Complex capital campaign meetings are the new normal. In fact, it’s becoming rare to be part of a meeting where everyone is sitting around the same table. Some people attend in person. Others phone in. And yet others attend via video conference.
A recent meeting I attended made me think carefully about the challenges brought on by different types of participants. Here’s what happened.
Have You Attended THIS Meeting Before?
Five people come into a room and take their seats around a table. Three people call in to participate by phone through a speaker located in the center of the table. Meanwhile, I’m participating on a video screen located at the end of the table. It’s just another day for me in your average capital campaign committee meeting.
As people arrive at the meeting, they greet one another informally. The meeting facilitator says hello to the people on the phone and then gets the meeting underway.
The phone participants are mostly quiet, except for when one of them has a brief side conversation with someone in their office and the unwanted background conversation breaks into the meeting.
A couple of people in the room have their cell phones on the table. Every once in a while, one or another of them puts the phone on his or her lap and checks for messages.
As the meeting comes to an end, the facilitator says, “Those of you on the phone, what do you think?”
Those on their phones have no idea if they should talk first or not. Then all three start to talk at the same time. And then stop. And then start again.
Sound familiar? I bet bits and pieces do, for sure.
Meetings like this are full of distractions. They may never be as good as the old-fashioned meetings with everyone around the same table, but you’ve got to adapt. Those simpler meetings are a thing of the past.
Instead of complaining about how unwieldy and complicated these meetings are, let’s talk about how we can adjust meeting practices to accommodate the demands of having different types of participants.
5 Tips to Improve Campaign Meetings for Onsite, Phone and Video Participants
Here are five things you can do to improve the quality of meetings with both on-site and virtual participants.
1. Put “Meeting Practices” on your agenda.
In the first meeting of a given group, make “Meeting Practices” a key topic on your agenda. Discuss with the group the challenges of having people participate virtually and establish standard practices to help the meetings be as efficient and effective as possible.
Here are some basic topics to discuss:
- How to handle external noise distractions with virtual participants
- Use of cell phones during meetings
- Strategies for involving virtual participants
- Protocol for personal introductions– frequency and timing
2. Review the use of ‘Mute’ with virtual participants.
Participants who join the meeting by phone or video chat are usually unaware of how much the ambient noise in their space is heard by folks attending the meeting onsite. Keyboard sounds, background conversations, dogs barking, and traffic noise all carry.
So at the beginning of the meeting, it pays to review how virtual participants can mute and unmute their lines.
3. Don’t forget about phone participants!
Meetings with people participating both in person and virtually take stronger facilitation. The facilitator should make it a point of calling on each of the phone participants at least twice during the meeting. Don’t lump them together. Instead, invite their thoughts individually, letting them know when they have the floor.
Remember that if the phone participants are muted, they must unmute themselves before they can be heard. Before asking for their comments, you might ask them all to unmute themselves and then ask them one after the other for their thoughts. That will eliminate awkward situations in which a phone participant forgets to unmute their line before speaking.
4. Start and finish with a Round-Robin check.
Build awareness of the group as a whole by beginning and ending the meeting with asking each participant to say something.
Starting and ending with a round-robin style check-in and check-out helps create a team. The check-in question might be as simple as this:
- Before we get started with the agenda, what’s on everyone’s mind?
- What’s one thing you want to be sure to address in the meeting today?
You can end the meeting with similar questions to ensure everyone’s topics of concern were covered.
5. Seek input from video participants throughout the meeting.
At least a few times during the meeting (perhaps at the end of the discussion of an agenda item), break the flow of the conversation in the room to ask specifically for input from the video (virtual) participants.
When you make the participation of virtual attendees a standard practice, they’ll be more inclined to pay close attention to the meeting rather than working on email and listening with one ear rather than both.
Better Meeting Practices Help Your Campaign Succeed
A well-run meeting makes everyone feel good. Participants — whether they attend in person, by phone or virtually — not only have a sense that their opinions matter, but they’re excited to be a part of a high-functioning team. And there’s much more to running meetings that rock than an agenda and starting and ending on time.
So take the time to think your meeting planning through. Don’t ignore this overlooked fundraising skill. Make a commitment to yourself right now to run the very best meetings possible. It’s hugely important for your capital campaign, and your committee members will truly appreciate it.
What do you find the most challenging about meetings? What’s your best tip for making meetings work well? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Another version of this article was originally published on Guidestar. Check out Guidstar for excellent information that advances transparency, enables fundraisers to make better decisions, and encourages charitable giving.