Participating Effectively in Meetings

Welcome to Episode 9 of Our Student Voice.

To view and interact with the introductory video, click on Start Here in the video screen.

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Meetings

As a Class Representative in TU Dublin, you will be invited to participate in meetings with lecturers, with managers and with other students.

Meetings are widely used in TU Dublin as a means of sharing information, collecting views and reaching decisions on important matters. Many of these are matters that will directly affect you and your classmates.

Therefore, it is essential that you are able to effectively participate in the meetings to which you are invited by presenting opinions and influencing decision making.

To do so, you need to understand how meetings work, and how best to contribute.

As a Class Representative, you need to remember that you are representing not just your own views, but the views of your classmates when you attend meetings. 

Therefore, you need to engage with your classmates in advance of the meeting and as a follow up from the meeting.

There are a range of other things you can and should do to ensure you effectively participate in meetings.

As a class representative, or as a student in TU Dublin, it is important that you remember the following when you are participating in meetings:

Prepare in advance of the meeting: You should review the agenda, documentation, previous minutes and previous actions; seek input from classmates; request agenda items if necessary; and note anything that you would like to raise.

Contribute professionally at the meeting: When called upon, you should focus on your role as a representative, speak clearly and confidently, depersonalise any comments, and be constructive.

Follow up after the meeting: You should provide a verbal or written report to your classmates after the meeting. If any actions have been assigned to you, you should carry them out as soon as possible.

All meetings should have a Chairperson and an agenda. The Chairperson is the person who calls and organises the meeting. The agenda sets out the purpose for the meeting and the topics that will be opened for discussion. 

The chairperson puts the agenda together, but usually issues an invitation to the people who will be attending the meeting to add relevant items to the agenda.

Once the agenda is finalised, it is circulated to all the people who will be attending. This should take place well in advance of the meeting to enable people to prepare effectively for the meeting.

Preparation involves reviewing the agenda in advance of the meeting and thinking about the contributions to make. 

Often, documentation will be circulated with the agenda. This might be, for example, a draft policy or a new module descriptor. It should be clear in the agenda why these are being circulated. For example, they may be circulated for discussion at the meeting, or the meeting may be asked to approve them. 

Discussion and approval are quite different matters. Discussion means that views will be sought which may influence the contents of the document. Approval means that the meeting will be asked to agree that the document is adopted e.g. that the new module should be added to a programme.

In addition, the minutes from the previous meeting will be circulated in advance of the meeting. This is a record of the discussion and decisions at the previous meeting. The most important part of the minutes is the set of actions agreed and recorded in the minutes.

As a Class Representative, there are a number of important things you need to do ahead of a meeting.

  • First, you should consult with your classmates to ask if there are any items that they would like to be discussed at the meeting. For example, if you are meeting with the Programme Team, you might want to find out from your classmates if there are any important items that need to be discussed with lecturers e.g. assessment deadlines. You can then ask the Chairperson if this can be added to the agenda for the meeting. The Chairperson may decide that this is not appropriate for this meeting, but they should nonetheless be able to advise you on how best to progress the matter. In most cases, the item will be added to the agenda, or considered under one of the existing agenda items (for example, many meetings involving students have an item at every meeting - called a "standing item" - on "Student Feedback").
  • Second, you should review the minutes of the previous meeting to see if there were any actions assigned to you, or to the previous Class Representative. If so, you should ensure that the action is carried out, as you will be asked to report to the meeting about the status of the action. If the action cannot be carried out, you can report to the meeting on the reasons for this.
  • Third, you should review all the agenda items to see what it is intended to be discussed at the meeting and what - if anything - will be considered for approval at the meeting. While reviewing the agenda, you should identify items that are of relevance for you and your classmates.
  • Fourth, you should consult with your classmates to get their views on the various items. Remember, you are representing not just your own voice, but the voice of all your classmates.
  • Fifth, you should record the date and time of your meeting in your diary. Don't be late for the meeting!

Finally, if you are unable to attend a meeting to which you are invited, you should inform the Chairperson and ask that your "Apologies" are recorded. In this case, the minutes will formally record your name under an entry called "Apologies".

The first step to contributing professionally at a meeting is to show up on time. Many people like to show up early for meetings so that they can have a casual conversation with the other attendees who are early. This can help people feel more comfortable when making contributions at the meeting.

Showing up late for meetings is unprofessional practice, but if it cannot be avoided, you should indicate to the Chairperson in advance that you will not be able to attend on time.

When you wish to make a contribution at the meeting you should raise your hand and wait to be called upon by the Chairperson. When called upon, you should speak confidently and directly, making eye contact with the Chairperson and the other attendees. Your use of language can demonstrate your confidence - use assertive language such as "I recommend that" where possible.

If people at the meeting disagree with you, don't consider this a personal offence. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss matters and make decisions. Meetings do not benefit from people agreeing for the sake of agreement. Effective meetings benefit from people expressing their views clearly and professionally.

If you do not agree with something said at a meeting, you have every right to express this at the meeting.

When disagreeing in a meeting, you - and everyone else - needs to ensure that they focus on the topic and not the person. Personal comments, confrontation, interrupting, loud voices and strong emotions are not professional and will not help the meeting achieved its objective. Remind yourself of the ABCD of effective feedback in advance of meetings (See Episode 6: Providing Constructive Feedback to Enhance the Student Learning Experience).

If, as a Class Representative, you are asked for the views of the student body or your classmates on a matter and you are unsure of the views, it is ok to inform the meeting that you will follow up with others and get back to the Chairperson. If necessary, ask to defer the decision to allow you to consult with your class so you can make an informed decision.

Your should pay attention and take notes throughout the meeting. At the next meeting, you will be asked to approve the minutes of this meeting. The minutes are a formal record of the meeting, so when the minutes are agreed it reflects the views of the attendees that the minutes are accurate. Sometimes minutes contain inaccuracies - for example, they may indicate that something was agreed that had not been agreed. This is not a problem (everyone makes mistakes from time to time!) once it is corrected when the minutes are being considered for adoption at the next meeting. If you are able to consult your own notes from the previous meeting you will be able to assure yourself that the minutes are accurate.

Finally, contribute to the meeting. It is your opportunity to have your voice heard, and to have the voice of your classmates heard. If you attend a meeting and don't make any contributions, you should reflect afterward on why this happened (See Episode 5: Reflecting on my Experience).

As a Class Representative, your responsibilities primarily relate to representing the voices of your classmates.

Therefore, after a meeting you should provide an update to your classmates on the matters that were discussed, the decisions that were reached and the actions that were agreed.

Some of these actions will have been assigned to you. It is important that you follow up on these actions in advance of the next meeting. When minutes are being reviewed in a meeting, all the people to whom actions have been assigned will be asked to report on the status of their actions. If you need assistance with carrying out an action assigned to you, you can contact the Student's Union for advice.

Finally, it is always a good idea to actively reflect after a meeting on what went well, and what you would do differently the next time. See Episode 5: Reflecting on my Experience.

These learning activities are designed to help you develop the knowledge and skills required for this episode. These learning activities are also a requirement for the Active Class Representative, Curriculum Co-Designer, and Quality Assurance Expert Digital Badges.

Learning Activity 9.1. Your First Meeting

After your first meeting, use the reflection framework to analyse the meeting. If you felt you couldn’t participate, what can you do differently next time? Consider how you communicated, do you make an IMPACT? What did the other people in the meeting do? Who impressed you in the meeting? Why?

If you are working towards a Digital Badge, include this (or a link to this) in your E-Portfolio.

Learning Activity 9.2. Your Year Long Experience

At the end of your term as a Class Representative, identify the best meeting you attended. Identify the reasons why this meeting worked so well.

If you are working towards a Digital Badge, include this (or a link to this) in your E-Portfolio.