Yes, Annual General Meetings CAN be exciting!
Every non-profit organization is required to bring its members together once a year to discuss and vote on issues and activities for the upcoming year. While you prep the ho-hum stuff like voting cards, you can still ensure that attendees end up enjoying themselves at the event when they come. Annual meetings need not be boring!
- Write a detailed agenda out for your President or Chair, including all start times, housekeeping items and speaker bios. Walk through it with him/her step-by-step, allowing he/she to add in notes and appropriate jokes to keep the meeting light. If you have a Vice President or Chair, allow him/her to take a turn at leading the meeting as well!
- If you are a large group, provide coffee and tea at the back of the room and have the Chair encourage members to replenish their cups during the meeting to avoid the disruption of a break
- Bring in a keystone speaker to give a presentation of interest to your members following the business portion of your AGM. Better yet, brief the speaker on current issues in your organization so that she/he can speak to these in the presentation.
- Setup 1-2 floor mics within the audience, depending on the number of attendees, and have the Chair encourage questions throughout the meeting.
- Invite students from partner institutions to bear witness to your organization's voting process. Better yet, present to them a month ahead and encourage them to bring an issue forward to the membership at the Annual Meeting (a voting member should assist in presenting the issue).
- Assign a mixed seating arrangement that combines older members with new or younger members, to get those connections happening. Create table labels for each of your members, and allow new members to create their own on-site.
- Make the voting fun! Set up iClickers for your members so that they can vote on each issue discussed electronically - vote tallies will show up within seconds as a graph on the screen in front of them.
- Honour long-standing members of your organization each year by preparing a gift or plaque for them and conducting a photo shoot with members of your Executive team.
- Invite your organization's political connections - Ministers, MLAs or the Mayor - depending on your position on particular issues in your industry. Invitations should specify their involvement in the event (i.e. - bringing greetings, meeting members, etc.)
- If you work within a male-dominant industry and you have a membership over 100, hold a special women's breakfast or lunch to build up a network of support.
Whether you are preparing for 30 or 150, executing an annual meeting for a non-profit organization can be interesting after all. Your delegates will thank you if you add in a couple of new pieces each year, so don't worry about restructuring the entire thing. In addition to creating a more engaging event, these changes will show innovation within the organization - bonus!
Best of luck to you this conference season!