Chapter Building Strategy 4: Holding an Effective Meeting

To make the most of your chapter’s “Visualize the Debt” activism event, make certain that anyone who even glances your way (hopefully everyone in sight!) is given something that encourages participation in a more in-depth look into the national debt, deficit/welfare/warfare spending, the Federal Reserve system, or the current economic crisis.  What follows are a few ideas to help your next meeting, where these ideas can be discussed, run a bit more smoothly. 

Check out last week’s Chapter Building Strategy 3: The Aesthetics of Tabling.

So, you grabbed someone’s attention with your giant debt display.  You engaged them at your table. And now they’re sitting five rows back at your post-debt meeting. Will they take interest in your group and become a consistently active member? This is the measure of the success for your recruitment efforts during your national debt activism.

It is essential for you to have a well-executed and organized meetings if you plan to make a good first impression and sustain membership growth. You have only 30-60 minutes (the optimal target is 45 minutes for a meeting length) to make your case, so how do you make the most of it?

First, be organized and look professional. Arrive to the meeting place at least 15-30 minutes ahead of time to make certain that the room is unlocked and multimedia equipment is functioning properly before people begin arriving. If a member of your group is going to be speaking, it is preferable to have a PowerPoint style presentation to give which will keep the discussion focused and can be prepared beforehand. This method also allows the use of other digital media resources such as photos, videos, and demonstrations of internet tools.

Make sure your meeting room is recognizable. Set up your table outside of it or near a major entrance of the building to direct people to the room. You don’t want to lose a potential recruit just because they can’t find your meeting. Even if you have already been handing out materials (such as a semester event calendar) at your table, have them available at your meeting.

During the meeting, maintain a good level of control over the discourse and direction of what may be discussed. Depending on the number of people, you can easily get carried off topic and waste other’s time. Stay on task and make sure you accomplish everything you intend before moving to unscheduled topics. Allow different members of the leadership to discuss different sections of a meeting.  This provides some variety in speaking styles and serves to introduce new members to the leadership.

Because the political message of YAL is not mainstream or commonly discussed, you will want to avoid as much confusion about the ideas of liberty as possible.  The actual content of an information meeting needs to be very specific.   For example, if this is your first meeting with many new members, you will want to discuss(1) what you believe and (2) what you plan to do about it. 

1. The “what we believe” section of the information meeting can be approached in several ways. There have already been many presentations prepared explaining the philosophy of liberty. Many of these are available on the internet in the form of presentations or videos.

YAL’s own Vladimir Rodenko has created a South-Park-themed philosophy of liberty presentation which can be a humorous way to give the discussion. There are also several YouTube videos which you may find helpful to enhance your presentation.  Be sure to think ahead about what approach will be the most palatable to your anticipated audience. Regardless of how the topic is approached, make certain that someone with good rhetorical skills confidently, clearly, and concisely delivers the presentation. 

Check out the materials I’ve mentioned here in YAL’s chapter materials section:

2. The “what we plan to do about it” part of the presentation should come next. First, explain the structure of your own group, introducing leaders if you have not already done so. Explain the history of YAL National and the history of your own YAL chapter.

Next, and most important, explain to potential new recruits what your immediate goals are, your plans for activities during the semester, and what activities and leadership positions are available to engage in. It will be handy to have your calendars available here as an illustration. This is where your group can solidify the participation of your members. Give them somewhere to plug in and they will have a reason to come back

Some members may be content just to come to meetings, but many will find other things to engage their time if you don’t.  Come to the meeting ready with activism ideas that new members need to step into. Have a variety of events from education to activism to social interaction that members can engage in. Don’t expect everyone to do something, but this will begin to create an environment of community within the group that will aid in solidifying the group’s sustainability.

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