Oct. 20 2017 07:00 AM

Many organizations have worthy goals, but inefficient meetings can reduce productivity.

People and organizations are always vying for our time. It can be family members, employees, or friends. Where do we draw the line or step forward to assist?

With changes and cuts to many programs we support, some of them have been eliminated or are now operated by part-time staff or volunteers. It can be challenging to hold a large event with so many constraints in people, time, and resources. And often we forget who are the beneficiaries of our time – youth, the disadvantaged, and those in need.

I am involved in a few organizations and dedicate time to attend meetings and participate in activities. Many groups struggle today with gaining new membership, maintaining current members, and engaging people in activities.

Most will say, “I do not have extra time. My plate is full.” And, there are few that can argue with them, as we all have obligations that need our attention.

However, at two meetings I attended this week, the same thing occurred – inefficient business meeting protocol. While I learned about parliamentary procedure in high school and participated on my FFA chapter’s competition team, I was by no means an expert on “Roberts Rules of Order.”

But, when motions are made incorrectly, voting procedure is not consistent, and people go off on tangents, valuable time gets wasted rehashing the discussion because nothing is addressed in a business-like manner. Instead of an hour meeting, it turns into 90 minutes or longer.

I do not mind a healthy discussion that consumes a good chunk of time, as long as there is solid discussion and a resolution takes place. The extended, circular discussions that lead to no meaningful outcomes drive me crazy. And after a few meetings like this, it is no wonder that attendance wanes and participation is lackluster.

But, how does someone with the expertise suggest to the leaders that they need to be more efficient in conducting the meeting? This is a real challenge for someone who is younger and a “non-native” (not raised in the community) to tell the senior leadership and those in attendance that they need to sharpen their skills or membership will continue to constrict.

And that is why youth programs like 4-H and FFA teach young people how to conduct a meeting, that so when they are adults, they can confidently lead a business meeting and be active participants in the decision-making process.

People have busy lives and they do not want the time they do invest to be wasted. I do not claim to have the answer. I will continue to be an active participant and volunteer, and will nudge the meetings along so they are swift, yet productive. And if people want to socialize after the event, I just might join them because that is called networking, and it’s needed, too.

Patti Hurtgen

The author is the online media manager and is responsible for the website, webinars, and social media. A graduate of Modesto Junior College and Fresno State, she was raised on a California dairy and frequently blogs on youth programs and consumer issues.