Let’s face it. We all have too many meetings.

If you’re in any kind of professional role, you sit through a massive amount of meetings. And how many of them are well-run? How many of them reach an objective, and provide takeaway actions and follow-up steps? Probably not many.

Local campaign meetings are an interesting animal. Not only do they serve the purpose of convening the team to lay out the campaign game plan, but they’re also used to motivate and engage volunteers. They’re different than board or business meetings in that way – for those, you have no choice but to be there. In a campaign meeting, the people in attendance are generally volunteers supporting the cause. So, there are things you might not do in “regular” meetings in order to keep people attending and active.

As a consultant, I’ve sat in hundreds upon hundreds of campaign meetings, and while my role in those meetings is rarely diving into the day-to-day of what festival the candidate is walking around on Saturday, I understand the purpose of taking advantage of having people together to have that conversation. The key to a good campaign meeting is still spending enough time on big picture strategy, so that all of the tactical pieces matter – and volunteers have a clear definition of it.

The evolution of local campaign meetings throughout a campaign is no surprise – early on, there’s lots of brainstorming as people on the team feel each other out, and everyone wants to be heard (which you kind of have to let happen to keep people engaged). As the campaign goes on, the more serious issues and strategies come to the forefront and the meetings become more streamlined. At the end, final plans are dictated to the group, and they take their orders out into the field. This has happened on 100% of the campaigns I’ve worked on, and I don’t know that it can go any other way.

I have a very firm rule when it comes to campaign meetings: If the person who held the same position before is in the room, when she speaks, everyone else listens. There is no substitute for on-the-job expertise, and if the previous incumbent is offering her time and wisdom, everything else takes a back seat. You’d be surprised how often this guidance is overlooked (or, worse, talked over).

Then, paid consultants come next. 🙂