Business Law | Efficient Meetings: A Lawyer’s Perspective
“Efficient” is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “capable of producing desired results without wasting materials, time, or energy.” Efficient meetings help volunteer leaders balance service to their communities with work, family and personal obligations. Efficient meetings also help organizations recruit and retain volunteer leaders.
After attending hundreds of meetings, it is my observation that effective leaders work out of the same basic toolbox to facilitate efficient meetings.
A thorough agenda includes the name of the organization, the date, time and place of the meeting, and a description of the items to be discussed. Each item on the agenda should be briefly described in sufficient detail to avoid confusion.
Routine items that do not require discussion may be listed at the beginning of the agenda under an item named “consent agenda.” For example, minutes of the previous meeting and routine financial statements may be placed on the consent agenda. If discussion is warranted, then items can be moved from the consent agenda to the regular agenda at the beginning of the meeting. Items remaining on the consent agenda are approved by vote without discussion, conserving time.
An agenda packet includes the meeting agenda and documents that provide information about the agenda items. The agenda packet should be distributed to the meeting participants for review several days prior to the meeting.
Notice of the meeting should be given at a time and by a method permitted by the applicable statutes and governing documents, which may vary depending on the type of meeting and the items that are on the agenda.
Meeting participants should be able to easily see and hear each other and have sufficient table space to work with documents during the meeting. The meeting location should be large enough to comfortably accommodate the meeting participants and others who may attend the meeting, and should be private if confidential issues will be discussed.
Open or Closed Meetings
It is important to determine in advance whether a meeting should be open to all association members or closed for a purpose authorized by the applicable statutes and governing documents. A mistake either way may result in a significant waste of resources, time and energy dealing with the consequences.
The basic rules of procedure from Robert’s Rules of Order are very helpful to run efficient meetings. Motions, discussion and voting help meeting participants make decisions on complex issues. When a formal hearing is required, clear procedures help the chairperson run the hearing in a fair and orderly manner.
The secretary or designee should take minutes at the meeting. The minutes should be distributed to the meeting participants for review, corrected (if necessary) and approved at the next meeting, and kept for future reference.