The date, time, and place are set for your next meeting, and notice has been given. Now what?! If you are a meeting planner, president, or board chair who struggles with procrastination or doesn’t know where to start, below are eight questions to ask when you’re getting ready for your next board or annual meeting.
1. Are the minutes ready for approval?
The minutes (a record of actions which were taken at a meeting) always need to be approved. Minutes are typically drafted by a secretary or designated staff member and then shared with the group for approval. Since this approval step often happens at the subsequent meeting, make sure your last meeting’s minutes are ready to go—drafted and formatted for the Chair to share. Add this action to your meeting agenda.
2. Are the financial reports ready for approval?
Check with the treasurer or individual responsible to prepare the organization’s financial reports for each meeting. Is everything accounted for, totaled, summarized in proper form, ready to be printed, distributed, and/or shared on a screen? Contact individuals responsible for your organization’s finances to make sure this piece of the meeting is ready to go or is in process. And add “Financial Report” or “Treasurer’s Report” to the agenda.
3. Are any special groups scheduled to report? Will they propose any action(s)?
Many meetings include reports from subgroups, committees, task forces, etc. Take a look back at the minutes from recent meetings to check on business delegated to these smaller groups. If any are expected to report back, check in with them to be sure they will have that report ready by the time of the meeting. And ask whether any new actions will be proposed. Add both reports and actions to the agenda.
4. Are there any non-controversial items which can be grouped into a consent agenda?
Many groups are unfamiliar with the consent agenda—but it’s an amazing way to efficiently manage the stuff that just takes up time and that no one has any strong, differing opinions about. Gather any items which you believe are non-controversial and lump them into one vote. List them in the agenda under the heading “Consent Agenda.” Don’t worry—items can be removed from the consent agenda easily during the meeting if someone feels that’s needful. But if everyone agrees with the consent agenda list, a bunch of business can be taken care of in one vote. Let’s hear it for productivity! (Read more here on this approach.)
5. Were any items left on the agenda at the adjournment of the last meeting? Were any items postponed specifically to this meeting?
What happened at the previous meeting that still needs to be wrapped up? Again—the minutes will help. Refer back to the record of the last meeting and to the last meeting’s agenda to check for any unfinished business, things that were on the agenda but didn’t happen, or items that were postponed specifically to be discussed and/or voted on at this next meeting. Make sure these things get transferred from the last agenda to this one.
6. Are any subjects considered standard agenda items per the governing documents?
Often, an organization’s bylaws will specify regular events and the annual timing for these items of business—such as, “Elections of officers shall be held in November each year,” or “The budget will be approved by the membership at the March meeting.” Add any of these standard pieces to the agenda if applicable for your next meeting.
7. What can you do to further the progress of the organization at this meeting? Have you set specific goals and objectives for the meeting?
So, yes—these are bigger thoughts, related to the mission of your group or the purpose of the meeting. But they’re always good to revisit as you prepare an agenda. What is the reason your organization exists? What goals does the group have for this year, or for this meeting? Is there anything that should be considered in this next meeting specifically related to accomplishing these objectives? What steps can be taken next to make sure your mission as a group is being fulfilled? Spend some time thinking about these, and add relevant discussions or actions to the agenda.
8. Are there any subjects that you are purposely avoiding?
And finally, a little reminder to confront your fears. Elephants in the room never walk out the door—they park until you deal with them. A valuable first step as a leader for your organization is to identify and acknowledge those topics as you prepare for the meeting. Don’t ignore them! Then, once you know what these issues are, make a plan to move the ball forward on them at some level in this next meeting. It could mean adding the item(s)/topic(s) to the agenda explicitly, or not—but do something to bring them up again. Progress, not stagnancy, is an important part of a well-run organization.