Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Want Good Meeting Attendance – Feed People and Give Them Something to Do – Part 1

The San Francisco Immunization Coalition has four working committees and an Advisory Board. Over my four year tenure at the Coalition each one of these committees has had growth and attrition in membership. Sometimes a committee will lose its chairperson or a few members that had a lot of energy. Some times attendance falls on a particular committee for no reason. In general, I do not worry too much if a meeting has low attendance as long as the committee is getting things done. But lets face it – a Coalition only functions as well as its members are willing and allowed to participate. We have learned there is one really effective and relatively cheap way to assure decent attendance at Coalition meetings – it is called food.

A couple of years ago our Marketing/Outreach Committee was sputtering. Attendance and energy were down. For a change of pace we decided to hold our meeting at the local Chevy’s Mexican restaurant. We scheduled the meeting at 3:00p.m. (which is dead time at Chevy’s) and told Coalition members that the Coalition would buy them an appetizer and a drink for attending. A magical thing happened – this committee has been producing amazing things ever since. This Committee meeting is now always held at Chevy’s. Of course we can’t attribute all the change in this committee to the change of meeting location but it does have a noticeable effect on the mood of the meeting. The good thing about Chevy’s is that they serve free chips and salsa, the bill for each meeting is rarely over $40 and for that we get a free meeting place, free chips and salsa, and a fun atmosphere to do the work of the Coalition. It also allows Coalition members to get out of their office buildings and gives them an incentive to come to our meeting. Ever since then the Coalition has been providing food at most Coalition meetings. Luckily, San Francisco has a wealth of relatively cheap and good restaurants. In general I try not to order the standard pizza or Chinese food and really try to do my research and introduce members to new cuisine that they may have never been aware existed. In general, this doesn’t cost the Coalition that much – maybe $2000 a year. But what it does is provide that extra incentive for members to come to a meeting and participate. You can even get local restaurants to donate the food. And in general healthier foods make people less sluggish and better ready to work in a meeting. A committee in a carbohydrate-induced coma is not the most productive committee. So consider feeding your Coalition members good food taking them on a local culinary tour of your town or city at every meeting. It works!

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