When was the last time you dreaded going to a meeting?
If you’ve been avoiding meetings lately – or attending because you have to, not because you want to – you’re not alone.
Even worse: if you’re the person who organizes meetings, perhaps you’ve experienced that moment – the moment when you’re thinking, “What if nobody shows up?”
How can you ensure that people actually want to be there?
If it’s not productive, why show up?
Beyond the usual complications of family, work, and other commitments – in other words, not enough time – the primary reason people fail to show up at meetings is that the meetings aren’t productive or interesting.
Nothing important happens. As a result, absentees don’t feel they’re missing anything if they stay home.
The best solution is to create interesting, challenging agendas that focus on decision-making. For ideas on how to build a really compelling agenda, check out this previous post.
Seven ideas to improve turnout
If you really, really want people to show up and participate, consider the following tips.
Hold fewer meetings. If you gather monthly, try ten meetings per year. Make each one count a little more.
Schedule many months in advance. If you meet on a regular date – for example, the second Monday of the month – ask trustees to confirm the dates and put them in their calendars at least six months in advance.
Distribute the agenda beforehand. At least one week before the meeting, share the agenda with a reminder about the date, time, and location. Here’s a hint: Controversial agenda items always boost turnout.
Use your board job description to reinforce attendance requirements. Include language such as, “Three consecutive unexcused absences will be considered resignation from the board.”
Feed people. It’s one of the oldest ways to express appreciation. If cost is a concern, rotate this task among the board members and ask them to take turns covering the expense or bringing food.
Include a “mission moment.” Author Kay Sprinkel Grace advises that every time you gather, include a personal testimonial from a client, or a video excerpt from your recent performance, or a brief slide show about the land your organization just preserved – something tangible to re-connect trustees with the mission and remind them why they serve.
Rotate responsibility for chairing or facilitating the meeting. If necessary, provide training and support. When participants know their turn is coming, they’ll show up to watch how others manage the process and learn from their peers.
For an example of how this works, take a look at this sample agenda.
Yes, meetings matter – so make them better
If you make them lively, substantive, and challenging, and you create opportunities for everyone to participate in a meaningful way, people will show up – and they’ll be glad they did.
Adapted from Andy’s new book, What Every Board Members Needs to Know, Do and Avoid: A 1-Hour Guide. Check it out!