How to set up and run a Residents Association contd.
Preparing for the Meeting
Your First Meeting (see Checklist for a Meeting)
You have decided that there is a need for a tenants or residents association in your area, formed a steering group, identified a "plan of action" and worked out what should be in your constitution. The next step is to call an open meeting for all potential members. Make sure to publicise the meeting well in advance by leaflets, word of mouth and posters where possible. Do you want to offer refreshments at the meeting? If you do, mention this on your leaflets, together with the time, date and venue for the meeting.
After the public meeting
If the public meeting has agreed to set up an association for the area, your next step is to get yourself properly organised. Always make sure the issues you take up or the projects you agree to work on reflect the interests of your members. Don't forget to inform your landlord that you have agreed to set up agroup, giving them the name of the group and the name of someone they can contact.
What is a Successful Meeting?
Generally speaking a successful meeting is one where everyone who attends get what they want at least in part. Planning and preparation are vital to the success or otherwise of any meeting.
Planning an Effective Meeting (see Sample Agenda)
Firstly, be clear about why the meeting is being held, what it aims to accomplish and what other people may be expect from it. For many people, meetings are part of everyday whether as part of their job or in a voluntary capacity. For staff, Councillors and tenant representatives there are meetings scheduled internally (steering groups, one on ones, committee meetings etc) as well as meetings with external agencies such as the police and community groups. For any meeting to run smoothly, proper advance planning is essential if the meeting is to be a rewarding and constructive experience.
This first meeting is important as it is the first time your potential members can appreciate your organisation's skills, aims and abilities. The meeting could have been called for any number of reasons such as to:
1. pass on or obtain information
2. test ideas or reactions to ideas
3. pool views and experiences on a particular subject
4. improve understanding of differing points of view
5. agree decisions arrived at by a majority
5. develop joint problem solving strategies
7. build partnerships between groups / organisations
8. build trust and morale among members / member groups
9. review performance.
Other questions to consider include:
1. Is the meeting place accessible for the disabled?
2. Is a crèche needed / available at the meeting?
3. What about a hearing loop?
4. Does anyone need transport to and from the meeting?
All these things need to be considered when planning your first meeting, as after all, you do want to appear organised
Prepare an agenda
- Discuss this with other involved people and make sure that all relevant issues are covered
- Do not have too many items on the agenda as this will make the meeting too long so prioritise the most important issues if the agenda too long.
- Send out agendas in advance of the meeting so that people know what the meeting will cove
If this comprises of background information for a decision to be taken at the meeting, or is the basis for a discussion, then make sure that this is sent out with the notice, so that people have a chance to read it prior to the meeting. If on the other hand the paperwork is to confirm information given at the meeting, prepare handouts to clarify the points covered.
Getting the Best Out of Meetings
If you are not chairing the meeting, your input is still of great importance and you can add to the success of the meeting by reading the agenda and paperwork prior to the meeting. Write down any observations you may have, relevant to the paperwork and encourage people to contact you when preparing the agenda. This gives you the opportunity to ask for items to be put on the agenda that you would like discussed. When you know what the agenda items are, find out as much as you can about them. Anticipate answers to questions, which are likely to be raised.
Golden Rules For Meetings
If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so. Do not attempt to make up an answer. Instead, offer to find out and report back either by letter or in person at the next meeting (AND MAKE SURE THAT YOU DO). If it is beyond your authority to make a decision, do not be tempted to promise something that you cannot deliver. Instead say that you will ask and come back with a response.
Likewise, there are two golden rules for tenants - Only expect answers on issues that staff members know about or have had appropriate advance notice about. Only promise what you know you can deliver to both tenants and staff.
Decide what the rules of the meeting will be, these rules could include:
- Standards of behaviour
- How voting will be carried out
- How long the meeting will last
- Who will take the minutes of the meeting
- How the information will be circulated after the meeting
Make Sure that the Meeting Room is Prepared
- Put up direction signs where necessary
- Check that all equipment is in place and working
- Set out the room (see room layout chart at the end of this section)
- Lay out refreshments if being provided
- Put out name cards for speakers
- Put out paper / pens etc. if applicable
- Provide glasses of water for speakers
- Make sure a supply of extra agendas / minutes / paperwork for those who have forgotten to bring them
After The Meeting
- Check that agreed action is being taken
- Encourage individuals to complete their tasks
- Offer help and support to those having difficulty in completing their tasks
- Remember - if you agreed to do anything - make sure you do it
If you are chairing a meeting, your duties will be to:
- Make sure the meeting starts on time
- Make sure that newcomers are welcomed and that everyone is introduced
- Keep to the agenda and timescales (if any) for each agenda item
- Introduce each agenda item and identify any decisions which need to be made
- Assist in finding “common ground”, especially in a conflict situation
- Make sure that everyone has the opportunity to participate in the meeting while keeping (tactfully) to the time scale
- Make sure that jargon is either not used, or is made clear to all participants
- Remain impartial in the discussion
- Keep the meeting focused on its objectives and stop any irrelevant discussion
- Stop speakers from waffling
- Make sure that discussion points are summarised and decisions clarified and noted
- Summarise the actions which need to be taken and by whom
- Thank all participants for attending
- Set the date, time and venue for the next meeting
- Close the meeting
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