There’s a trend that’s been growing for decades – it’s called “meeting avoidance.” People sign up to be part of a cause, but with the passage of time more and more people fail to show up for meetings. One common reason for this decline is the “fact” that meetings are boring. What! Meetings boring??? How could this be??? We’ve all sat through meetings where we wish we could be anyplace else. We know we’re doing the right thing by attending, but we can’t wait for the meeting to end. While this is bound to happen from time to time, you can help change this trend.

Here’s what we know: we need to come together to share information and insights, create strategies, and celebrate what’s right. But as organizers we need to think of meetings differently: you have to keep them exciting and make them fun. Plan for meetings the same way you would plan for a personal small party. Create meetings that people want to attend. You might feel you’re too busy to put extra care and attention on meetings, but we ask that you reconsider your position. Think about the people invited to attend and the value of their time, connections, and experience. Here are four ways to avoid meeting avoidance.

Create consistency. Set a schedule of meeting dates/times in advance and keep to it. Send out agendas in advance. Share minutes that capture what actually happened during a meeting so those who could not attend can gain an understanding of what transpired. Share an up-to-date dashboard with information re: fundraising, finances, and programmatic work. Make sure meetings start and end on time.

Incentivize momentum. Offer fun and unexpected acknowledgements of people’s efforts and accomplishments. Establish quarterly milestones for the group and each individual and offer prizes for those who complete their agreed to “assignments” early. Reward the “most unexpected gift” of the quarter to encourage people to think outside the box.

Change things up. Have a guest speaker – virtual or in person. Have different hosts (or cohosts) for each meeting. Consider having meetings in unusual and inspiring but easy-to-access locations. Have a different member bring a fun snack to each meeting, perhaps with a short story to tell.

Structure success. Begin your meetings with an accountability roll call: each participant gives a one sentence overview of what they have to report. This creates incentive to be prepared. Make sure you have the “meeting before the meeting” reaching out to each person scheduled to attend to ensure they will participate, are prepared, and that they have all the information they need. Start small and plan big with projects that each member of the committee can participate in and show results

It is through meetings that we unleash a creative power that simply isn’t available with people “doing their own thing and checking in.” Yes, everyone needs to be active fulfilling their individual responsibilities, but we also need to come together to strategize, gain shared insights, and create solutions that are larger than any one of us.