Ten tips for running effective meetings with youth

Meetings for and with youth can be a wonderful learning experience when conducted properly. Follow these tips for success at your next meeting.

One of the Michigan 4-H Guiding Principles reads, “Youth are considered participants rather than recipients in the learning process,” this involves, “opportunities for shared decision-making, planning and program implementation.” Engaging youth in meaningful roles as leaders in meetings and groups provides opportunities for leadership and instills a sense of civic responsibility.

Consider using these tips at your next meeting:

  1. Set ground rules
    Establish agreed upon policies for expected behavior during the meeting. It’s most effective when these are established during a meeting and agreed-upon by the entire group. Keep these posted in visible location during all proceeding meetings.
  2. Recite pledges
    In 4-H, youth recite the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance followed by the 4-H pledge. Reciting the pledges at each meeting instills a sense of belonging within the organization and amongst each other.
  3. Utilize club officer roles
    Nominating and electing youth to leadership roles as officers of the organization provides experience in formal leadership roles. Additionally, youth serving as officers increases their self-confidence and further invests them in the organization. Consult Michigan 4-H Youth Development’s Helping You Help Officers and Committees for more information on typical officer roles used in 4-H.
  4. Establish a meeting agenda
    Business is addressed most effectively when an agenda is used. Consider setting a time limit for the business portion of the meeting or on individual discussion topics in order to keep meetings from running too late.
  5. Have fun
    Include icebreakers and team builders to incorporate elements of fun and familiarize youth with each other. If adults are participating in the meeting, encourage them to participate in the activities as well. This equalizes youth and adults, and establishes shared respect for both parties.
  6. Foster learning
    Plan educational programs, demonstrations or activities in order to infuse “learning” into club meetings. Invite experts, guest speakers or suggest meeting attendees share relevant information that they may be knowledgeable about through demonstrations. It can be difficult to instill the importance of attending the meeting when business is always the only focus. Provide opportunities for attendees to enhance their skill level or expertise.
  7. Involve youth in planning
    Meet with youth officers or teen leaders in advance of the meeting to prepare. Always involve youth in the agenda writing process and resist the temptation to simply hand an agenda over to youth. Involving youth in the process assures that they understand the topics to be discussed and are invested in discussion to follow.
  8. Follow-up
    Appoint a youth member (a wonderful role for the Vice President) to follow-up with any individuals who have volunteered to work on something before the next meeting. Committees that forget to meet only stall the work of the entire group. Also, assure presenters or guest speakers are well prepared for their presentation date.
  9. Use a fair system for decision making
    This is often in the form of parliamentary procedure or Roberts Rules of Order, but a group can also choose to use consensus-building strategies. Make sure all group members’ voices are heard. This may involve pausing a meeting to assure that decisions are being made with consideration to all points of view. In a mixed meeting with both youth and adults, taking time to hear youth opinions and concerns is especially important. Adults may too quickly voice their opinions and discourage youth from speaking up.
  10. Celebrate successes
    Appropriate recognition reinforces successes and provides affirmation for individuals working on a project. Visit the Michigan 4-H Recognition Handbook for ideas for appropriate recognition for clubs and groups.

Following these ten tips will help ensure that youth are actively engaged in meetings and that meetings effectively balance elements of fun, business and learning.

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