Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio March
Back to Basics
BY MARTHA JO DENDINGER,
Building a Better Board Meeting
One of the smallest gatherings you plan may be the most
The board meeting may have only a handful of attendees and
generate just a few room nights, yet decisions made there can have
lasting ramifications on other events and the organization. And, on
a career note, a board meeting is an opportunity to let your
planning skills and professionalism shine for the VIPs. Some
LET BYLAWS BE BYLAWS
Your organization's bylaws should be your basic planning tool.
The rules differ, depending on the type of organization, but they
usually contain a section on procedures and scheduling for board
meetings. These procedures may include requirements that board
members receive an advance agenda and other pertinent documents by
a certain date and that they be familiar with parliamentary
procedure. (You might want to brush up on Robert's Rules of
Order, too.) Check to see if you will be responsible for
following these procedures and if parameters for site selection are
noted in the bylaws.
Realize, too, that the meeting planner often takes a backseat to
the chief staff member or head of the board when planning the
meeting. Discuss your role with your supervisor to ensure that
every detail is covered.
Whether you're dealing with a board of directors, board of
governors, board of trustees or executive committee, note its level
of authority. Is the board composed of subgroups, such as
committees and task forces that may meet in conjunction with or as
a result of the board meeting? You may need to plan these auxiliary
In planning any type of meeting, getting to know the attendees
will yield better results. Keep personal profiles on the members to
make sure that their needs are met on site.
WHAT'S THE POINT?
The responsibilities of a board cover five major areas: policy
administration, finance, public and community relations, personnel
and evaluation. Meetings are the primary process by which the board
governs the organization. Generally, board meetings are convened to
hear progress reports, guide committees, make policy decisions,
communicate objectives and plan for the future.
The meetings themselves fall into two basic categories --
regular and special session. Regular board meetings follow set
schedules (quarterly, annually, etc.) with similar agendas, making
them relatively easy to plan. Special sessions deal with a specific
concern, such as impending legal actions or a high-level
resignation. Because of the sensitive nature of a special session's
agenda, confidentiality is a primary concern, and reduced lead time
can be a major constraint in planning.
The board also may gather for new member orientations, which can
involve workshops and social activities. Or they may hold retreats,
with a program of meetings, workshops, team-building exercises and
PLAY YOUR PART
While planners may or may not be on the board, their role is
critical. In addition to logistical support, planners should pay
particular attention to the following considerations.
Location and setup. The size of the board
usually determines the setup, but conference style and hollow
square tend to work best. Be sure chairs are comfortable for
all-day sessions, lighting is appropriate and the room size allows
for interaction. A window to the outside and in-room refreshments
are pluses. Microphones may be needed for amplification in large
setups. Special sessions will require a location conducive to
Agenda. Board meetings are notorious for
running late, mostly because the agenda changes at the last moment.
Be sure that someone is in charge of checking on the flow of the
meeting and informing the hotel staff of adjustments. Keep an eye
out for on-the-spot audiovisual needs and special setups.
Special personnel. A vital part of the meeting
is the recording of the minutes, which is usually the job of the
board's secretary. Check to see if audio recording equipment or a
transcriber is required. Planners also may need to hire experts to
address specific issues (for example: an economist to discuss how
trends are affecting the industry).
Orientation and training. Providing educational
components on such as topics as "making your first speech,"
"parliamentary procedure pointers" and "organizational lifecycles"
give added value to the meeting. Also, don't hesitate to suggest
social activities or other programming that may inspire and
motivate the team. Remember, all work and no play does make a dull
Martha Jo Dendinger, CMP, is an independent meeting planner
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