Holding Effective Meetings

All productive meetings begin in the same way: planning. Lack of preparation is the main reason why meetings fail. When officers and members of an organization wait until an hour before a meeting to think about what they want to accomplish and how they will do so, the results are often disastrous. Instead, planning should take place well in advance of the meeting.

Meeting Space

Environment has a significant effect on behavior. Thinking and participating are easier when people are comfortable. Therefore, you should select and arrange your meeting space with care. Be sure that the room is the right size. A room that is too small can become stuffy and create tension. On the other hand, a room that is too large will feel empty. The room should have adequate ventilation and lighting and be free from extraneous noise.

Try to arrange the seating in a u-shape or hollow-square. This allows members to see one another and participate. If you can, provide table space so that members can write and take notes. If this is not possible, at least have a table for the leader and the secretary. You may also want to arrange to have a whiteboard and markers to make notes that the entire group can see.


The agenda is the "blueprint" for your meeting. It is a list of the various topics that your group will discuss during the meeting. If there are no topics to be discussed, there is no need for a meeting. An agenda ensures that your meeting has a purpose and that everyone knows what its specific objectives are. In preparing an agenda, solicit items from officers, members, and other relevant people. Collect documents and other papers that support each agenda item. Be sure you know the point of each agenda item (e.g., is it a decision item, sharing of information, topic for discussion, etc.).

When the agenda is completed, distribute it to your members several days in advance. Distribute supporting documents in advance or have them available for examination at the meeting. Before the meeting, be sure that people responsible for agenda items are ready to make their presentations.


Before you have your first meeting, there should be general agreement on how formal your meetings will be. This will depend upon such factors as the size of your group (larger groups often need more rules to function efficiently) and your purpose (a social group will probably want to be very informal). Some decisions to be made include:

  • Who will lead the meeting and what powers will that person have?
  • Will you keep a written record of your meeting (minutes) and, if so, who will be responsible for taking the minutes?
  • Will you repeat information for members who arrive late? (It is usually unwise to do this.)
  • Will people be asked to submit reports and proposals in writing?
  • How will the group decide if a long discussion should be continued, postponed, or terminated?
  • Will the group depend upon volunteers for most of its work or will someone have the authority to appoint people?
  • What will the group do if the meeting runs beyond the stated time?

Meeting Time

Choose a meeting time that is convenient for as many of your members as possible. Although you might want to allow some flexibility, it is usually best to have regular meetings at the same time and place. As well as designating a starting time, indicate an ending time for meetings. This allows your members to plan their personal schedules. Send out notices of the meeting well in advance. If you do not meet on a regular basis, it might be helpful to phone people the night before a meeting.

General Principles

Because it may deal with a lot of details and mundane issues, a meeting can be tedious. Members become bored and "tune out." On the other hand, meetings can also deal with controversial issues that cause emotions to run high. Members might respond by either trying to avoid the conflict or becoming even more emotional in their discussion. In either case, it is easy to forget the basic principles that make a meeting productive. Some of these are listed below.

  • Show common courtesy to each other. Interrupting someone, leaving the room frequently, and whispering while someone else is talking all show disrespect for guests and fellow members.
  • Listen before speaking. Be sure you have heard and understand what others have said before making a response.
  • Stay involved. Ask questions if you do not understand an item on the agenda. Issues are much less boring if you know what they are about.
  • Take responsibility for what is happening. If you believe something is wrong with the meeting, discuss it with the group.

Role of the Prytanis

The Prytanis is the person designated to conduct the meeting. Some things that the Prytanis can do to insure that a meeting is a productive:

  • Start on time.
  • Introduce new members and guests to the rest of the group.
  • Refer to people by name.
  • Be prepared to deal with any procedural or administrative matters that may arise.
  • Stay neutral. Talk less than anyone else. Listen.
  • Keep to the agenda. Introduce each agenda item with a word about why it is there and what action needs to be taken.
  • Encourage people to participate, but allow members to be quiet if they wish.
  • Allow only one person at a time to speak. If the issue is controversial, alternate between people with different points of view.
  • Be sure there is a full discussion of issues by calling on everyone who has something to say. Don't let a few people dominate the discussion.
  • If a discussion becomes long or goes beyond the allotted time, check with the group to see if they want to continue or postpone the discussion. If the discussion is to be continued, ask the group to confine themselves to comments that are constructive or nonrepetitive.
  • Be sure each agenda item is resolved or assigned to an individual or committee for further action. Set target dates for completion of tasks.
  • Briefly summarize the important things that the group accomplished and end the meeting on a unifying, positive note.
  • Announce plans for the next meeting.
  • Thank members and guests for attending.
  • Finish on time.

The Contribution of Members

Although the Prytanis has an important role during the meeting, he should not be expected to assume all of the responsibility for an effective meeting. Each Frater should also help in making the meeting a productive one:

  • Introduce yourself to new members and guests.
  • Listen, then participate in the discussion.
  • Ask questions if you don't understand what is going on.
  • Speak for yourself. Don't presume to talk for people who are absent.
  • Stay on the topic and let others know that you expect them to do the same.
  • Don't repeat points that have already been made. Give others an opportunity to participate.
  • If you disagree with something, do so in a positive way. Remember that there are always several points of view on an issue. Disagree with ideas, not personalities.
  • Don't become defensive about a suggestion simply because you introduced it. Once an idea is presented, the group may wish to change it.
  • Be supportive of the group's efforts. Offer to help if the group needs committee members or other assistance outside of the meeting. Be sure you understand what is needed.
  • Stay until the end of the meeting.

After the Meeting

If the meeting has been especially long or difficult, officers and members often breathe a collective sigh of relief when its over and move on to something else. However, here are some things that need to be handled after adjournment:

  • Prytanis talks with officers to evaluate the meeting to see what can be improved.
  • Grammateus distributes minutes within two or three days of the meeting.
  • Grammateus puts unfinished business on the agenda for the next meeting.
  • Epiprytanis follows up on items that were delegated to committees.