Getting Comfortable

After working as an association coordinator for six months, I am starting to feel comfortable in my role. I have learned how to respond to more complicated requests and to solve unexpected problems. I have become comfortable with the membership management system that we use. And I’m getting the hang of certain unique elements of the association management world. I’ve gone through the membership renewal process, the organization of a certification exam, and have gained valuable experience working with the board. Although I was feeling well-versed in everyday tasks, processes, and standards, I was still lucky enough to be gaining new experience, dealing with new situations, and figuring things out all the time. The most recent new experience I was involved in was an in-person association board meeting.

Discussion Points

I had gained experience taking meeting minutes for an association teleconference meeting a few times prior to my first time attending an in-person meeting. From a recording standpoint, I noticed multiple noteworthy differences between holding a face-to-face meeting and listening in on a teleconference meeting. The three main differences are:

  • Preparation
  • Summarizing conversations
  • Reading the room

In the following blog, I will outline personal advantages, remarks, and differences that I noticed between my own experience taking minutes during a teleconference and my first experience attending a board meeting in person.

Preparation: The Key to Running a Successful Association Board Meeting

From an administrative side, there were subtle, but crucial, differences for me when preparing for an in-person meeting. Comparatively, had I stuck to the same schedule and planning format used for teleconferences, the meeting would not have gone as well. It was important to get the planning process started earlier than what I was used to. Although most of the travel and hotel arrangements were the responsibility of the executive director, I was responsible to ensure that people had their flights booked on time, hotel rooms reserved, and accommodate all dietary restrictions. Since I needed to account for accumulating this extra information, it was necessary to reach out to the board earlier than usual. By starting the conversation more than three weeks in advance, it allowed my call for documents to go out much earlier and gave the board time to think about topics they wanted on the agenda. This gave the chair and executive director ample time to ensure that the agenda would be full of meaningful and important discussions. I also wanted to have all board travel expenses reimbursed and necessary meeting documents printed before we met so that I could achieve a great first impression!

Keep it Concise: Summarizing Conversations for Efficient Minutes

The major difference between a teleconference and an in-person meeting is the amount of time being spent discussing each agenda item. After taking minutes for a few teleconferences, I started to learn how to pull out key points, action items, and overall themes while leaving out the small amounts of chit chat. From a new staff member’s point of view, I knew that summarizing an hour-long discussion on one topic would be much different than what I was used to. It was especially important not to dwell on writing down everything that was being said, which would result not only in a sore hand, but a lot of unnecessary information being recorded. I made certain to listen to the discussions for a few minutes at a time and then did my best to summarize the overall feelings and important points that were made throughout the meeting. I found that this technique makes for more efficient and useful minutes when it comes time to review them for the next meeting. My first experience recording minutes at an in-person association board meeting was not an easy task, but it certainly was a task that will become less overwhelming as I gain more experience.

Reading the Room: Getting to Know the Board in a New Way

Prior to this meeting, my only experience with the board was either over teleconference or email. I could recognize a voice or two, but it was always hard to distinguish who was speaking and how others were truly reacting to discussions, but the in-person meeting brought my recording ability to a whole new level. I was now able to accurately identify who was speaking and was better able to capture their feelings about the topic. Contrary to teleconferences, the fact that I was now able to observe body language and emotions made it possible for me to gauge the way the rest of the room was receiving and interpreting each conversation. It made a world of a difference to listen to a conversation in person as opposed to hearing it over the phone. Now that I am able to recognize board member voices, and have gotten to know their personalities, my ability to record minutes for future teleconferences will improve significantly!

Overall Feelings: My First In-Person Association Board Meeting

The interesting thing to appreciate about association boards is that each member is there to volunteer their time because they love what they do and want to help their profession progress. Each board member brings something unique to the table and I loved experiencing that first-hand. From a recording stand-point, it was very different than taking minutes during a teleconference. This new experience allowed me to work on a new techniques and skills that will time to master, but was certainly a valuable learning experience that can now be applied to other areas of my work.