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Facilitating successful committee meetings

14 Feb 2024

Behind every successful president is a successful secretary. However, often when people think of a secretary, they think of meetings. And yes, throughout the year, the Secretary is involved in attending and organising a lot of meetings. The purpose of meetings is either to become informed of the status of a task or to communicate information to those who need it. Or often both.

Committee meetings are also where the strategic direction of the club is set and ultimately where the activities of the club are co-ordinated.
Secretaries should work with the President to ensure meetings are effective.

Effective committees have a number of consistent characteristics including:

  1. Information to be discussed and considered at the upcoming meeting is provided prior to the meeting
  2. Clear meeting agendas are considered and stuck to throughout the meeting
  3. Strong meeting processes which maximise productive but minimise unnecessary discussion
  4. A strong and informed decision making processes

Information provided prior to the committee meeting

It is very important that committee members are provided with all the information which is to be considered and discussed at the upcoming committee meeting well in advance of the meeting. Best practice would indicate that committee members need the committee papers and reports at least five days prior to the meeting. Ideally this would include a weekend as often this is the only time many people have available to read the committee reports.

Providing the information at least five days early gives committee members the opportunity to be fully informed about the topics for the upcoming meeting, and just as importantly have the time to reflect on the information and what it means for the future of the club. To ensure this information is provided to the committee in a timely manner, the secretary must ensure that everybody involved in the preparation and collating of information for reports understands when:

  1. Reports to the committee have to be completed and provided to the secretary prior to each meeting
  2. The secretary will send out the agenda, financial reports and any other committee reports prior to the meeting
  3. The minutes of each meeting will be circulated after each meeting to each committee member.

The power of the committee meeting agenda

The Club secretary, working with the President is responsible for preparing each committee meeting agenda.

When creating the agenda there will be standard agenda items such as:

  • Welcome, apologies and introductions
  • Confirmation of a meeting quorum
  • Conflict of Interests Register
  • Acceptance of minutes of previous committee meeting
  • President/Chairperson’s report
  • Treasurer’s report, including financial statements
  • Other reports as required
  • Correspondence
  • General Business
  • Meeting close

When setting an agenda, we strongly recommend that you allocate how much time of each meeting will be allotted to each topic. This is a very effective strategy because, firstly when a realistic time is allocated to each topic it is easy to recognise when you simply have too many agenda items.

Inward and outward correspondence

Traditionally a secretary would present to the committee all letters received by the club and those posted or proposed to be posted by the club.

Today we live in the world of email, text messages, Facebook and Twitter Messages, phone calls, and of course letters. In this modern world it is not practical to present to the committee all the correspondence received by the secretary, so the question is, what correspondence should be presented to the committee? The answer will vary but generally the secretary would respond to the operational correspondence or forward it to the relevant person within the club.

If the correspondence was a strategic, risk management or club reputation issue then it would be tabled to the committee, either for consideration or simply to ensure the committee is informed of important issues.

Minutes to the meeting

A very important role of the Secretary is to prepare the minutes to each committee meeting and forward them on to committee members as soon as they can after the meetings completion. Whilst it is likely a club requirement and a legal responsibility to take the minutes of the meeting, there is an even greater reason. Human nature!!

It is amazing how often people agree to things or commit to do things in a meeting, only to walk out and completely forget their promise, commitment or vote. It happens all the time, a person in good faith will commit to do a task, they leave the committee meeting, their hectic life takes over and because the next committee meeting is a month away they genuinely forget their promise.

If the Minutes of each meeting are recorded and circulated to committee members then the “actions arising” from the committee meeting will be recorded along with who is responsible. Successful Presidents and Secretaries will not wait until the next committee meeting to check if the task is done, they will be following up with people throughout the month.
So taking Minutes to the Committee meetings is not only the legal responsibility of the Secretary it is their most effective tool for ensuring things get done.