How to have a Successful Meeting

Step 1 – Arrange the meeting

Make sure Office Holders know each other’s availability and what amount of advance notice they need. It could be a busy exam time or an Office Holder may have paid-employment demands. Yet others might have caring responsibilities or play in a sports team.

Make sure meeting places are known to everyone, are safe and accessible. Try to vary where you meet if getting there is not easy for someone.

Step 2 – Create an agenda

Agenda items should be sent to the Secretary to collate and circulated to all Office Holders in advance of the meeting. Committee meetings are a chance to put development plans into action.

  • break down your plan into steps with timescales to complete actions
  • get regular finance reports from the Treasurer
  • look at the next few months and decide what needs to be done
  • identify if any problems have arisen recently
  • report back on any recent events, meetings or incidents

Step 3 – Assign a Convenor and Clerk (usually the President and Secretary)

The Convenor of a meeting calls the meeting to order, explains its structure to all in attendance, and guides people through the agenda items. The Convenor may also facilitate discussion if many voices are trying to be heard at once.

The Clerk records what has been said at meetings. This can be hard if everyone is talking fast or multiple people are talking at once, so the Convenor should regularly check to see if the Clerk has got key details down and understands what is happening. Minutes can be anything from verbatim recordings of conversations, to simple action points to be followed up – there is a template with examples on the website you can use.

Minutes of meetings are useful to provide context and outline action points so they should be stored securely and be clear in content.

Step 4 – Active listening

Communication can often be a problem in meetings. Participants should try and keep their points succinct, respect each other’s opinions and try to work through any obstacles together.

It is good practice to check all attendees are agreed on a plan before moving on, and the Convenor should encourage quiet people to speak up. Individuals should not dominate discussion or take objections to ideas as a personal attack. It is preferable if people are asked to raise their hand if they want to speak so the Convenor can take points one at a time.

Step 5 – Keep an eye on the time

Long meetings can be frustrating and tend not to achieve much. If a point is contentious then consider arranging a separate meeting to discuss that one issue, or give people the chance to go away and think about it more. Set a time limit at the start of your meeting and try and stick to it. The Convenor should move the agenda along at a good pace.

Step 6 – Decision making

As a group it might be that decision making happens quite naturally if everyone is in agreement, however it can be useful to formalise this process. The two main methods for this are voting and consensus.

Voting is simply when people raise their hands to indicate they agree or disagree with a proposal and the majority vote wins the day.

Consensus is about making sure everyone is satisfied with an outcome, so it is possible to first vote on a proposal, and if there is a division of opinion take the proposal back to the table, talk over the issues and adapt the idea so that it is agreeable to all.

Step 7 – Leave with clear action points

At the end of a meeting actions should have been agreed to allow plans to move forward. Any action that need to be taken should be assigned to a named person/persons, with a clear objective and time scale. If someone is agreeing to take on a lot of actions, try and encourage less active members to step up. Attendees should always take into consideration their academic timetable when taking on responsibilities, and consider asking the broader membership for help on actions where appropriate.

Step 8 – Make sure everyone leaves happy

Most meetings end with an ‘Any Other Business’ or ‘Matters Arising’ item. This is a chance for people to bring up additional points that have occurred to them throughout the meeting, or items that they didn’t have time to get on the agenda beforehand.

Step 9 – Follow up

The Clerk should circulate the minutes to all Office Holders after the meeting so that everyone can check them for accuracy and non-attendees can see what went on. Minutes can be sent out to the broader membership of the Society as this improves transparency and accountability.  

Channels of communication should be kept open between Office Holders after meetings so that ongoing activities can be progressed, problems solved, and support given.

Olumuyiwa Opaleye
President for Societies & Community
President Societies Community

Olumuyiwa is ENSA’s President for Societies & Community. If you need any information or advice about anything relating to societies at Edinburgh Napier, contact Olumuyiwa and he will tell you all you need to know.

E-mail Olumuyiwa