For a species capable of landing a man on the moon, we sure do have trouble running an effective meeting.
If you think it gets better once college is over you are in for a rude awakening. Few seem to know the art of holding meetings that are concise, meaningful and engaging. Here are five simple tips that may help move things along. They are independent of one another, so try any at your leisure and see how it works!
1. Coordinate your content
Storyboards are basically a way to outline scenes in a movie to aid in the filming process. 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 helps us remember and causes less fatigue when trying to pay attention.
Build a storyboard for each of your meetings. It may feel nice when every executive board member and chairman has something to say at a meeting, but if Johnny talks service, Vinny is planning a social and Kyle goes on a tirade about how the younger guys need to “step it up,” then you may just confuse your members.
Group your content into 1-3 themes and stick to that for the whole meeting. A service event and a formal both involve interacting with other people in public. Focus that chapter meeting on why we do these events and how we act at them.
Designate special meetings for long or difficult conversations. Your chapter members should know what they are getting into ahead of time.
Your chapter meetings are times of 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 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? They can pray at home. They won’t even get fined! People attend religious services to connect with their beliefs and community. If you are not religious, relate this to a political affiliation or just visit a church or synagogue and observe.
We ethnic 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. Those rituals symbolize new life, rebirth and forgiveness, but also connect Greeks around the world with their heritage.
You don’t need to be at your fraternity’s alpha chapter or a national event to enjoy and connect with the fraternity’s history and ritual on a regular basis.
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 founders or organization. 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 fraternity. That doesn’t happen at a service event or social; it happens at “chapter.” Recognize the importance of having everyone in the same room to “pass the gavel,” or for one member to speak of his or her passions or upbringing, and spare five minutes for an alumnus to come speak about their profession or interests.
My favorite moments in chapter occurred when we would have deep-zone conversations or share a laugh. Treasure opportunities to have conversations and share.
Break out into small groups for 10 minutes and ask that members discuss a relevant topic. Doing so will encourage more people to share and it’ll get people excited about the idea of coming to chapter to see and hear from their brothers. They will come to expect it – and consistency is key to leadership. Fraternity and sorority is a friend club at its core.
4. Crack the whip
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 go.
Set a dress code and require members to be presentable at every meeting. It’s embarrassing to have a guest present to a room full of guys in sweats, and you may occasionally need to accommodate a 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 help members feel less like something is being imposed on them and will give everyone a chance to have their voice heard.
If people don’t want to show up, let them miss out. Use your energy instead to create fantastic meetings, then try to get 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. I have some similar tips to addressing “apathy” HERE.
5. Recap The Meeting & Make Sure People Know What’s Expected Of Them
At the start of every chapter meeting we’d ask, “Is there a motion to waive the reading of the minutes,” to which everyone would shout, “YES!” Anything to get out a little early, right?
You don’t need to read the minutes from the prior meeting at the start of every meeting, but there is a simple way to make sure that information flows from one chapter 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?
Members: We are having our service project on Wednesday at 7pm
You: How are we moving forward with that?
Members: 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 6pm 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 literally 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 to inspire a conversation or peruse LinkedIn’s contributor posts for additional ideas.
Update 2/2018: I cut this post by 400+ words. Yayyyyy