Convening Guide

Conveners are generally responsible for making sure the team meetings happen and making it as easy as possible for people to attend the meeting and do the work of the team. The convener role can rotate as the team sees fit.

At it simplest convening is just scheduling meetings and telling people when/where it is. The rest of this guide is just details.

Principles

Clarity and Certainty – The role of the convener is to create clarity and certainty:
Certainty that the meeting is going to happen (or not).
Clarity about when/where the meeting is happening, what will be discussed there, etc.

Make questions simple – Most convening happens digitally and providing too many options or asking too complicated questions over text is very difficult. Open ended questions (like “When do we want to meet?”) are harder to respond to. Keep questions about dates/times etc very clear and simple (This or that. Yes or no.) Complicated questions are for during the meeting.

Sometimes you need to just decide – Sometimes you won’t hear from everyone or be able to reach a digital consensus quickly on when/where to meet. If time is running out it can be best to just make the best decision you can based on the input you’ve received.   

Tasks of convening:

  1. Scheduling / rescheduling meeting
    1. You can use scheduling tools like http://whenisgood.net/ or http://doodle.com/ to find times that work for a group of people (easier than a bunch of emails back and forth)
    2. Finding a regular day/time is ideal (like the 1st wednesday of each month at 6pm). Using schedulers for every meeting can get tiring. Often the first meeting can be decided with a scheduler, then decide the regular time at that first meeting.
    3. A regular location is good so people know to always go to the same place.
    4. Eugene Specific: One of the Growers Market rooms can be reserved by writing on the physical calendar in the room. Put “NAC,” the time, and your phone number.
    5. If a meeting needs to be rescheduled it’s best to figure that out as soon as possible. Last minute rescheduling is stressful and it’s usually easier to just cancel.
  2. Draft Agenda
    1. Start a draft agenda as soon as possible on Cryptpad or Google Docs
    2. It can be useful to include a short mission or purpose statement at the top of the agenda so people understand the main goals.
    3. Basic outline:
      1. Check ins
      2. Review agenda
      3. Review previous tasks
      4. [Agenda items]
      5. Review time of next meeting
      6. Process review / Appreciations
    4. Invite people to add agenda items
  3. Announcing meetings
    1. Once the meeting is scheduled you can announce it in the appropriate Slack channel or email list
    2. Include a draft agenda if possible and invite people to add agenda items
  4. Meeting reminders
    1. Send meeting reminders a couple days before the meeting and the day of the meeting
    2. 80% of organizing is reminders
    3. Include all the important information: Date, Time, Location, Agenda
    4. Make note if anything is different than normal (different location, different time, etc)
    5. Let people know that if they can’t make a meeting they can still send ideas/feedback via email or commenting on the agenda document
  5. Ensure there’s a facilitator
    1. Conveners don’t need to facilitate meetings but can ensure there is a facilitator or ask who wants to facilitate at the beginning of the meeting
    2. It can often work well for the convener to facilitate the first couple meetings of a new team/group
  6. Ensure there are notes
    1. Similarly, a convener doesn’t need to take notes, but can ensure that someone is taking notes.
    2. And ensures that the next steps and notes are sent out after the meeting
  7. Check in with people about tasks
    1. Depending on what the team wants, a convener can also send out reminders about tasks between meetings


This may seem like a lot but remember that convening really is just scheduling meetings and telling people when/where it is. This is just a lot of details of how to do that to help you along.

Any questions? Additional ideas to include in this guide? Things that could be simpler? Other feedback? Please send them to zack@neighborhoodanarchists.org