How to Preside Without Being Overbearing
Creating Substantive Agendas
Create agendas with an order that makes sense and is considerate of the members
As has been emphasized before, every organization is different. Sometimes there are very important issues that need to be discussed and debated thoroughly. We’ve all had meetings that went on too long as members slowly left before a critical piece of business could be reached. Then afterward accusations of foul play are leveled by members that feel like the motion or resolution was purposefully put at the end of the agenda to take advantage of the reduced attendance. Avoid these pitfalls by placing important matters first. Sometimes placing them before Officers Reports, near the beginning of the meeting is highly advisable. Have a motion that affects the treasurer? Place it directly after the treasurer’s report. Have a bunch of events that people should be aware of? Maybe consider placing Good of the Order at the beginning of the meeting when the most people are present to hear them. Make the best agenda to handle the meeting at hand. Don’t stick to a traditional order just for the sake of tradition.
The agenda should make the members feel like coming to the meeting
This one can be tricky. A barebones agenda may make people think that there will be nothing substantive to discuss and cause them to not attend. At other times, having a packed schedule may overwhelm members and cause important matters to fall over to the next meeting in Old Business. Members need to feel like they are accomplishing something to remain engaged. Consider placing small interesting motions on the agenda to make people want to attend. Use your resolutions or issues committee to have a topical issue relating to the current political issues at each meeting. Get creative!
Keep the objectives of the organization in mind
Remember, the objective of our local party organizations is “to help get Democrats elected”. Having speakers and videos dealing with educating members on topics is a great component we can put in our meetings but when those items monopolize the time or break the focus of your organization from a political to an educational one or a social club, we can easily allow our organization to lose its effectiveness.
Show leadership in bringing business before the assembly
As discussed in section b, show leadership by placing motions on the agenda ahead of time. Committees can often bring motions forward to help address their particular goals. Don’t wait to find out at the meeting, reach out ahead of time and ask for any motions or changes they’d like to see and help them craft those motions.
Communicate your expectations
Sometimes our meetings are jam-packed with business and members need to read a resolution ahead of time or get up to speed on a particular issue in the news to help expedite debate and make sure everyone is informed ahead of time. Put those items in a “Recommended Reading/Viewing” section of the agenda so people aren’t caught unaware.