly themed package.
Your meetings should be no different. Humans tend to remember things in twos and threes; that's basic psychology and marketing. Grouping many items into neat categories help us remember and causes less fatigue when trying to pay attention. Try building a storyboard for each of your meetings. Some chapters let each officer and chairman rattle off a report, but that can be confusing. If Johnny talks service, Vinny explains the next social event, and Kyle rants about how the younger guys need to "step it up," then it is easy for members to tune out or become confused and miss something.
Group your content into 1-3 themes and stick to that for the whole meeting. A simple way to do this might be to organize your meetings by Internal Programming (Dues, Ritual, etc.), External Programming (Formals, Service Events, Recruitment), and Fellowship (a brotherhood activity or discussion). Designate special meetings for long or challenging conversations and make sure your chapter members know what will be discussed ahead of time. Chapter meetings are times for business. Finish the business and then take 30 minutes to get through Big Important Conversation. If someone brings something major up mid-meeting, put it in a "parking lot" and find a time to discuss it after the meeting or set aside time for another day.
2. Think "Sermon"
Can't think of a theme for your meetings? Here's an easy one: Ritual. Why do people meet weekly for their religion? Can't they just pray at home? It's simple: People attend religious services to connect with their beliefs and community.
If you are not religious, relate this to political affiliation or just visit a church or synagogue and observe. We Greeks have our own Easter on a different day than most sects of Christianity. We walk around the church while singing, we play a simple game involving hard-boiled eggs, and we eat lots of lamb (mmm). Those rituals symbolize new life, rebirth, and forgiveness, but also connect Eastern Orthodox Christians around the world with their heritage.
You don't need to be in the midst of a ceremony or at an inter/national fraternity event to enjoy and connect with your fraternity's history or ritual regularly. Incorporate elements of your ritual or simple traditions into your meetings to make your points stick. Start your meeting with your creed, make the symbols of your fraternity or sorority visible throughout the meeting, or share a story about your organization's history. Mimic the addictive qualities of a sermon. Humans are visual creatures; the greatest leaders in history combined a heavy dose of symbolism, ritual, and principled beliefs to excite their followers.
3. Capitalize On Brotherhood/Sisterhood Opportunities
Chapter meetings are the one time a week where everyone gets together to meet. It's probably that "one meeting, one hour a week" that we all tell potential members will be the only thing they have to do once they join. Much like a weekly religious meeting, your chapter meeting is a time to learn and to socialize. Capitalize on this unique opportunity to have everyone in one place to talk about the fraternity.
Turn each chapter meeting into a mini-brotherhood event. Recognize the importance of having everyone in the same room to "pass the gavel," for a "Member of the Week" to speak about his or her passions/background, or spare a few minutes for an alumnus to come speak about their professional experience. Create opportunities to have conversations and share thoughts or opinions. Break out into small groups for 10 minutes and ask that members discuss a relevant topic or piece of news.
Giving more people an opportunity to share - even if it's just with one other conversation partner - may get members excited about the idea of coming to chapter meetings as a social experience. They will come to expect it - and consistency is key to leadership. Fraternity and sorority is a friend club at its core.
4. Stick to your guns
Get serious with the rules of your chapter. Give each member one strike and then ask them to leave on a second violation of the rules. Three strikes are for baseball. People shouldn't be allowed to be idiots 3 times during a meeting before being asked to leave. Set a dress code and require members to be presentable at every meeting (ex. proper posture or no tobacco). You may need to accommodate an occasional last-minute visitor.
When implementing new rules, come up with 2-3 options you are comfortable with and let the chapter discuss and vote on the final decision. It shouldn't matter to you which option gets chosen, but this will give members a chance to have their voices heard. Forget the fines. If people don't want to show up then let them miss out. Use your energy to create fantastic meetings, then encourage chronically absentee members to show up. Eventually, as the people who want to be at meetings recruit people like them, attendance won't be an issue.
5. Recap The Meeting & Make Sure People Know What's Expected Of Them
You don't necessarily need to read the minutes from the prior meeting at the start of every meeting. There is a simple way to make sure that information flows from one chapter meeting to the next and to make sure that everyone leaving the room knows what happened. At the end of every meeting ask, "What have we decided upon today?" and, if decisions were made, "What is going to happen in the next week regarding that decision?"
You: What is something we discussed happening this week?
Member(s): We are having our service project on Wednesday at 7 pm
You: How are we moving forward with that?
Member(s): It'll be posted on the calendar by the secretary and in the minutes sent to all the brothers. All brothers meet at the house at 6 pm to drive to the venue.
You: Who is driving and who do you contact if you have scheduling conflicts?
Members: John, Tim, and Adonis are driving and we need to give at least 12-hours of notice to the service chairman if we'll be late or miss the event with a valid excuse. Give your members a chance to hear the important notes from the meeting one more time before leaving the room. That way no one can leave and say that nothing happens at chapter meetings (unless nothing happens).
So, what did we discuss?
Group the content of your meetings to make it easy to remember.
Incorporate rituals and lessons into your chapter meetings.
Capitalize on having everyone together by creating chapter-exclusive bonding traditions.
Follow the rules; treat your meetings with respect.
Always end a meeting with a recap and directives.
For ideas head to your local religious building, watch TED Talks inspire a conversation, or peruse LinkedIn's contributor posts for additional ideas.
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