Running a Successful Meeting I Said Order!

Ever feel like your board meetings last longer than Wagner's entire operatic Ring Cycle? They may not last nine hours, but even three hours is a long time to sit in a chair—especially when the agenda doesn't include the Flight of the Valkyries and there's no intermission to go get a soda and chips. The sentiment is usually something like, "We're all working, we're all busy, and we're all volunteers—so let's get this show on the road!"

Many board members and shareholders come to dread the monthly board meeting or annual shareholders meeting. Some report meetings drag on for hours, others feel that they're exercises in wasted time, and still others watch their meetings devolve into pointless shouting matches, complete with name-calling. A dysfunctional or non-existent meeting plan can be especially intimidating and demoralizing for a brand-new board member who may feel like a fish out of water to begin with.

Time Consuming Factors

"Everybody comes with the best of intentions," says David Baron, of Metro Management in Long Island City, a firm that manages about 16,000 apartments. "The problem is that many people are coming from work, so they are tired. Often they have not eaten. The meetings often run late, and sometimes they run off track, meaning they deviate from the agenda, or something related comes up. By the 9:30 hour, if you have started at 7:30, everybody is hungry and tired."

When a board member is late, the meeting gets off to an immediate sour start. People don't like to be kept waiting, especially if they are tired and hungry. Often it can't be helped, like when a traffic accident keeps someone sitting on the highway and unable to move, but sometimes people don't leave adequate time to arrive promptly, and that can lead to resentment before the meeting even gets underway.

"The biggest problem I find is that a lot of people are very busy with their work and their own personal lives," says Baron—which is the way it should be. After all, no one is being paid to sit in a board meeting.

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