Smithbucklin Executives Share Secrets for the Best. Meeting. Ever.
We have all participated in a meeting where at least one person was not physically present, and, because of this, probably wasn’t fully mentally present either. The entire meeting suffers when this happens, and it is even more consequential during board or committee meetings where an organization’s decision-makers are not able to efficiently and effectively engage in meaningful dialogue. A panel of Smithbucklin executives invite Forum Forward attendees to learn first-hand from their successes in planning and facilitating hybrid board meetings, committee meetings, task force meetings and other types of volunteer meetings that enable achieving outcomes. Below is a brief Q & A to preview their session (entitled “Best. Meeting. Ever.”) and provide some quick tips for a better meeting.
Robin L. Rone has more than 25 years of experience in non-profit and association management, communications, and inclusion, diversity and belonging in the workplace. She serves as the Executive Director of Apra, a Smithbucklin client, and is the 2022 recipient of the Association Forum Woman of Influence Award.
Danielle Gorash Holland serves as chief executive officer for the Legal Marketing Association (LMA), a Smithbucklin client. In this role, she is responsible for the strategic, financial, operational, and governance responsibilities of this international organization.
Christopher Mundschenk, CAE has more than 20 years of association executive experience with Smithbucklin. Serving as executive director of both the Building Services Contractors Association International (BSCAI) and the World Federation of Building Service Contractors (WFBSC), Chris manages the overall strategy, operations and programs for both organizations.
Jonathan Lurie serves as vice president of client support and innovation at Smithbucklin. In this role, he partners with Smithbucklin’s executive director community to use research, benchmarking, and analysis to identify and implement leading practices, multi-year planning methodologies, and governance and board effectiveness training to achieve desired outcomes.
What is the biggest challenge you see in volunteer meetings today?
Robin Rone: Re-engaging and keeping interest. The past two years have strained volunteers—even the most committed—to the limit.
Chris Mundschenk: Many volunteers are at capacity after the past two years. Instead of seeking 12-month or multi-year commitments, find ways you can engage volunteers in less time-consuming ways, like a task force or focus group.
Danielle Gorash Holland: It’s easy to get lost and talk in circles. Remember the role of your board and committees is to advance the mission of the association and drive positive outcomes. It can be difficult to focus a group of volunteers around work that makes an impact.
Jonathan Lurie: Coming out of COVID, there’s a craving for personal, social interaction. Build in structured time, if out have it, to go around the room and ask everyone to answer the same question or play a quick game of this or that. It’s important at in-person meetings, and going the extra mile in virtual when everyone isn’t in the same room it is important to have “soft” time instead of cranking through everything.
How can meeting facilitators keep people engaged both in person and in hybrid settings?
Robin Rone: A good icebreaker activity is essential, one that demands thoughtfulness beforehand and during the meeting. I have found it to be invaluable in the transition from all-virtual to hybrid and/or in-person relatively quickly.
Chris Mundschenk: Know the personality types in the room so you can identify who’s good at generating ideas and who are the ones who can manage implementation. Associations can ideate, clarify, and implement ideas in a much more effective way when you know how each person can contribute in a meaningful way.
Danielle Gorash Holland: To keep everyone engaged, it’s important to go around the room and ask everyone to contribute or talk—it has to be built into the meeting flow.
Jonathan Lurie: I once was at a meeting where the group did a 5-minute meditation before the meeting started—it made such a difference! People were so present after that. It might not make sense for every group or meeting, but it’s a tip I keep in mind.
Please share one tip that can make my next volunteer meeting better.
Robin Rone: Don’t cram too much into the agenda – fight the urge for a “packed” time together. Similar to Coco Chanel’s great advice, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off,” – before you send out your agenda review it and take one discussion item off, particularly if it’s there out of habit.
Danielle Gorash Holland: Managing the strategy of your association is not just one meeting; it’s a year-round activity. Identify outcomes and ownership for each and report out on them regularly to build momentum through the year.
Chris Mundschenk: To capture attention, meetings need to be better organized and more efficient—there’s a higher level of accountability we, as the meeting organizer, need to put on creating and designing an efficient meeting.
Jonathan Lurie: Evaluation of everything you do is important. At the end of the meeting, leave time for an electronic or written evaluation – even if it’s 2 minutes – was this a good use of time, what is one thing that can be improved, etc. It gives the facilitator good feedback and it helps the participant mentally close the meeting.
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