Environmental leaders have the daunting task of delivering on their mission of saving the world! With an abundance of obstacles and possibilities at every turn, environmental leaders need to spend their scarce time wisely. A good meeting agenda will serve as a guide to participants, making the meeting more efficient and productive. Most importantly, the meeting agenda gives a sense of purpose and direction to the meeting, which aids in the ability of committee members to reach consensus and make decisions.
An effective meeting agenda, which states what activities will take place during the meeting, serves various important functions:
- It forces the meeting leader or group to think out what needs to be accomplished;
- When provided ahead of time, the agenda lets people know what to expect and allows them to prepare as necessary;
- It provides a blueprint or path for the meeting to follow;
- It guides members on how long to spend on each topic; and,
- It reminds people of what there is left to cover if time gets to be an issue.
Think before you meet
It is not unusual to spend as much time planning a meeting as running it. Preparation begins with asking these questions:
- What outcome do we want to achieve by the end of this particular meeting?
- To achieve the desired meeting outcome, what must we do during the meeting? How much time will each item realistically require? Try to anticipate problems that may arise and prepare conflict resolution tactics.
- What idea-building processes would be useful?
- Who needs to attend the planning meetings?
- What should we send participants in advance? What information should we have available at the meeting (i.e., maps, flow charts, the old report, proposals, etc.)?
- What's the best way to set up the space?
- What equipment will make the meeting run more smoothly?
Prepare an agenda and get it into member’s hands at least a week before the meeting!
An agenda is only helpful if it is used. It is common for conversations to move off-topic and still be useful to the group. However, make sure you reach a conclusion before moving on to the next agenda item. If time becomes an issue, allow the group to decide if they want to table a topic and pick it up at the next meeting.
More information on how to organize and run efficient committee meetings is available in the Watershed Toolkit.
Example of a Detailed Meeting Agenda
Hocking River Association
Steering Committee Meeting
7-9 p.m. July 3rd, Athens Co. Courthouse
Item 1: Introductions, take attendance, recap from last meeting including review and approval of minutes.
Item 2: Finalize a list of concerns
Last meeting we compared our list of concerns with the watershed inventory data that’s been collected. We need to create a final list of concerns to focus on which are supported by our data as required under the IDEM checklist. There is no limit to the number of concerns we focus on and the concerns do not have to be nonpoint source specific.
Item 3: Define problems
Associating our concerns with defined problems is the first step toward setting watershed goals, another checklist item. Problems can be thought of as a condition that exists because of the concerns. For example, one problem can relate to several similar concerns. Goals will be set at a future meeting.
Item 4: Project coordinator’s update and questions from the committee
Update on the water quality monitoring, planning for the field day and news releases.