Advisory Committee Meetings are an opportunity to interact with key stakeholders in our programs, yet they can also feel like a burden and stressor. Below are a few tried and true ways to spice up the engagement and effectiveness of your advisory committee meetings!
Collaborative Meeting Leadership
- When a program instructor leads an advisory committee meeting it potentially gives the impression that industry is simply there to assist but when industry leads the meeting you are showing them that your program is there to assist them in providing a qualified workforce!
- Instructors should schedule the meetings, get everyone there, order food (if it’s a part of the meeting), and work with your chairperson on the agenda. Your program is vital to industry. Making sure you are supplying industry with a well-trained workforce is critical.
Action Strategy: Reach out to a trusted industry partner and ask to work together on this. As “co-leaders,” assure them that you are working out the meeting details, but you wish for their voice to lead the meeting, and develop the meeting agenda as a team. Remember, you are likely the one with the most group presentation experience, so offer to “bail them out” if they get stuck along the way. This type of interaction often inspires other industry partners to engage more.
The Power of One
- Advisory committees are often led by a single chairperson. Those who are highly proficient at this work are doing so in collaboration with instructors. An advisory committee chair works with instructors to ensure the success of the advisory committee. The chair also gives the rest of the members of the advisory committee good opportunities to share their knowledge and perspective. This person should be from outside of the school/college and be elected by the advisory committee.
Action Strategy: When preparing for the meeting with chairpersons, instructors should list in writing the main issues they would like discussed. Even the best chairperson will appreciate written reminders of the issues. Each issue should not only include a basic description, but also specific questions to the committee and conclude with action steps, even if that step is table discussion or action for a later date.
The Purpose-Driven Agenda
- Your meeting should be full of variety and dialogue! Having the same basic agenda for each meeting leads to bored committee members and complacency. Agenda topics with intentionality will lead participants into more significant participation and give the meeting more value.
- A vague agenda can lead your members to question why they should show up and invest their time in your meeting. Make sure your meeting goals are clearly identified and communicated to the committee at least 2-3 weeks prior to the meeting. Here are a few things that could freshen up your agenda:
- Budget/Expenditure Review
- Survey of shop area
- Mock Accreditation walk-through
- Industry presentation with time for Q&A
- Brainstorming session to address a specific concern
Action Strategy: Set your agenda a month ahead of time and send it out to committee members. This not only gives them time to think ahead about items, but also shows that you and your program are committed to the opportunity to meet with them and well organized.
- The presence of an administrative representative will bring various levels of credibility to your meeting. For industry partners, they should feel like their input is being heard at an institutional level, while for administrators this will be an opportunity to engage directly with community members who are willing to invest in the overall well-being of the institution. For instructors, this is an opportunity for campus leadership to hear firsthand support of their program goals direction from industry leaders. Or, in some cases, an opportunity to share both administrative and industry hopes (or concerns) for programs.
- If your administration is not currently attending your meetings, they are unintentionally sending the message that your program is not important to them. When they are not present to listen to industry’s feedback on your program and why changes are needed, they most likely won’t understand and could push back on the changes. Now there is a balance here, administration should be there to support you and the work being done, not to lead the meeting.
Action Strategy: Invite administrative leaders well in advance to the meeting. Also mention what industry partners might be in attendance, and that this is an opportunity to engage directly with community stakeholders. If an administrator is unable to attend, ask them for advice about another administrator to invite.
The Power of Questions
- Questions elicit engagement from members, promoting value to the meeting and an investment in the process. Open-ended questions will often inspire more dialogue and a deeper understanding of the main issues. A closed-ended question only allows for a simple “yes” or “no” response. Instead of asking your committee members if they simply like your class structure and what you’re teaching, tell them how many hours you have available to teach and ask them what topics would best fit their needs and seek advice on how long they recommend spending on each topic given the amount of time available.
Action Strategy: Put a check mark next to each name on the committee roster when they offer input. A quick glance at your tally sheet will show you which members have had less input – direct a few questions toward those individuals!
Capture Every Minute
- A highly detailed record (minutes) from the meeting will preserve the most important themes from the meeting and the essential input from stakeholders.
- It is best to have a designated person other than the instructor or the Chairperson take detailed notes of the meeting. These meeting minutes should be shared with the group as soon as possible following the meeting (ideally no later than the next business day) and reviewed and approved at the next business meeting. These minutes are important as they document discussion points and decisions made during the meeting.
Action Strategy: Solicit assistance from a very detail-oriented colleague to take the meeting minutes. Communicate clearly with them that you hope to preserve the essence of the meeting, especially items where decisions were made and action steps. Also ask them to prepare the official meeting minutes for redistribution to the committee within the next day whenever possible.
Advisory Committee Resources
Minnesota Department of Education
- Advisory Committees and Partnerships
- Career Program Advisory Committee Handbook with Minnesota State, 2020
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities
- Board Policy 3.30 College Program Advisory Committees
- System Procedure 3.30.1 College Program Advisory Committees
- Career Program Advisory Committee Handbook with MDE, 2020
State of Minnesota