How to run a team meeting volunteers actually want to attend

It’s team meeting time. The volunteers have arrived, free tea and coffee has been served, everyone has taken their seats. How do you make the next hour the exciting, enthused exchange it is meant to be?

The potential is there, you just need to tap into it. Of course, although we are talking about volunteers here, you can take the following principles and apply them to employees, clients and partners too.

Set vision

Communicating vision inspires enthusiasm. Describing agendas rarely has the same effect. Chances are, you have a cause worth conversation, you’re headed in a direction that deserves discussion. Why not linger on that subject for a while? Remind people why they’re at that meeting: not just to get through an agenda but to build something they believe in. That they are doing something that really matters.


The right preparation can help a meeting flow for everybody. Some people spark with the spontaneous but others need to know what is happening to bring their full presence to the meeting. Sending out an agenda beforehand helps them to prepare for it. You can also emphasise the vision behind the agenda, so that they arrive inspired.

Sometimes posing a question in advance can spark imaginations.  Asking questions communicates that you care what your volunteers think. It gives them a chance to prepare their ideas on the subject and feel they are contributing something of value to the conversation. It also helps them to feel less like an attendant, more like a participant.

Position yourself

Your presence in a meeting sets the tone. If you arrive prepared, present, eager to learn from those attending -  people will feel it. Your energy will be contagious. But if the meeting feels like a chore to you, people will probably be checking their watches.

The team leader isn’t necessarily the best person to lead the meeting. If it’s not your skill then delegation is your friend. Entrusting a seasoned volunteer with the task communicates to other volunteers that their position is an honourable one. Then you can use your own skills where they matter most.

Part of the team

At the beginning of some meetings, we give every person time to share something personal. It could be what they did at the weekend, or an event that has happened in their lives recently. It shows that they matter to us. That we’re not only interested in what they do, but who and how they are.

Even allowing people to talk among themselves for a few minutes before a meeting can help. That way they feel they are coming to connect with other. It’s that team feeling. Building a sense of belonging into those attending your meeting is more important than anything else. It will achieve far more than an information download. You’ll probably gain a lot of valuable insights into your team. And volunteers will keep coming back to stay part of the team.

Create an atmosphere of encouragement

Use meetings as an opportunity to say why your volunteers are incredible. To speak specifically into who they are and what they bring to the team. It’s a chance to applaud their efforts and call out their qualities. It doesn’t just encourage those you single out but also inspires your volunteers to speak just as warmly about each other.

As a team you share responsibility, so if anything negative needs to be addressed, don’t blame anyone. If you need to speak to someone about something, wait until after the meeting. And even those people will have something good you can speak about, so let them know the ways they are brilliant too. More likely than not, they will want to keep coming back.

The next time you have an amazing meeting, note down why. Every team is different, so find out what makes their ideas and enthusiasm flow. There’s so much potential in your volunteers and your meetings. You have the power to bring it to the surface.

1 year ago | Thought Leaders

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