When it comes to meetings, you need to understand what occurred, what needs to be done from the meeting, and in general how well the meeting went. This is where documents come in to play.
What blows the mind though, is think of how many documents you need to bring to a meeting. Think of how many get created in your meetings. There’s your minutes, your agenda, budgets, reports, copies of bylaws, action items, etc. Do you really need all these things? How many of them will even be read?
The answer is probably yes, you do need them. But! Think about how many of these you create. How much time do you and your committee spend writing, editing, and printing them? Not to mention all that paper. So let’s have a look at three of the major types of governance, and we’ll explore how you improve their quality while lessening their quantity.
An agenda is not a speech script. Your agenda is there to help keep the meeting focused. If the agenda document itself is unfocused, how are you going to keep your committee from turning the same?
Even for a six-hour meeting, your agenda should be one page. One and a half, maximum. Order your meeting topics by their importance, with a simple heading for each, and subheadings for any further discussion points you want to cover. Include a time frame for each discussion, assuming that the discussion will run longer than expected.
The number one rule, though? No details. Having a subheading that reads “Presentations by subcommittees” is all you need — you don’t need to go into intricate detail about each presentation, who’s presenting, how many slides they’ll have, any handouts they need. It’s unnecessary.
Strategic planning and management is important. But ironically, a lot of strategic plans aren’t themselves planned out strategically. They ramble, become unfocused, and don’t properly analyse the organisation and its environment. Strategy should only cover the “what” and the “why” — projects are the “how”.
What does your organisation want, and why? Focusing on how to get the “what” is not a part of this document, and comes later. Therefore, strategic plans should be much shorter than you might have seen before.
The “what” in a strategic plan is simply your mission expanded and detailed, and the “why” is the organisation’s values. Covering these should be easy, as you should know exactly what your committee wants to achieve.
If you are directing a small environmental-awareness charity, some of your “whats” might be things like “make the town a greener, cleaner place to live”, or “increase local awareness of recycling practices”, and your why for both would be “we care about our local wildlife”. Write your strategic plan with your “whats” and “whys” in mind, and you’ll be just fine.
At the end of the day, keep it short and sweet. Whenever you’re writing something, just think: “does the reader need to know this? Why?”. A little mindfulness will save you so much time and effort that should be spent furthering your cause. It’s pretty important, after all.
Minutes are how you take notes of your meetings — you know that. What is also important to remember, is that Minutes are proof that your strategic plan and agenda were followed. It helps you to understand what happened and the relevance that each agenda item had to the organisation.
When writing minutes, there are dozens of ways to do this, and by hand is easily the worst. It’s slow, and it’ll need extensive revision later. You can find plenty of great templates and software online, but the key to taking effective minutes no matter the system is brevity. This is quality over quantity at its most elemental. You don’t need to write every detail, and what you do write should be short and snappy.
A quick title for the order of business and any agreed-upon outcomes is perfect. Small notes like “a discussion of the options ensued” are fine, but not always necessary.