You’ve got a big event coming up. It involves multiple ministry departments, the whole church is invited, and you’re the staff member charged with organizing this whole effort. You know this will require lots of coordination and communication. You might use email, Slack, RocoCPM, or another planning tool, but you’ll still need a few event-planning meetings.
Now, before you get too discouraged – it is possible to have productive meetings.
Imagine a meeting where you walk away energized, enthusiastic, and ready to make some serious progress. No, that’s not a mythical scenario. In fact, I’ve experienced this type of meeting myself.
So, what’s the secret sauce to a successful meeting? Here you go . . .
Ingredient #1: The Facilitator
Not to be confused with The Terminator, a skilled meeting facilitator has a few tricks up her sleeve.
She prepared for the meeting.
This sounds simple, but I’m often surprised by how many people show up for a meeting and expect to magically be productive.
This isn’t the mindset of a good facilitator.
Instead, she . . .
- Knows the purpose of the meeting
- Developed and sent out an agenda beforehand
- Made sure each person needed to accomplish the agenda plans to attend
- Secured a meeting room
- Created/gathered materials to review with the group
She’s developed a polite yet direct way of getting people back on topic.
It’s easy to talk about the lighting needed during this event then have that conversation drift into the overall lighting concerns at the church. While the other lighting issues are important, that’s not a topic for this meeting.
A good facilitator can quickly rein in the conversation and get the team back on track.
She keeps the meeting moving.
This means . . .
- Starting the meeting on time (even if people are late).
- Not catching latecomers up during the meeting (they can read the meeting notes later).
- Sticking to the agenda, while knowing when to be flexible (stuff happens).
- Ending the meeting on time.
**Note: You may need to discuss this approach with your executive pastor or senior pastor. Get this individual on board with a disciplined approach to meetings before implementing these tips.**
Ingredient #2: An Agenda
That’s my mantra anyway.
Why get several people together only to stare at each other the first few minutes while trying to figure out why you’re meeting? That’s a waste of time and money.
If you’re not sure this is a waste of money, consider the salaries of each person attending and estimate an hourly rate for each. Multiply that rate by the number of people and amount of time you’re meeting. That total is what you’re spending in unproductive time.
Instead, create an agenda so you can be efficient and effective. Send the agenda to all attendees at least one day prior to the meeting.
Include the following items in your meeting agenda:
- Event – This is the event you’re specifically going to discuss during this meeting.
- Date, time, and location of the meeting
- List of people invited to the meeting
- Agenda items – What decisions do you need to make? What issues do you need to address?
- Action items – Tasks assigned during the previous meeting. Include them on this agenda to follow up with those assigned tasks and receive a status update.
Ingredient #3: Meeting Notes
Yawn, right? Yeah, meeting notes don’t sound exciting but having good notes can really pay off. Here’s how:
- Someone won’t make the meeting or they’ll be late. When someone takes good notes, this document helps get those folks up to speed after the meeting.
- Someone will misunderstand what the group decided. When you document decisions, you give the team a chance to read the notes and realize there’s a gap in communication. They can ask for clarification at that time.
- Someone will forget the action item assigned to him. Meeting notes should include action items (with the action item description, individual assigned to complete that action item, and a due date for each action item).
The tricky part about meeting notes is two-fold:
- Taking good notes is an acquired skill, so depending on the experience of the person handling this task the notes may not be great at first.
- Most people don’t read meeting notes. One way to handle that issue is to send an email to each attendee (different email for each person) with any action items assigned to him/her plus any significant decisions that directly impact that individual.Yes, that information is already in the meeting notes I’ve attached to the same email.Yes, this takes up time. However, they’re more likely to read information in the body of an email than open up an attachment. I’d rather take an extra 10 minutes to customize emails than deal with misunderstandings and incomplete tasks later.
There you have it – my secret sauce to effective event planning meetings.
If your church staff isn’t used to more structured meetings, this will require a bit of an adjustment. When you decide to implement these tips, get the buy-in from senior leadership first. Once they agree, start small and change gradually. Be patient yet disciplined with other team members. Let attendees know you’re trying to make the best use of everyone’s time and productivity. They may not like your approach at first, but as they experience more effective meetings and much less wasted time they’ll come around.