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Keep your NHW meetings to the point!

Anyone who has attended a good meeting will remember it. The event will stand out as prominently as the birth of their first child in their memories purely because we're so conditioned to attending "poor meetings"

So what IS the difference between a GOOD neighborhood watch meeting and a poor one - and how do you keep yours on the good side.

The power to sway a meeting to good or poor rests largely with the Chairman, however the responsibility can also be delegated. Here's what I define as being a good meeting.

Firstly, it should be 1 hour and no longer.

When a meeting is scheduled to start at 7pm, it starts at 7. Get there early for chit chat, but the work starts on the clock.
Good meetings have either a timer or hour glass to keep people focused on the time available.
Have an agenda and circulate it well before the meeting.

Remeber that meetings are for decision making, that's why the role players are all coming togather. Discussions and back and forth can take place over e-mail or telephone before the meeting. If there's differing opinions, each camp presents their side in short form and then a vote is held - not another discussion. If it's such a critical issue, hold a separate meeting for it.

Your agenda should be short and to the point and circulated before the meeting with the minutes of your last meeting.

Here's a standard NHW agenda that I like to use;

Welcome and noting of appologies
Approval of minutes of the previous meeting
Matters arising from the previous meeting
Correspondence sent or recieved
Operational feedback
Membership feedback

The secret to a good meeting, is in the chair keeping polite but firm control on the timeline, on the appropriateness of discussion (don't let people wander off topic) and straight on the nail down to business. You'll find that with well controlled functional meetings, you're able to keep people focused, involved and active. By all means stick about after the meeting and chat between yourselves and be sociable - but keep the meetings on track and on time.

In an age of technology being so accessible, it's hardly uncommon to find someone taking minutes on a laptop or tablet as the meeting goes, which in turn makes things even faster as minutes can be e-mailed out directly after a meeting while it's fresh in everyone's memory. Each set of minutes should conclude with bullet points of what agreed actions need to be taken by whom before the next meeting. (Also makes addressing matters arrising much quicker)

Organisations quickly develop a reputation for being longwinded or professional etc. according to how they conduct their meetings. Make yours an exemplary example from day one. You will gain the respect of your attendees and those involved in your Neighborhood watch.

In the next article we'll be looking at your first month as a NHW, what to expect, what to do and how to prepare so that you get maximum exposure and input from your community.