Experience provided by IFLA New Professionals Special Interest Group (NPSIG)

The truth is from time and time, one is tasked to organise a meeting with peers by virtue of being a new staff. This task seems easy and simple but can be challenging and time consuming if you are inexperienced. Even worse if you are tasked to draft the meeting agenda indicating time and responsibility. Sometimes this happens because of the unclear instructions given by your boss or by the project lead. As an emerging professional, one tends to panic and over-provide due to lack of knowledge or limited experience. As part of the continued professional growth, we search Google for tips for how to come up with interesting agenda items to entice the targeted audience.

As effort of re-medifying this daunting task, especially dealing with the havoc of unwritten meeting rules and poor articulation of what is expected from attendees, we stumbled in a piece of work by Bieraugel (2017) on “liberating structures in academic libraries to increased productivity and staff engagement.” Given the analysis, most of our traditional meetings are likely to fall within 5 categories also known as “The Big 5”. These are: 1) giving a status report on a certain issue 2) brainstorming certain ideas 3) deliberating a pertinent issue openly (without agenda) 4) engaging on a well-managed discussion (with agenda) and 5) giving a formal presentation. Does this apply in the world dominated by the use of virtual technology such as Zoom, Teams etc.?

Like in other networks, the ‘mammoth hustle’ of organising meeting is a must-do-task. Apart from meetings, one is also expected to be proactive and take charge in coordinating surveys or strategic reviews in a manner that is pulling more people to participate. Equally, presenting reports and giving feedback are normally a to-do-task. Such an unanticipated phenomenon require one to be well acquainted with latest information, research on trends and preparation of motions, interjection of arguments and clarification of matters when needed.

I decided to research this gap. Interestingly and surprisingly, I discovered how some academic leaders and event organisers are adapting a new strategy of spelling out the meeting/workshop rules and expectations beforehand. This is not only done to avoid disappointment and wasted time during the meeting, but to empower emerging graduates and library leaders who are struggling to either organise events or run a meeting logically. Upon interrogating various articles, I decided to review the following tips and share with you as part of the continued professional development exercise:

  1. The meeting information/invitation (written or oral) – What to pay attention as key metrics RSVP date; send invites via print letter, confirm via email/WhatsApp group/Text Message
  2. Reflect on what is required – e.g., formal invitation, email, time, total number of invitees, requirement to acknowledge/give formal apology
  3. What is expected to be done before and during the meeting? – Taking actions/consensus Minute taking, moderating
  4. What is the meeting desire to accomplish & any ultimate objective/outcomes – Who is accountable to share the meeting resolutions/outcomes?
  5. What are the “do and don’ts” at the meeting? – House-keeping rules, parking ideas, directions, communication orders, presenting motions through the chair, asking to be excused, intervention duration, use of camera, etc.
  6. What type of venue/space is appropriate (virtual) – Document needed for discussion, previous minutes, policies, reports
  7. Sitting arrangement – How should the table be arranged; VIPs, Keynote of address, guests.
  8. Kind of equipment/supporting tools required – (Bear in mind the security of participants, personal belonging during breaks/lunch) Laptop, projector, white boards, speakers, writing pads, WIFI
  9. Is there a need to arrange refreshments? Third-party service? – Time allocated for breaks, attendees’ preferences (be health conscious for vegans, fruitarians, vegetarians)
  10. What kind of logistic needed by attendees? – transport / accommodation /allowances Attendees’ profiles, geographical location, allowances
  11. Defined roles and expectations – Who is chairing the meeting? What is expected from participants?
  12. Are the written report/presentation – Assigning time for deliberation; minute takers, timekeeper, resolutions
  13. Meeting flow/time allocation/way forward – What is expected after the meeting, deadline for feedback, action taken, recommendation

Author: Jacobina Mwiiyale, University of Namibia – Member IFLA New Professionals Special Interest Group

Adopted from Bieraugel, M. (2017). Never be bored at a meeting again! Using Liberating Structures in academic libraries for increased productivity, employee engagement, and inclusion. College & Research Libraries News, 78(8), 426.