Annual General Meeting – Where is the beer?

Euphonium Beer

Community band AGM — am I back in the 1950’s?

So I turned up to my community Concert Band practice, my electrical engineering and Euphonium playing buddy drops it on me. Tonight is the night of the Annual General Meeting (AGM) for the whole band organisation of 6 ensembles. Once a year they destroy a rehearsal with an AGM. As I have just joined this band I wasn’t sure what I was in for but I did notice there was no beer. Other band organisation AGMs I have been to before have included beer.

The meeting – When will this be over?

The next thing I know they are calling the meeting to order, not a good sign. So we all take our seats. The president of the association gets up and opens the meeting, does a spiel on the achievements of the organisation, thanks to all the volunteers for their work and outlines that we are going to hear from the treasurer, membership officer and all of the conductors. Yes, I think to myself this is really happening. I’m not at a meeting I’m at a presentation which I haven’t signed up for and still, there is no sign of beer but now I’m thinking a chamomile tea might be nice and I could have a nap.

Couldn’t I just look that up?

The meeting is handed over to the treasurer who goes through thanking everyone who has helped him, the financials of the organisation and for each band. Then up gets the membership officer who goes through the membership levels of each band and whether they are up or down. By this stage, I’m wishing someone could call me so I can escape. The battery is running low on my phone and the reception is bad so I can’t just scan Instagram. Surely we must be getting close to the end. But no.

No idea why I should care

It’s now time for the conductors to do their reports. Out come the notes (unfortunately not musical ones) and they read them out verbatim. There go another 20 mins of my life. Still no beer. Then it’s election of the new committee time. Yippee, we must be getting close this is where the interaction happens. Damn, they are electing the same officers as last year. They are trying to get a rep from our band. Yeh right after sitting through this why would anyone volunteer. Now general business. Someone else now gets up and presents a speech. I’m now getting really agitated. They said it would be over in 30 mins we are now at 45 mins. I notice the membership officer has used the phone call technique to do a runner. I can’t really do that as I really want to practice the Euphonium.

Yay, it’s over!!!!

The insight – Flight or fight response

I turn to my buddy and say I hate meetings. This is why I do what I do. He says something insightful, Yes doesn’t it make you feel trapped. That’s it! That’s the feeling. The meeting had triggered my fight or flight reaction and as I couldn’t fight I really really needed to fly. So it leaves me with some questions. The first is why did I feel like that. Second, what could I have done differently? Third, why do I think the meeting was like that in the first place and finally, if I was to facilitate this meeting how would I do it differently.

The analysis – leading to the lessons learnt

Here is a list of the reasons why I wanted to run away

  1. I wasn’t prepared — I didn’t even know it was on so wasn’t in the right mindset and hadn’t read the minutes and reports that were available before the meeting
  2. There was no interaction — This wasn’t a meeting it was a presentation. I could see no reason as to why I was there apart from making up numbers in the audience.
  3. The information presented wasn’t relevant to me — I don’t know the people being thanked, there was too much detail. If I want to know more about the financials and memberships I can read the reports.
  4. It was taking up rehearsal time — There is a concert coming up and I’m not familiar with all the pieces yet. The meeting was causing me to be frustrated.

What could I do differently next time

  1. Make my excuses and leave — Yep that simple. This is my time and it is valuable to me.
  2. Use the resources I have to hand to improve my own engagement — Usually, in presentations, I draw and take notes not only for improving understanding but to keep me engaged. I did have a pencil and paper (the back of my music) I could have used it.
  3. Do some meditation — lots of the older members in the band seemed to have checked out and were happily away somewhere else, maybe even sleeping.

So why do I think the meeting was held the way it was

  1. It’s the way it has always been run
  2. There is a belief that to comply with the constitution of the organisation the meeting has to be like that
  3. There is no other way that the presenters can share the information that they think is important

Given the opportunity how would I run the meeting differently?

I would start with the question. What is the minimally required meeting to comply with the constitution? Then

  1. Be mindful of people’s time — My time is valuable to me too.
  2. Bring to the meeting only things that need to be discussed with the group — The purpose of the meeting should be to elect the new committee in line with the constitution and to report on any issues that need to be discussed with and actioned by the members. Emphasis on the discussed and actioned.
  3. Be concise — no need to go over things that are available elsewhere. Telling people things that they don’t care about doesn’t mean that they will listen any more than sending them an email about it.
  4. Hold the meeting before or after rehearsal — Members have turned up to rehearse they have paid money to be there, I respect that.
  5. Explore other methods of sharing information — Assess what information needs to be shared, to whom and what do they need to do with it. After all 100 members weren’t at the meeting how will they know what went on, why would they care any more than those of us who were there?
  6. BEER!!!!!!!!

So what will I do next AGM?

So what will I do next time, probably not turn up but if I did I will be prepared, bring a notebook, coloured pens and, of course, beer. Or maybe I’ll join the committee and change the world one AGM at a time. Cheers.