Bradley A. Leger, PhD
OK . . . we’ve got the Advisory Council engine going, and we have to make sure that all pistons are firing. We’ve assembled the movers and shakers of the community and gotten their creative juices flowing. A recurring theme throughout these discussions is that we need to keep in mind that these busy folk need to feel that serving in this capacity is a good investment of their time. So, how to keep this wonderful group motivated and engaged?
As I ponder these points, several things come to mind. The first words which come to my mind are that we need to treat them in a “first class” manner. Naturally in terms of hospitality, we always need to make them feel welcome as they enter the room. Do we take the time to greet them individually? Of course, our culture dictates that we have some form of refreshment, however simple. What about creature comforts? Are the chairs and meeting room arrangement comfortable? What about room temperature? Time and location of meeting? Is the meeting site accessible to all? Were the meeting announcements sent out in a timely fashion? (There’s nothing more frustrating to me than receiving such an invitation at the last minute, only to find that my calendar is full. Remember, we’re dealing with busy people!)
But . . . let’s also talk about keeping them engaged in the process. How do we make them feel that their input and commitment to the process is taken seriously and is respected and honored? Remember, they are not there merely to “rubber stamp” what we are presently doing. (If that’s the case, why should they even bother being involved?) I think that a great start is to work with the chair of the council (elected by the members, of course) to plan the agenda. The chair should also be conducting the meeting, not the Extension professional. Thus, she/he should be provided training if she/he lacks the skills. What kind of input do members have in planning the meeting agenda? Frequency of the meetings? Opportunities for considering issues between meetings?
The next step, of course, is what is done with all of the great input acquired from council members? Do they know what is being done with this information with regard to programming? What about ongoing feedback from members throughout the year?