Monday, November 15, 2021

#NYLA2021: How to Run an Effective Meeting

Libraries: We're all in logo
This year, the New York Library Association held its annual conference in both virtual (Oct. 28-29) and in-person (Nov. 3-6) formats, as well as having on-demand content. Below are notes from one of the virtual sessions.


Attendees will learn how to construct an effective meeting by deciding what structure will meet the meeting's needs. We will discuss when and if, using Robert's Rules of Order is necessary, and give a quick introduction into best practices when using that structure. Key meeting management tips will be introduced, including how to empower all meeting attendees to participate; communicate effectively with a large group; value the attendees' time; stay on task; tactfully end off-topic discussions, and finish meetings in a timely matter.


  • Jen Park, Ramapo Catskills Library System 
  • Joanna Goldfarb, Ramapo Catskills Library System 
  • Carolyn Bennett Glauda, Southeastern NY Library Resources Council 


Construct an effective meeting:

  • Know what makes a good meeting.
  • You need to plan the meeting, which will make you feel collected and in control.
  • Share your meeting plans (agenda) with your attendees in advance.
  • Have someone take notes. It cannot be the meeting facilitator.
  • Meetings need to be inclusive and include participation from everyone.
  • Have a community agreement when you're facilitating a meeting. The group decides on the structure of the meeting and how participants will conduct themselves. The Drawing Change website has information on "Co-creating community agreements in meetings." Creating those agreements is a process that cannot be rushed.

Decide on meeting structure:

  • Two most important officers in a group are the secretary and chair.
    • The chair keeps things moving forward and on topic.
    • In Robert's Rules of Order, the committee chair says as little as possible to keep the meeting on track.
  • Make "old business" on the agenda "unfinished business". This can make the meetings more efficient.
  • The minutes are not a transcript or notes. They are a record of what was done. You do not need to include the process of how you arrived at that decision. 
  • For a virtual meeting, the chair need to announce how attendees should participate and how they should be recognized to speak.
    • If people are participating through chat, make sure that someone is monitoring chat.

Crafting the meeting:

  • Send the agenda out at least a week in advance, so people can look at it and perhaps suggest additions.
  • Before ending the meeting, review any items that need to occur before the next meeting and who is responsible. 
  • In 1-2 days after the meeting, send an email with actions that need follow-up. This is different than the meeting minutes.
  • Try to get meeting minutes out to people 1-2 weeks after the meeting.
  • If you need a parliamentarian, how do you find one? Check the National Association of Parliamentarians.
  • Whether or not your meeting uses Roberts Rules depends on your organization's bylaws.

Final thoughts:

I always find it helpful to attend sessions on running a good meeting, because often something different is emphasized. One of the things that struck me in this session was the need or desire to have a parliamentarian. Most of our daily meetings do not use Robert's Rules. Those meetings are run based on the community agreements we have or on our organizational structures. One benefit of Robert's Rules is the formality of how decisions are made during a meeting. However, any group can create its own agreements on how decisions are made.

I've been in associations that rely on parliamentarians and others that do not. I do believe it is helpful to have someone - whether that be a parliamentarian or a person knowledgeable in Robert's Rules, if you are using them - to help with specific elements of a meeting, especially regarding motions. However, I've seen some become very reliant on their parliamentarian and that makes me wonder about who is in charge of the meeting.

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