Meetings can be boring, but they don’t have to be.
Meetings — especially capital campaign meetings — tend to be boring to participants when they don’t participate. Take a moment to consider the word participant. Do you give them the opportunity to participate or are they merely attendees?
If your campaign volunteers merely attend meetings, but don’t participate, they are likely to be bored by your meetings. On the other hand, if you facilitate opportunities for engagement and discussion, your meetings will be lively and meaningful.
7 Steps to More Engaging Capital Campaign Meetings
The following steps will help you create engaging capital campaign meetings. They can be applied to your meetings regardless of whether they are virtual or in-person.
Step 1: Start with a purpose.
What is the purpose of the meeting? If you’re not sure why you’re having a meeting, neither will the attendees and you’ll have a hard time engaging your participants.
If the only reason to have the meeting is to provide an update or report about something specific, cancel the meeting. Send an email with the update instead.
Each of your campaign meetings should have at least one important action item or decision to be made.
Step 2: Include a discussion.
Before any decision can be made or action taken (like a vote), have a discussion. Allow participants to converse about the topic at hand and weigh pros and cons.
Don’t leave the outcome of important votes to chance. If you want to ensure the outcome of the decision, prepare a few key members of the board to be vocal in favor of the staff position.
For example, when the topic of whether to hire a campaign consultant (perhaps Capital Campaign Pro) is on the agenda, we ask staff to identify three board members to speak with in advance of the meeting. We want them to get their buy-in and get their questions answered in advance, so they feel comfortable speaking up in the face of objection.
Step 3: Send reports in advance.
Meetings are an opportunity to discuss one aspect of a report and answer questions. Instead of reading out reports or going over them during meetings, send them in advance. Then, dedicate the meeting to discussing one specific topic and answering questions about the report.
Step 4: Make sure everyone speaks.
If you want to keep attendees engaged, make sure everyone speaks at least three times — at the beginning, middle and end of the meeting. Start by going around with brief introductions. Depending on how well attendees know one another, you might be doing actual introductions or simply another type of catch up/check-in.
The main part of the meeting should include structured opportunities to hear from everyone.
Depending on the topic, I invite people to take a moment to write down three ideas about the topic at hand and share one with the group. Once everyone has shared one idea, I ask if anyone has anything on their list that hasn’t been shared and give people another opportunity to speak.
Wrap up with key takeaways and next steps. Ask each attendee to share their key takeaway or next step. Always start this process at least 10 minutes prior to the end of the meeting.
Of course, allowing everyone to speak three times is only possible with a specific number of attendees. If you have a meeting with more than twelve people, this will be a challenge and you’ll need to come up with creative ways to encourage participation.
With ten or more people in your meeting, you might try breaking into smaller groups to ensure everyone gets some time to speak. Have each group report back instead of having each person speak three times. If a few people are dominating the conversation, say something like:
“Let’s hear from someone who hasn’t spoken yet.”
Step 5: Call on people.
Instead of asking, “who has a question?” or “who wants to comment?”, call on people by name. Give them a heads up that you will be calling on them — say:
“I’d like to hear from everyone.”
You might ask who would like to go first, or simply go around the room.
Step 6: Give people time to think.
Sometimes people need time to collect their thoughts. If you’ve asked a question and aren’t getting any response, take a sip from your drink. Get comfortable with the silence. Someone will respond.
If you try to fill the gap by assuming no one has anything to say and rushing to fill the silence or moving to the next topic, you will miss the opportunity for a potentially rich discussion.
Step 7: Start and end on time.
It’s important to be respectful of your participants’ time. For that reason, there’s nothing worse than a meeting that goes over time.
If you have trouble keeping an eye on the clock, appoint a timekeeper to give you a heads up at specific intervals. For example, halfway through, with 15 minutes left, etc.
A Word About Using Slides
If you are using slides at your meeting, make sure they have only three bullets per side, with no more than seven words per bullet. And never use paragraphs on slides.
Once you’ve made your points, turn the slides off so people can refocus on the conversation at hand.
If your slides are up for more than five minutes, it’s time to take them down and check in with participants on the information you just shared.
The Last Word Matters
People remember two important things about meeting:
- First, they remember the end of meetings. In other words, the final decision.
- They also remember whatever they said during a meeting, which is why it’s so important to get each participant speaking.
If you want your capital campaign meetings to be memorable and meaningful, get participants speaking at the beginning, middle, and end of each meeting. It takes some effort on your part, but your participants will appreciate it and your meetings will be all the more valuable.