Meetings provide opportunities for planning, organising and reviewing tasks associated with running playgroups as well as for communicating information, resolving issues and making decisions. Effective meetings provide opportunities for everyone to share views and have input and allow for a consensus to be reached.
Planning for meetings is important and helps to ensure that the meeting achieves what is intended and required. Meetings for incorporated playgroups will be guided by their constitution but other groups will need to work out the best way to organise and run meetings. The following ideas may be helpful in planning meetings:
- Determine who needs to attend the meeting – is it just the committee or other key people or is it open to everyone?
- Determine how often you need to meet and the best time to hold meetings.
- Determine how long you will need for the meeting.
- Have an agenda – that way everyone knows what will be discussed. A sample agenda is under Meetings on the Templates, Information and Checklists page.
- Ask members to RSVP so you know how many members will be there. You may need to re-schedule the meeting for a time when more people can attend.
- Consider online meetings using video/web technologies such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
- Have some rules or processes for managing meetings so that everyone can participate appropriately and effectively.
Participating in meetings
There are some general things that are useful for all participants to bear in mind that will help make meetings more effective and enjoyable:
- Meetings work best when everyone contributes ideas and participates in discussions and decision-making processes.
- Focus on issues not on individuals – try not to let things become personal.
- Confidentiality is very important – avoid discussions that identify individuals including children.
- Allow everyone to have a say – when one person dominates discussion it can stop healthy debate.
Simply gathering people together at a specified date and place will not, by itself, guarantee a productive, successful meeting. Usually someone needs to organise and run the meeting to ensure that everything gets done and that it works well.
For many playgroups, the President or Group Leader will chair meetings. Whether your group has an informal or a more formal management structure, how you run meetings will impact on what is achieved in the meeting. The following ideas may be helpful for people running meetings:
- Provide advice about the meeting and what will be discussed ahead of time. For formal committees or management groups this might require a formal agenda. Stick to the agenda as much as possible.
- Set a timeframe for the meeting – make sure you allow enough time for the business to be discussed. Setting a finish time for the meeting can help keep you on track.
- Arrive at the meeting ahead of time to make sure everything is ready to go at the nominated start time. If running online meetings, give yourself sufficient time to be set up ahead of the scheduled time that everyone will be logging in.
- Allow time at the beginning of the meeting to welcome and acknowledge new people and to introduce everyone.
- Have processes for debating issues. Incorporated playgroups will have specific rules outlined in their constitutions.
Whether your group has a committee or informal management structure someone generally needs to take charge of or chair meetings. In more formal structures, this tends to be the President or Group Leader. The chairperson’s role includes:
- Determining what should be on the agenda – sometimes this will involve seeking input from others
- Setting start and finish times for the meeting
- Making sure someone is recording the minutes or taking notes
- Welcoming participants and introducing any visitors
- Keeping the meeting running smoothly and to time
- Making sure that everyone is clear about their role in the meeting, the meeting procedures and how decision will be taken
- Encouraging everyone to follow the agenda and keeping discussion relevant to the items being discussed
- Ensuring that everyone gets to participate effectively, and that discussion is not dominated by a few people
- Participating in and guiding discussions but not dominating
- Ensuring that motions (proposals) are relevant and clearly understood
- Controlling debate – deciding who can speak, in what order and how long the debate will go on for
- Making sure consensus is reached, that a vote or other system of reaching agreement is taken or in place and that decisions are recorded correctly.
Minutes of meetings
Minutes of meetings provide an official record of what was discussed and decided at meetings. They are usually a brief, formal, written summary of what happened. In formal management structures, these are usually done by the Secretary.
In other groups, you may just ask someone to take some notes of what was discussed. The minutes can be as simple as dot points that cover the main topics discussed, decisions made, and action required.
In formal situations minutes are generally accepted (or ratified) at the next meeting. Generally, minutes include:
- Date, time and venue of the meeting
- State who attended and note any apologies
- Follow the agenda’s format if a formal agenda is used
- Outline in brief the main points of the discussion
- Give an accurate, concise account of decisions reached and approved payments
- Include any actions required as well as the name of the person taking responsibility for the action and the expected completion date.
Hints for recording minutes
- Try to capture the basic ideas and the essence of what was discussed – you don’t need to note everything word for word.
- Check details and ask for clarification if you are unsure of an issue.
- Use clear, simple language.
- Ask someone to take the minutes for you if you want to actively participate in a discussion - it can be hard to do both.
- Write up the minutes as soon as possible after the meeting – some people type them up while the meeting is happening.
- Keep any notes you took at the meeting until the minutes have been confirmed.
Annual General Meetings (AGM)
AGMs have a specific purpose and are generally held to endorse committee nominations and to report on the playgroup’s operations over the previous year.
Having an AGM is not a requirement for all groups but it can be useful for all groups as it provides an opportunity to bring the members together to discuss playgroup issues, including providing a report on the playgroup’s finances to all of the members.
Incorporated groups are required to hold an AGM each year and have specific guidelines and rules, including nomination processes outlined in their constitutions. For more information about requirements for incorporated groups click here.