Developing Meeting Agendas for Student Organizations
The heart of every club or organization is found during its meetings. Meetings range from a lighthearted, informational gathering of general members to a heated decision making session of executive board members. Good meetings are always a result of careful preparation and planning. There are different ways to run a meeting. Whether you use parliamentary procedure or a more relaxed format, it is important to know what your purpose and goals are, how you hope to accomplish your goals, and how you communicate.
Preparing an agenda not only communicates to your group what the meeting is about, but also makes you think in advance about what information you would like to cover during the meeting. An agenda is an outline of the issues that a group will discuss during a meeting.
The agenda is prepared by the officers of the organization, with assistance from the organization's advisor. Once prepared, the agenda is distributed to members at least one day prior to the meeting either by email or in printed form. This allows members to come to the meeting prepared to discuss the agenda items, exchange information and make decisions.
The following agenda items are standard in most groups. You can adapt them to meet the needs of your organization. You may want to use "Robert's Rules of Order."
- Call to Order - The Chair calls the meeting to order. The call order may be followed by any opening ceremony the organization may have instituted.
- Roll Call - If attendance is taken, it should be done from a prepared list of members' names. The list can include spaces for recording whether a member is present, absent or tardy. Or, pass around a sign-in sheet during the meeting.
- Reading and Approval of Minutes - After the minutes are read, any corrections are made and minutes are approved.
- Reports of the Officers - The Chair recognizes each officer in turn. Reports are usually for informational purposes. If a report involves a recommendation for action, the group may discuss the recommendation when the report is finished.
- Reports of the Committees - The Chair calls for reports from standing committees first, followed by reports of special committees. Again, if a recommendation is made in the report, it may be discussed when the report is finished.
- Unfinished Business - Includes all business left over from previous meetings, working from a list of unfinished business topics, each one in turn for discussion and action.
- New Business - Members can introduce any new topics at this time.
- Announcements - The Chair may make, or call upon other members to make, any announcements of interest to the organization.
- Program - Some organizations have a speaker, film, or other educational or cultural program. This is usually presented before the meeting is adjourned, because the program may require action to be taken by the organization.
- Adjournment - When the agenda is completed.
USING THE AGENDA
Simply putting topics on a list will not make your meetings more productive. Consider these points as you construct and use an agenda:
- Be realistic about the amount of time each topic will take. Avoid an over-crowded agenda. If choices must be made, leave more time for important issues.
- Take up the less complicated topics first, leaving time at the end for more complex issues.
- Stick to the agenda. During the meeting, the agenda is followed unless two-thirds of those present wish to make a change.
- Introduce each agenda topic with a comment about why it's on the agenda.
- Allow full discussion of each topic. People can continue to debate an issue until they are finished, or until two-thirds of those present agree to end the discussion.
- Close discussion of each topic with plans for future action.
Using an agenda at your meetings may not solve all of your problems, but an agenda does give a meeting direction and purpose. You may choose to be less structured than the format presented here, but some structure is necessary to ensure that your organization "takes care of business." Then, members are able to leave the meeting feeling that they accomplished their work and have contributed to the organization.