Are your meetings running well and finishing on time? The Meeting Basics module will teach you how to get the most out of your meetings.
Meetings are an integral part of running a successful incorporated organisation. They offer your members an opportunity to be heard fairly and are designed to encourage constructive discussion and debate, leading to informed decisions. Meetings are intended to turn good ideas into better ideas.
Types of meetings and timing
There are several different types of meeting that your organisation may hold. For example, you may have attended:
Management committee meetings
General or special general meetings
Annual general meetings
Management committee meetings are typically held every month or so and involve management committee members and any other club members who have been invited to attend. These should be the most regular formal meetings that your club holds and should be used as an opportunity to set the organisation’s strategic direction and make decisions on behalf of the wider membership.
General or special general meetings should be held as required, to deal with significant issues such as amending your constitution, changing your organisation’s name or winding up. Many clubs fall into the trap of holding regular (e.g. monthly) general meetings, instead of management committee meetings. This can result in inefficiencies due to a large number of members being involved in discussion and debate. This essentially removes decision-making power from those members elected to make decisions (i.e. the management committee).
In Queensland, incorporated associations must hold an annual general meeting (AGM) at least once each year, within six months after the end of its financial year. At the AGM, an incorporated organisation must deal with certain business as a minimum, including:
Presenting financial statements and an audit or verification report (if required) for the previous financial year to members for adoption
Electing members of the management committee
Appointing an auditor or accountant (if required) for the present financial year
Subcommittee meetings may be held as required, depending on each subcommittee’s operations and responsibilities. Subcommittees may have delegated authority and responsibility for a particular area of operation within a club or association. However, the management committee is always accountable for the organisation’s actions and must therefore retain a certain level of oversight of operations. Therefore, any significant subcommittee recommendations, such as those that will cost a lot of money, may require ratification by the management committee.
Meeting ground rules
Having structure to your meetings ensures that your club’s decisions are made formally and that appropriate records of your decisions are kept. Meetings are designed to provide a framework for democratic decision-making and to minimise arguments, while giving everyone an opportunity to express their points of view.
Regardless of the type of meeting, there are some basic meeting procedures that should be followed, including:
Preparing and sticking to a set agenda
Approving minutes of the previous meeting
Motions, resolutions and voting
Standing Orders set out the ‘rules’ by which business is conducted during meetings. These might cover things such as rules of debate, methods of voting, powers of the chair, moving motions and the conduct of attendees. To help get you started, your club can download sample Standing Orders from the club.COACH online resource hub.
All attendees should arrive on time. If you have a quorum, the meeting should be opened on time, even if some attendees have not arrived. If discussion becomes repetitive, the president or chairperson can move things along. As a general guide, management committee meetings should run for between 45 minutes and 1 hour. This is achievable if all attendees prepare properly. If meetings are running for too long, appoint a timekeeper to help keep things on track.
Attendees should read the minutes of the previous meeting prior to turning up and all attendees should listen and be 100% committed during the meeting. Nobody should engage in distracting side activities such as private conversations, sending text messages or checking social media.
Don't avoid disagreement. In fact, meetings are a great opportunity to challenge ideas and find the best solution through debate. Just ensure things don't get personal.
A quorum is the minimum number of attendees required for a meeting to be able to proceed to business. This is to ensure that any decisions made at a meeting are agreed by a sufficient proportion of an organisation’s management committee or membership. Your constitution should specify the quorum requirements for meetings of your organisation.
Preparing AND agenda
To help streamline meetings, all attendees should have a clear understanding regarding what will be discussed prior to the meeting’s commencement. This means that any proposed decisions should be submitted to the secretary before the meeting as ‘motions on notice’ for inclusion on the agenda. Additionally, reports from individual volunteers and subcommittees should be provided to the secretary in writing, so they can be distributed amongst attendees, along with the agenda. Sample agenda templates are available for download from the resource section above.
The value of taking minutes during meetings cannot be understated. Minutes represent your organisation's only record of the business conducted and decisions made during meetings. Minutes also need to provide an accurate record of meeting attendance and apologies received.
Meeting minutes should follow the order of the agenda, stating the main issues, points of view discussed, and decisions made. The full text of motions and resolutions should be accurately recorded. However, minutes do not need to be a word for word transcript of absolutely everything said during a meeting, as long as you capture the decisions and the main discussion points.
Following a meeting, the secretary should tidy and circulate the minutes. Ideally, this should happen as soon as possible after a meeting. Ensuring review while proceedings are fresh in people’s minds and providing a good reminder of any agreed action items. Sample minute keeping templates are available for download from the resource section above.