Below is some guidance on how to prepare for and run meetings where decisions will be made by consensus. They seem like very obvious points, but it's amazing how often they aren't followed (and how much better meetings are when they are!).
Have a facilitator(s) for every meeting – this person would be decided for the next meeting at the end of each meeting.
The role of the facilitator (this is a summary – see facilitation document for more detail).
Before the meeting:
- To prepare the agenda and know what the points to be discussed and decisions to be made are.
- Go through the outstanding jobs from the previous meetings and put them at the beginning of the agenda document to go through at the start of the meeting.
During the meeting:
- To make sure we follow and cover everything on the agenda.
- To ensure that consensus is reached and understood by everyone, and that everyone participates in the process.
- To keep people to the point, watch for energy lows, move the process on of reaching decisions.
- At the end of the meeting
- Facilitate the evaluation of the meeting, tie up loose ends etc.
After the meeting:
- Create the new agenda and make it accessible for people to add items
Take minutes at each meeting as way of recording decisions, but also the discussion that lead to that decision.
During the meeting:
- Record important points of any discussion (not whole conversations but main points – this is useful to remember why we reached a certain consensus if it is questioned, or if we start having the discussion again at a later date).
- Record the consensus – it is helpful to put this in a box within the minutes to make it easy to find among the discussions. It is important to read this back to everyone during the meeting to check that everyone has reached the same consensus!
After the meeting:
- Go through the minutes typed at the meeting and make sure they are good record of the discussions and decisions taken at the meeting - clarify any points, finish off sentences, discussions written in note form etc.
3. Meeting preparation – everyone
- If you are going to do an update on, or want anything discussed at the meeting you need to:
- Fill in the meeting agenda preparation document that the facilitator will make accessible.
- Circulate a proposal and/or summary of what you want discussing, to people coming to the meeting, with any information that needs to be read for the discussion.
- Keep to the deadline for adding any item to the agenda.
- Reading other people's work:
- Before the meeting we must all read everything that everyone circulates to be discussed at the meeting (updates, items for the agenda, information etc).
4. The meeting - everyone
The order of the meeting is decided by the facilitator (included breaks factored in) but there are number of standard practices that will help the meeting along:
- Start off with how we're doing and anything that might effect us in the meeting or any expectations for the meeting
- Stick to the agenda and times – if we all agree that we need more time for a discussion we should set a limit to that extra time and stick to it.
- Use hands to signal to show that you want to talk – the facilitator will record the order of hands and name each person as it is their turn to speak
- Respect the right of the person speaking to speak, don't interrupt, listen to what they are saying.
- Try to make what you want to say clear and to the point. Stick to the point being discussed. If someone else has said it you don't need to say it again, just say you agree with that point. Remember that there is only so much time for discussion and everyone needs to have a chance to have input.
- Use hand signals, or coloured cards, to show agreement, make a technical point etc.
- Respect breaks – make sure we have real ones, leaving the meeting room, and stick to the time agreed
- Everyone bring a pen and paper and diaries to the meeting, and take a note of their own jobs during the meeting.
- Evaluate the end of the meeting