How to Plan an Organizational Meeting

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The cause is grand, the group enthusiastic, and you may even have a deadline established. Now how is all the work going to get done? The first meeting can make the difference between sizzle and fizzle. Use this time to map out a plan, get people moving in the right direction and keep lines of communication open.

Prepare for an efficient meeting by doing some preliminary factfinding. Establish who the core members of your group are and get their contact information, best days and times to meet, list of skills and interests and how much time they can commit. From this list, select a meeting date. See 193 Prepare for a Meeting.

Call the meeting to order and begin by having an informal discussion of why each person is there. Once you've established what the group's vision is, you can create an agenda.

Set up the committees and subcommittees you will need such as publicity and finance, and select a chair for each based on experience and interest. Develop and agree on the plan of action, committee goals, timeline and budget. Appoint a secretary to take minutes and e-mail them to the group the next day, along with everyone's contact information.

Create a mission statement for your group that will keep members positive and focused on the end result. See 374 Sharpen the Focus of an Organization.

Reiterate at the end of your first meeting what the action items are, who is responsible for each one and in what time frame. Pick a date for the next meeting.

Communicate effectively using e-mail. This now-standard tool is a great way to update a group or solicit opinions. Keep in mind that people read their e-mail at different intervals, so don't expect an instant reply from everyone.

Contact your phone company. Ask about services that are accessed through an Internet connection, providing businesslike features for a low monthly cost. Conference calls for up to 10 people and storing calls online are just two of the ways a group can stay in sync.

Create a Web site that reinforces your mission, provides updates and a schedule (see 372 Publicize an Event). Manage larger scale or more complex projects using a Web-based project management software, with timetables, task lists, project calendars and other handy planning tools. Some, such as Ace Project (aceproject.com), have a basic version available for free.

Tips & Warnings

  • Select a first meeting date that the majority of members can attend. If you wait until everyone can be there, it probably won't happen.
  • Ask volunteers to be realistic about how much time and energy each can expend. This will help set practical and achievable goals.
  • Recruit on a larger scale by launching a group through sites like MeetUp.com, or join a social networking group like Friendster.com. These allow you to connect with others interested in your topic, and either team up or share helpful information.
  • Don't set up a Web site as a communication tool if you don't have someone to update it on a regular basis.
  • Beware of implementing a project management system that is more complicated than you need. It will only frustrate members and could derail the project.

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