Meetings are a fact of life in Farm Bureau.  We have them to accomplish specific goals, whether they’re a regular county board of directors meeting or a standing or ad hoc committee meeting held for a specific purpose.

Both the chairperson of the meeting and the members who participate have responsibility for the success of the meeting.  It starts with the chair, so choose a chair who knows the subject, is a good leader and a good organizer.

Exert Leadership

The chair must be willing to exert leadership by moving discussion off dead center to make progress toward a solution and by getting discussion back on track when it wanders too far from the subject.

Any small group meeting will have people who voice their opinions readily and others who are more reticent to speak. The chair needs to draw out the comments of all the members. For example, the chair may ask, “Jane, what are your thoughts on this?” Members are on a committee to contribute, but some need extra encouragement.

Chairs need to remember that it’s not their responsibility to do it all. Make specific assignments and set deadlines for committee members to complete them. For example, “John, please have a summary of recommendations from the ad hoc committee for our July 18 meeting.”

Plan Agenda Beforehand

As important as it is for the chair to be a leader during the meeting, they also have a crucial role beforehand. It’s important for the chair to do advance planning for the meeting, even if it’s only 10- or 15-minutes. Develop your agenda by determining what you want to accomplish at the meeting and identify the resources you’ll need. Keep in mind that people, such as a county official, can be a resource.

Distribute the agenda to board or committee members prior to the meeting.  The general recommendation is agendas should be sent out at least 48 hours to several days in advance of the meeting.

Advance notice provides attendees with the time to prepare for the meeting and to ensure that they don't have any conflicts in their schedule.

According to Robert's Rules, each meeting should follow an agenda. During the meeting itself, the agenda should be followed in order from top to bottom, and each point needs to be addressed or voted on before moving on to the next items of business.

Having an outside resource person is a good way to spice up an agenda and helps encourage attendance. Putting a local issue or a “hot” state or national topic on the county board of directors’ agenda also helps pique interest.

If you plan, you can schedule half an hour for an expert on the issue to give you background and answer questions.

Start and End on Time

Chairs should start the meeting at the scheduled time, even though some members may not have arrived. If a quorum is needed to conduct business, start on time with items that don’t require a vote and deal with those that do when members are present. This will encourage members to become more prompt.

It’s helpful to announce when the meeting will be adjourned. This helps keep things moving.

Members of the board or committee have certain responsibilities. They should be committed to the purpose of the meeting. They should be prepared for the discussion and should be willing to stay focused on the matter or business being discussed.  Cell phones are a common distraction and pitfall of remaining focused and engaged in meetings.

If board or committee members would like something on the meeting agenda, they should call the chair prior to the meeting.  This allows the chair to schedule time for the item and make sure the needed resources are available at the meeting.

Working Through an Agenda

Here’s how to handle agenda items:

  1. Announce the item.
  2. Ask for or give any report on the item. Distribute resource materials if needed.
  3. Allow discussion.
  4. Ask for motion.
  5. Ask for second to motion.
  6. Ask for further discussion.
  7. Repeat the motion.
  8. Call for a voice vote.
  9. Announce adoption or failure.
  10. If the motion fails, call for a new motion and second. There should be no discussion until a new motion is made.
  11. Repeat steps 4-10 until the item is dealt with.
  12. Move to the next item.