A.D.ministration: Conducting effective, efficient meetings
Very few individuals involved in education and athletics enjoy meetings. Usually these events are viewed as a major imposition and something that takes valuable time away from more important tasks and responsibilities. This general feeling has grown exponentially as technology has resulted in alternatives to face-to-face meetings.
Even though technology may increase the speed and ease of communication, there are still valid reasons for holding meetings. When everyone is assembled at one time and location, it may be easier to:
- Explain new material or information so everyone can hear and benefit from any questions that may arise.
- Cover responsibilities and ensure that the expectations affecting everyone are universally understood.
- Present items which may be too sensitive or confidential to be communicated by email.
- Gather input and ideas for new initiatives or solutions for pressing problems.
It’s vital to conduct meetings that, while covering all of the necessary items, are as concise as possible. The following suggestions should help meet this objective.
1. Prepare an agenda.
Agendas should be used for all meetings. The one that you use for your preseason coaches’ meeting should be highly detailed. You want to cover every possible coaching responsibility, new regulations and expectations. By covering all of these items, you have set the standards for accountability.
2. Arrange handouts.
All of the handouts that accompany a topic on the agenda should be arranged in the order in which they will be covered on a desk in the front of the room. Your assistant or a designated coach can distribute the specific document when the topic occurs on the agenda.
If you distribute all of the materials before starting the meeting, the attendees will usually flip through all of them instead of actually paying attention to what is being covered at that particular point.
3. Be prompt.
Always start the meeting at the time that it’s scheduled. It’s never a good procedure to wait for stragglers. Failure to start on time is an imposition upon those who are conscientious and ready.
If you’re hosting your preseason coaches’ meeting, lock the classroom doors so that anyone who is late will have to knock to gain entrance. The concept of punctuality is immediately established, and you also should document those who are late.
4. Use a slideshow.
This should be done to present the agenda topics. Simply sitting and listening at a meeting is not the most effective technique to aid comprehension.
The visual aspect of the presentation enhances the understanding and retention of concepts and information. Besides, slideshows are more entertaining. Having attendees enjoy the meeting would be a significant accomplishment.
5. Answer questions.
Address questions that arise during the meeting so that everyone understands each item on the agenda and their relationship to each coach. However, you should also be aware and ready to intervene when anyone attempts to monopolize the discussion.
There may be one or two individuals in every group who have this need to speak just to be heard, and they usually don’t have a great deal to contribute. Keeping this person under control helps to keep the meeting as concise as possible.
6. Advanced information for attendees.
Provide topics to the attendees ahead of time if the intent of the meeting is to develop new initiatives, procedures or ways to handle a problem. Seldom will valuable solutions or ideas be offered when a topic is quickly presented during a meeting.
Feasible alternatives and creative solutions often require in-depth thinking and not from spur of the moment comments. Advanced notice and time typically yield the best results.
7. File the agenda.
Maintain a copy of the agenda with the notes, questions and answers that arose from the meeting. This copy provides documentation of what was covered during the meeting in the event that there is a problem. Also, keep a copy on your hard drive so that you can quickly and easily forward it to anyone who needs clarification of what took place at the meeting.
8. Delay discussion on specific situations.
Ask everyone to save specific questions that apply to individual situations until the end of the meeting. Then, those without a question don’t have to sit through an extended meeting and can leave. This technique usually is appreciated by most and might even change the attitude or mood of the attendees for future meetings.
9. Help those who are absent.
Email the agenda and handouts to anyone who might have missed the meeting. While you should require your coaches to attend their preseason meetings someone might have a legitimate, approved reason for their absence. These individuals still need all of the materials, because they are still accountable.
For any parents who miss their preseason meeting, post the agenda on your website. Also invite anyone who could not attend the evening event to stop by your office for copies of all of the handouts.
10. Provide refreshments.
If possible, consider providing some light refreshments at your meetings. This small effort might make the meeting more palatable and, depending upon the time of day, fend off hunger pangs.
11. Appropriately schedule meetings.
Look for optimum times to meet in order to accommodate coaches who have teaching or work responsibilities. This consideration also may be helpful for working parents and others in your community.
A breakfast meeting with donuts and coffee might be a good alternative, or perhaps hold a 45-minute session for coaches immediately after school by delaying the start of practice for all sports. If you choose to delay the start of practice, this would have to be announced several days ahead of time so parents can arrange post-practice transportation.
Always remember, if you don’t have to meet, don’t. With email, texting, Facetime and other new methods of communication, always use the approach that is most effective. There is nothing worse than holding a meeting simply because that’s the way it has always been done.
If you need to hold a meeting, make it efficient and concise, yet informative as possible.
David Hoch, CMAA, has 16 years of experience as a high school athletic director and served for 12 years as the executive director of the Maryland State Coaches Association. In 2000, he was named Athletic Director of the Year by the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association. His column, A.D.ministration, focuses on issues in athletic administration and appears regularly in Coach & Athletic Director magazine.