How to Knit Together a Public Meeting

knitblogimageProductive public meetings are a project, with a process and a pattern, much like knitting a sweater. And while many of you may not be able to knit or understand the basics involved in knitting, you do understand the threads and complicated patterns involved in producing an effective and efficient public meeting. Yet, no matter how well you understand those processes, meetings can still get out of hand if not managed properly. Through my years as both a meeting attendee and as a meeting Chair, I have found the following tips helpful when knitting my meetings together…

1.  Set meeting expectations and stick to them. At the start of the meeting, set ground rules (ex. five-minute public comment limit, etc.). This is especially important during meetings with hot-topic agenda items that bring large audiences. This is critical to maintaining decorum and providing fair treatment to all who want to be heard.

2.  Be respectful. Be open to the opinions of others. You do not have to agree with them, but you must allow them to speak their mind and share that opinion. It is not a matter of right or wrong, it is simply looking at it from a different point of view.

3.  Silence cell phones. Think of it like the movies, no one wants an important discussion to be interrupted mid-sentence by an annoying ringing or vibrating.

4.  Only one person speaks at a time. Do not allow a meeting to get out of control, no matter how hot the topic may be. If there is a microphone or podium, this issue is more easily controlled. However, for smaller meetings, you must be direct and correct others who start to interrupt or talk over other attendees.

5.  Be brief, but only make your point once. When making a point, be clear concise and to the point. Encourage others to do the same.

6.  No sidebar conservations. Try to eliminate unnecessary background noise and tension created through sidebar conversations, not only are they disrespectful, but often they lead to misinformation being spread and meetings go longer trying to correct that information. Refer back to point 4 to address this issue and be direct, asking meeting attendees to hold side conversations until after the meeting.

For many of us, public meetings are a systematic occurrence. We all know how unpleasant they can be, but with the right best management practices, they don’t have to be. They can run smoother, be shorter, and more effective!

As an employee, you may not have a say in how a meeting is run but you can work with your elected officials, board members, and volunteer committees by providing training in meeting facilitation techniques. Take time to work with others with tips like the ones mentioned above and see how it works for your meetings. If you have other pointers to share with your peers, do it! Most of all be patient, be respectful, and be a leader!

As a knitter, it is easy for me to see the parallels between public meetings and knitting projects, and many of the tips above apply to both. I always set expectations at the beginning of a project and respect the pattern – this way I know what I am getting into and ensure a successful; end-product. Cell phones, sidebars, etc…ask any knitter who’s in the middle of counting stitches or rows, they will tell you why this is a deal breaker!

 

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The Subtle Art of Being Blunt

38886346 - portrait of a pretty businesswoman yelling over the megaphoneThere are many skills needed to navigate the workplace in today’s society. You know about hard skills like budgeting and writing and soft skills like customer service and teamwork, but have you ever thought of the skills that you are born with? Skills and personality traits that come naturally to some folks, but are surprisingly absent from others? You know charisma, creativity, common sense, etc.

I was lucky enough to be born with the subtle art of being blunt. I was also “lucky” enough to be born with “RBF”, but that’s a whole other story…

If you were not born with the ability to be blunt, it can be a very delicate and tricky art to master. But in many cases, it can be extremely helpful in the workplace, as well as in one’s personal life. Let me be clear, being direct by no means gives you the right to be rude or inappropriate, rather it is a tactful way of letting someone know how you feel or explaining a situation without sugar coating or giving a false impression. There should be a clear distinction!

In the workplace, it can be used as a power tool, from hiring and firing to managing expectations, and even during the most difficult customer service situations. If done correctly, being blunt can eliminate confusion, prevent any unnecessary expectations, and settle issues in a timely manner.

A few key things to remember when practicing your bluntness:

•   Always make sure you understand the situation you are dealing with. If you are wrong when being straightforward, you will sound like a jerk. There is no escaping it.
•   Be constructive and comment on the situation at hand, NEVER on an individual or group of individuals. Being blunt means being forthright in your opinion. Just because you are being honest and upfront doesn’t mean you have to give your complete opinion. If you can’t say anything nice… don’t say anything at all. Well, how about you just don’t say anything stupid?
•   Don’t yell or raise your voice. Depending on the situation, you may become heated. When being direct, remain calm or at least act that way and keep your voice at a mild tone.

Being blunt may upset people whether it comes naturally to you or if you are trying it for the first time. If you are someone who is worried about ruffling feathers or upsetting someone, being blunt may not be for you. And that is ok! The most important thing is to make sure you are clearly conveying your message, be it candid or subtle. Make sure the lines of communication are open and that both parties understand the situation.

Cheers to a better YOU!

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The new year is right around the corner! By now, you’ve indulged (or soon will be!) in many holiday goodies and treats, and I bet I know what you’re thinking – time to make that new year’s resolution. Whether it’s a gym membership, a new diet, or simply vowing to be healthier, you WILL make 2018 your best year yet…or at least that’s what you tell yourself.

How about a dose of reality? A whopping 41% of Americans make new year’s resolutions, but only 9.2% actually feel that they successfully achieve their resolution. Let’s work together and start the year off right by making realistic goals for both our personal and professional lives.

Start by following these tips from the American Psychological Association:

  • Start small
  • Change one behavior at a time
  • Talk about it
  • Don’t beat yourself up
  • Ask for Support

Let PRPS support you and help you achieve your professional goals!

By participating in events like the annual conference, trainings, and webinars you can increase your knowledge, earn CEU credits, and achieve professional certifications. PRPS Professional Development opportunities are developed to allow professionals to learn new tips and tricks for energizing and engaging staff, stay updated on industry trends, ways to expand enrollment and increase revenue, how to advocate for your agency, and so much more!

If you are looking for more ways to get involved, consider serving on a committee, volunteering for an event, or becoming an instructor/speaker for PRPS. These opportunities not only increase your status as an already amazing parks and recreation professional, but can help you grow your experience and spruce up your resume. They also provide great networking sessions and ways to inspire future parks and recreation professionals.

Remember, the Cambridge English Dictionary states that New Year’s resolutions are a promise you make to yourself to start doing something good or stop doing something bad on the first day of the year. Dedicate time in 2018 by making a promise to yourself to become the best parks and recreation professional you can be and let PRPS help you fulfill your professional goals!

Visit prps.org for more information on 2018 professional development and volunteer opportunities, as well as technical resources, all developed to help you become a better you! Cheers to a new you!