During the course of a day, many of us spend a lot of time in meetings. In some of them, we are participants and in others we are facilitators. Some we need and want to attend. Others, we loathe attending and consider it a major waste of time. Whatever our role, if we are going to be there, I would hope that we would attempt to improve our performance in a meeting or to improve the group's overall meeting performance. One tool that helps us do that is the meeting file.
The meeting file is a simple tool, but one that can be a powerful ally as we navigate our various meetings. Among other things, the meeting file contains:
- A simple file folder - Be sure to use your labeler to label it with the name of the group. Add a beginning date.
- A contact sheet for the group members - Names, title, phone numbers, and email addresses. This does not have to be alphabetized, but the group leader's name should come first. As members exit the group and new members join, simply update the list. Don't remove names, just cross them off and add the new members at the bottom. In this fashion, you will have a running group history.
- Agendas - Clip together all agendas.
- Minutes - Clip together all the meeting minutes, creating a running history of the group's business.
- Your Notes - As you participate in the meetings, be sure to take notes and save them as well. Your notes should include notations about interpersonal relationships within the group (e.g., sub-groups that appear to vote as a block, unspoken alliances within the larger group, those who don't say much in the meeting but orchestrate actions outside of the meeting, those that don't say much but are usually very insightful and need to have their opinions pulled out). Many of these personal notes will be added outside of the meeting due to their confidential nature. You will want to keep your file closed during the meeting except for when you need to refer to something.
- Reports - Various reports that are prepared and disseminated at the meeting should be saved in the folder unless they are physically prohibitive in size.
- Your meeting evaluation - Yes, it's a good practice to evaluate the meeting to see if it was effective. One might note, for instance, that certain people or groups do not contribute on a regular basis. You might also note those who monopolize meeting time. You can do this privately by yourself. You may also want to build in a meeting evaluation as part of the meeting itself. This is what Toastmasters International does in each meeting.
As you prepare for a meeting, review the file to review the last meeting to make sure you're ready for the upcoming meeting's topics, you've completed any action items to which you had committed, you've reviewed the group's interpersonal dynamics, and that you have all needed materials for the upcoming meeting. It takes a little time to develop this file and to use it to prepare for meetings, but the benefits are well worth it.
Due to the confidential nature of the file, it should either be filed in a locked drawer or kept off-site. It is for your eyes only.