Meetings are one of the most visible and valuable ways in which sections, chapters, and affinity groups serve their members. Successful meetings help to achieve the goals of education and professional advancement that are basic to all IEEE units. They provide a uniform way to manage IEEE business and maintain a healthy environment for member retention and growth.
Below are several basic principles of putting together an interesting, well-attended meeting.
The subject and format are easy to establish. You will usually have a good idea of the kinds of subjects that most interest your Section, Chapter, and Affinity Group members. In addition, it is helpful to ask the members to submit suggestions. Keep in mind that the subject matter need not be limited to electrical engineering - any related technical field is appropriate, as long as it interests the members.
Choosing the format for the meeting - seminar, tutorial, conference, or lecture - will largely depend on your objectives. Do you wish to present diverse opinions on a current topic? Will your members benefit most from the knowledge of several authorities or the expertise of a single individual? How much time do you have available? Answering questions like these will help determine the most appropriate format for your meeting.
You may also wish to investigate holding internet meetings for which members need only a web browser and telephone to attend. IEEE Web Conferencing provides more information on this option.
An excellent tool available to facilitate the process of finding speakers is the IEEE Distinguished Lecturer Program. This program lists the names, topics, and contact information for lecturers from participating IEEE Societies and Technical Councils. You may also want to consider the following mechanisms for finding speakers:
Location: Try to find locations for the meetings where the gathering will always be welcome. Look for a place that is centrally located, conveniently accessible, and with adequate parking facilities. Also consider things like handicap access, restroom access, and heating/air conditioning.
In smaller sections, you may want to hold meetings in the same location each time. In sections that are spread out geographically, you may want to alternate meeting sites in different areas of the section.
Schedule: Try to have a regular schedule for meetings (for example, the second Tuesday of every month). It may be ambitious to consider, but if possible, schedule meetings for the entire upcoming year, and post that information on your Web page, in newsletters, and in e-mails.
Adding an element of socializing to meetings is likely to help keep attendance high and provides networking opportunities. Dinner, or a speaker's reception with refreshments, can make a meeting pleasurable, as well as informative.
It is a good idea to try to keep costs low. A faculty dining room at a college or a company cafeteria will generally be free or inexpensive, and may even be able to provide good meals at a low cost. Some hotels and restaurants will provide the meeting space along with the cost of the meal.
A well-publicized meeting usually results in a well-attended meeting. Remember that there are likely to be many IEEE members outside a chapter or affinity group who would be interested in hearing a particular speaker. Other professional associations in your area would like to know about it as well. Do not limit your publicity to your own members. Some easy and inexpensive ways to publicize your meeting can include:
Properly publicized, well-planned meetings will contribute to the personal and professional growth of IEEE members who attend and will help your Unit grow.
Sometimes it takes more than an interesting subject or convenient location to make a member feel comfortable. For face-to-face meetings, it's a good idea to have a designated door greeter. This should be someone familiar with the Section Officers and the regular meeting attendees. He/she should welcome people as they arrive, and if there is time, introduce them to others.
Name tags are helpful for those meeting new people and can be a useful tool for networking.
What has worked for other IEEE units may be adaptable to your unit. In no particular order, following are some "best practices":