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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Useless Meetings

“Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side”
For What it's Worth, Buffalo Springfield

 In sadness and frustration, I walked out of another meeting today. We Progressives have seen more of them than we can count- meetings that accomplish little more than making the organizers feel that they “did something,” and maybe passed along some warm fuzzies, or more likely a vague dissatisfaction. They never seem to realize that people's time and money are precious, and that the huge tasks we have to handle are too big and too urgent for farting around. I've seen many well-intentioned projects stall out and accomplish nothing because of this basic lack or organization. You know exactly what I mean, if you're willing to admit it.

I've seen what works, and I've seen what doesn't. Off the top of my head-


Meetings in general must provide:

  1. A challenge to the attendees to change something in their lives or to tackle a task- to ACT.
  2. Some new and interesting idea, not just a minor detail on something everyone already knew.
  3. An Action Plan- What do we do next? What do I do next?
  4. Some deeper insight than,”Yup, we're the good guys and they're the bad guys.”
  5. Definite solace to people who've been hurt- with a plan of how to help, even if it's just active sympathy and meals for a week.
  6. Clear affirmation that a good, or bad, situation is what it appears to be, and that we're there for each other in it.
  7. A progress report of a quality and clarity that you could publish.
Any meeting without at least two of these is questionable. Any with NONE was a waste of time.


Business meetings must have a clear, logical flow, including:-

  1. A clear agenda, either passed out or posted in big letters- and followed loudly and clearly.
  2. Time to clearly discuss/debate any item to be voted on.
  3. Candidates for offices speaking before the whole group before a vote is taken.
Failure to follow these will lead to confusion and resentment. If your group is incorporated, skipping them is likely illegal.


If it's an outdoor meeting-

  1. Provide LOTS of big, clearly legible signage saying-
    1. Who is welcome.
    2. Where the meeting is.
    3. Where to park.
    4. When and where any formal meeting will convene.
  2. If it's anything but a “blowing off steam” party, don't play music- it will limit conversation to trivialities. You will also annoy other people around you.
  3. If you have outdoor cooked food, make sure that it is ready to go, and has adequate staff. For two people to serve 100 people could easily take two hours- two hours of hot sun, hungry, crabby folks, and mosquitoes.
  4. Don't forget the drinks, the cooler, the napkins...


If it's a recruiting booth at an event-

  1. Have big, clear signage announcing who you are- mounted above and behind your people.
  2. Have “tagline” signage to pique people's interest.
  3. Have well-informed, briefed, people manning the booth.
  4. Have plenty of colorful, obviously informative literature. You have about 1/2 second to get your main idea across.
  5. Don't assume that anyone passing by has any idea of who you are or what you stand for.
  6. Saturate appropriate media ahead of time with the fact that you'll be there and why. Pay if you have to- then become so interesting that you won't have to the next time.
These are just for starters. There are more such rules, but you get the idea.

It may surprise you to know that there's a Right Wing, Conservative, Tea Party version of the Local Foods Movement. True, they do tend to be white, straight, Christians who are more concerned with keeping Commies out of government, the US out of the UN, and fluoride out of their water, than with social justice or sustainability. But, they know and use these rules. So do Corporate shills- which is why they're kicking the butts of arguably saner, more reality-based folks lately.

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