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Throughout the summer, I’ve been attempting to treat my Professional Work Experience as more than just an internship. Of course, I’ve been having an incredible work experience here at Girls on the Run, but I’ve been framing it in my mind as a long-term professional development opportunity. To do so, I’ve not only been focusing on my GOTR access and inclusion project – which you’ll get a full update on next week – but I’ve also been trying to gain a deeper understanding of nonprofits and myself along the way. These ten weeks provide the perfect opportunity for so many different types of growth, so why not take advantage of everything that comes along?

This week, Shelli Grogg (yes, us summer bloggers are friends!) and I attended a professional development event hosted by the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) – Triangle NC. This event was entitled “The Logistics and The Love” and focused on providing tactical tools to lead a meeting that empowers all employees. We participated in roundtables to discuss four key ways to have better meetings. One of my favorite parts of this event is that I left each table with real, practical advice to take home with me – so I wanted to share some of that with you.

Make meetings more creative.

Invite as few people as possible to create a comfortable environment for taking risks. Use the “yes, and…” improvisation technique to capture ideas before critiquing them. Give participants the freedom to move, doodle, or color.

Make meetings more equitable.

Consider rotating the time and place of meetings to give different people the opportunity to attend. Remove barriers, such as jargon and acronyms, from conversations. Be open to new ideas and fresh perspectives. Encourage different people to speak by rotating facilitation duties and asking for ideas from all participants.

Make meetings more efficient and engaging.

Ask participants in advance for updates that should be included on the agenda, and then stick to that agenda. Use evaluation forms to determine group preferences. Reserve “open space” on the meeting agenda for any hot topics people would like to talk about.

Make meetings more actionable.

Open meetings with a “mission moment” – an interesting statistic, quote, or story – to capture attention. At the start of each meeting, ask each participant to answer the question: “What is this meeting about?” in five words or less. Finish each meeting with the question: “Who will do what, by when?” to make sure that there is clear accountability for all action items.

It was absolutely fascinating to think about these four aspects of “better meetings” in hindsight. I’ve led and participated in many meetings, and it’s always eye-opening to identify my personal areas of improvement. While here at GOTR I mostly observe and participate in meetings, I led quite a few in my role with Gamma Phi Beta Sorority (for a refresher, see this blog post for more details). As a Chapter Advisor, I led at least 2 virtual group meetings and approximately 5-10 one-on-one meetings each month. These provide the perfect opportunity for me to practice some new facilitation tips and tricks! I’m looking forward to trying them out.

The YNPN event organizers closed the session by reminding us all to “lead from where you are.” As an emerging professional myself, this resonated with me. It’s always meaningful to hear that leadership doesn’t necessarily come from the top. Anyone can be a leader or a change-maker, if they have the mindset and courage to do so. This reminded me of the Girls on the Run value to “stand up for ourselves and others” – and, as always, I’m intrigued by how well values intended for 8-11 year old girls are so transferable to my own adult life.

The opinions expressed here are solely my opinions. Content published here is not read or approved by Girls on the Run® International and does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Girls on the Run® International.

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