how to run meetings and produce the paperwork
Oxford University Press have just brought out a series of short beginners’ guides on communication skills. The emphasis is on compact, no-nonsense advice directly related to issues of everyday life. In this case it’s organising and running meetings, creating the documents which support them, and participating in them to best effect. Judith Leigh usefully starts off Organising and Participating in Meetings with the language of meetings and the roles of key figures such as minutes secretary, chair, and observers.
She then describes how to recruit suitable people to participate in a meeting and serve on a committee, and how to arrange the practicalities of booking venues and travel arrangements so as to maximise the chances of a successful outcome. She then covers the key documentation of meetings – discussion papers, agendas, and reports. This includes the order in which items should be tabled and recorded, plus tips on dealing with documents in paper and electronic form.
There’s a chapter on participation which includes both the ‘rules’ of debate and argument, as well as advice on doing Powerpoint presentations. Then comes the most unpopular task of all – taking the minutes. You’ll be lucky if you can get anybody to volunteer for this job.
Then comes a real gem I haven’t seen in books of this kind before – how to participate in meetings conducted by telephone, email, and video conferencing. She finishes with a checklist of steps to be taken, a glossary of Latin terms and financial jargon, and some templates for meeting papers and agendas.
The chapters of this book are short, but almost every page is rich in hints and tips. The strength of this approach is that it avoids the encyclopedic volume of advice which in some manuals can be quite frightening. This is a book which will reassure those who need it.
If you’ve never run a meeting before, this tells you everything you need to know. And it’s all presented in a clear and simple manner, with the emphasis on achieving a positive outcome. That’s a long way from some of the farcical, corrupt, and often pointless meetings which I’ve had to sit through in the world of education in the last thirty years.
© Roy Johnson 2004
Judith Leigh, Organising and Participating in Meetings, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, pp.144, ISBN: 019866284X