Submitted by: Carla Nemecek, Southwind Extension District Director & Agent
One of K-State Research & Extension’s signature methods to disseminate information and to evoke learning is through “having a meeting.” We’ve all put on, or attended, lots and lots of meetings. And, if I’m being honest, those meetings haven’t all necessarily been successful, great meetings. Over the years, I have attended my share of meetings, and today I am going to share what I believe makes for a “good meeting.”
Having the right topics would seem rather obvious, and for that reason, I am not going to go down that track. I will assume that you have the appropriate topics and the right people to make presentations. So, given that, what else can one do to make for a great meeting?
– Publicize. Make certain the right people know about the meeting. Tell those people who come in contact with your target audience about the meeting. Even if you don’t expect a professional within your community to attend, you still want them to know about it so that they can pass it on to their clientele. Good examples might be the banker, implement dealer, clergy, social worker or anyone who tends to come in contact with those you hope to see at your meeting. Make sure those individuals have all the info they need to promote your upcoming meeting to their clientele. Make a list of persons you believe the meeting will be most beneficial to, and then stick your neck out and make a personal contact with those individuals to let them know that you want them there. Putting an article in the paper or an announcement on the radio may not be enough. Personal contact is so much more powerful. And, to do these things, you have to believe in your work, and be enthusiastic about your bringing this information or learning opportunity to your intended audience.
– Meeting place. Make sure you have chosen the best place for the meeting. Can the room be set up for the best possible learning environment? Does your intended audience find the meeting place to be inviting and comfortable?
– Setting the stage. Is the emcee fully prepared to welcome the audience and to introduce the speakers? Giving strong introductions for a speaker and the topic can set the stage for that speaker to have an even better learning experience. Letting the audience know why they made the right decision to be there on that day, and that they will be learning about topics of importance to them also sets the stage for a great meeting. Make certain you know how to pronounce the speaker’s name. It is less embarrassing to ask the speaker before the meeting, than to mispronounce a name in the introduction. And know something about the speaker in introducing them. Again, helping the audience to become familiar and excited about the speaker is the most important job of the person making the introduction.
– Be positive. Above all other things, as a speaker or as the emcee, you should be totally positive. No matter if the visual equipment breaks down, or the PA system acts up, great speakers find some way to remain positive and enthusiastic for why they are there. They do not lay blame on others, but rather search for solutions. No matter what happens, people expect positive.
– And, if you are the emcee or organizer, you have to be as interested as anyone with the content of the program. As courtesy to the speaker and to those you invited, you too must exhibit an interest in the information being presented. When it is time for questions, you should be prepared with a couple questions if no one in the audience is willing to speak up.
This column is intended to get you thinking about the things you can do to set the stage and create great meetings. As much as some would like to believe technology could replace the need for a meeting, humans will always have that social need for learning together. As professional educators, we have the obligation to make those learning experiences the best they can be. For more information, find Southwind Extension on the web, www.southwind.ksu.edu