5 Rules for Running Great Meetings at Camp

5 Rules for Running Great Meetings at Camp

As I gear up and talk to a lot of camps about trainings for this summer almost everyone I talk to has been stressed about helping staff get back to basics. There has been a turn over of staff, a lot of us lost summer 2020, and many campers and staff are out of practice doing relatively normal camp stuff.

This is the second of a few posts we are doing around normal camp stuff, around, how can we just make things at camp a little easier so everyone can be just a little less stress. - Jack

 

MOST MEETINGS SUCK, BUT THEY DON’T HAVE TO.

At camp, we ask a lot of our seasonal leaders, unit directors/division heads/activity area supervisors/etc., including asking them to run meetings. Meetings look different for different purposes, but they are generally gatherings of people for sharing some information or making decisions.

Think about it; our seasonal leaders have to do it all the time, and it’s hard. At Stomping Ground, we offer folks this one-pager with specific training around running meetings. This blog article is designed to give new supervisors some specific tools for running what we call a business meeting. 

BUSINESS MEETINGS AT CAMP

Think about a business meeting, like the meeting a village leader might run with their counselors before campers arrive for opening day or the waterfront director might lead with the lifeguards each week. These types of meetings tend to have some information that needs to be shared from the supervisor, some decisions that will get made, and some sharing of ideas in the group. You have probably been to thousands of these meetings and had some great experiences and some terrible ones. The structure below is not the only way to run a meeting effectively, but it is a great starting point.

5 RULES FOR RUNNING EFFECTIVE MEETINGS

1) Know what you want.

Priya Parker calls this the disputable purpose of a gathering. When you are running a meeting, start with the point. Say the goal out loud so that everyone is on the same page, and the meeting has clear boundaries. It is your job to be the keeper of those boundaries. 

For example: “Let’s get started. Today we are meeting for 30 minutes to talk about how to set our village up for success with this new group of kids.”

ALRIGHT! This meeting is going to be about making sure candlemaking safe this week. We had some close calls last week, and we are going to get them sorted in the next hour.

2) Have a plan and own the process.

Once everyone knows the point of the meeting, it is your job as the meeting facilitator to make sure this gets done. Before any meeting, I jot down a few bullet points about how I want the meeting to go. Sometimes this is a more formal agenda or sometimes I write it on a scrap of paper or the back of my hand. You know how camp goes...

After sharing the point of the meeting, tell everyone how we are going to get there. This doesn’t have to be set in stone, but it is your job as the meeting facilitator to move the meeting along and set the boundaries when things get off track. As the meeting facilitator, you have the power to change the plan as you go, but let everyone know what you are doing. It will give a sense of calm and ease folks’ anxiety to know there is a plan and it is being thought through. 

You are the host of this meeting, and this part is an art. Some meeting facilitators tend to bulldoze and not let other people share while others sit back too much and don’t take enough charge. Think about who you are, and be cognizant of trying to grow here. 

Example: “Here is how this meeting will roll. First, let’s go around and do 30-second celebrations. Then, I have a few things to let you know about changes for this session. Next, I will hand out the camper files and you can look at them with your co and ask questions. After that, let’s talk about the village carnival for Friday. I’ll wrap us up before noon so y’all can get to lunch.”

3) Use visuals when you can.

When you have a visual, everyone thinks you are more prepared than you are. Take 30 seconds before the meeting to write down the agenda and an inspirational quote on a piece of butcher paper or even a notebook that you hold up. Even better, be able to give the agenda to folks before the meeting so they have time to think ahead. 

Visuals or other media for meetings help you express what you mean and level up the agenda. For the waterfront meeting, have a diagram of where the lifeguards stand. When discussing time off, draw up a quick schedule of when counselors will be on and off. When planning the carnival, draw and label the different stations. 

Protip: I suck at making visuals look good and often lean into people picking on me for how silly they are. I love to draw up a quick sketch in my notebook ahead of time and bring some markers and butcher paper early to the meeting. Then, I ask someone who is more artistically skilled to draw the cooler version of my crappy drawing. This does three things: it gives a cool visual for the meeting, involves someone else, and shows that I am human as they laugh at my attempt. 

4) Be explicit.

This goes hand in hand with having a plan and owning the process. It is easy to fall into a trap of assuming we are all on the same page when a meeting feels good. As the host of the meeting, it is your job to make sure that is the case. I constantly find myself in meetings saying things like: “Love that. Just to be clear, what we are saying is...” or “Hell ya, I think that means we are deciding...”

In your meetings, make sure you are clear about what information is negotiable and what isn’t. When making group decisions, make sure to restate what the decision was and look around your circle to see if everyone is nodding in agreement. 

Pro tip: When looking around hoping for agreement, you might not always have a consensus. Often that is ok and you can make the call and move on, but this is an opportunity to notice who has a dissenting opinion and follow up with them later. Ask how they are feeling or just spend a little extra time hanging with them so they know you care and that they can ask you questions. 

5) Set clear times and say when the meeting starts and ends.

Timing is tricky at camp. Often a day seems like a year, and a week seems like an hour. My take is that it is ok to be imprecise on how long things will take, but be open about it and illuminate transitions. 

Pick a start time and end time for the meeting. Hopefully, you can end the meeting early, but try not to end the meeting late. Kurtz might hate this, but my take on meeting start times is to pick a time, tell everyone that time, and plan on starting 5 minutes later. 

During those 5 minutes, don’t just sit back. Jump in a couple of times telling everyone they can clown and laugh and that the agenda will start 5 minutes later.  

This is the important part: when you are ready to start the agenda, take charge and let everyone know the format has changed from clown town to meeting time. “NICE! Ok, y’all, I am going to run you through the plan of this meeting, and we are really getting started NOW!” This makes it clear that you are in control and gets the meeting started. 

Following that same logic, make sure you end the meeting. You know how at the end of a meeting some people mill about, unsure if they can leave or are expected to stay? I hate that. Just end the meeting.

“Thanks, everyone. I am going to chill here if you have questions, but the meeting is 100% over. Stick around if you want or go do whatever you gotta do.”

Kurtz here: I do kind of hate this but Jack is right. It’s realistic. My modification here is to have those first 5 minutes be a kind-of agenda item. Have something out for people to eat, something for them to do (like a survey to fill out, etc.), so people who are on time get some sort of perk and people don’t get used to things being 5 minutes late, and then there’s a creep to where everything starts 6, 7, 8, etc., minutes late.


Often camper and staff experiences are made or lost by the folks running these meetings. The middle managers, seasonal leaders, and summer supervisors are the culture keepers and the community leaders who create the sandbox for the rest of the campers and staff to play in. With that in mind, we offer an asynchronous virtual seasonal leaders FREE with membership.


TRAININGS WITH JACK

I will be on the road most of May and June doing staff trainings all over the US and I would love to work with you. If you are interested shoot me an email/text and let’s make summer 2023 the best one yet!


JACK SCHOTT
CO-FOUNDER CAMP STOMPING GROUND
CO-FOUNDER 
THE SUMMER CAMP SOCIETY
JACK@THESUMMERCAMPSOCIETY.COM
STOMPING GROUND ORIGIN STORY

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