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Making the Most of Meetings, Part II

Andrea Kelly
Brookeville MD USA
Contributions from Natalie Rawlings Kraut, Plantation FL USA; Roni Mitchell, Pontiac MI USA; and Kristin Carter, West Babylon NY USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 39 No. 2, April-May 2003, p. 31.

Many meeting designs fall into one of two formats. The conversation/discussion format involves prepared discussion questions that each mother answers at her own pace. Keep questions open-ended so mothers don’t feel they’re being quizzed; begin them with "what," "how," "describe," "outline," or "explain." If misleading, incorrect, or views contrary to that of LLL are expressed, you or your co-Leader may tactfully interject appropriate information. When preparing for this type of meeting, devise follow-up questions and plan to call on attendees who are willing to contribute to specific topics. A drawback to this format is that talkative mothers can easily dominate while shy mothers may be overlooked.

The round-robin format may open with a question that is answered by each mother in turn, or with the Leader passing out written discussion questions/statements that each mother reads in turn. This format allows you to have greater control of the flow of the meeting as you may respond after each mother speaks, adding LLL’s information and point of view as needed. Some drawbacks are that mothers’ participation is less spontaneous, they may feel put on the spot, and the responses may become repetitious. Furthermore, attendees may anticipate their turn and not pay close attention to what others say, and if the meeting is large, those at the end of the circle may not get their turn.

Meeting ideas may be drawn from a wealth of sources. LLL books or articles appearing in Area Leaders’ Letters, Leaven, and New Beginnings may offer the seed of an idea or quotes for discussion. If you have already devised meeting titles for an annual schedule, these titles may spark a wonderfully original meeting idea. Ready-to-use meeting ideas may be found in the Leader’s Handbook (2003 edition), on the LLLI Web site (www.lalecheleague.org), or in compilations put together by various Areas. Popular culture can provide catchy ideas, such as "Who Wants to Breastfeed a Future Millionaire?" Other Area Leaders may have good meeting ideas you can use. Another option is to use a meeting idea that you remember from early LLL meetings you attended. If you still remember it, it must have been good!

Maintaining interest from month to month is another factor to consider when planning meetings. No Leader likes to hear, "‘The Advantages of Breastfeeding’ again? I’ve been to that meeting already!" Varying the topics covered from one series to the next may keep mothers coming back. For example, Meeting 1 may look at the benefits of breastfeeding to the mother or baby in one series, and to the father and siblings or to society and the environment in the next. Meeting 2 may address adjusting to motherhood, changing roles in the family, or the early weeks of breastfeeding. Meeting 3 can focus on the art of breastfeeding or overcoming difficulties. Meeting 4 may cover starting solids, nutrition, weaning, or loving guidance.

Theme meetings or theme series titles may also help maintain interest. Examples of theme meetings are a mothers’ appreciation meeting near Mother’s Day or a meeting about beginnings in January. Theme series involve a four-meeting series loosely based around a central idea, such as "Breastfeeding—The Worldwide Womanly Art":

Meeting 1: Breastfeeding Does a World of Good
Meeting 2: The Whole New World of Parenthood
Meeting 3: A World of Advice—Finding What’s Right for You
Meeting 4: Whole Foods from the Whole World: Eat Well While Pregnant, Breastfeeding, and Beyond

A Leader’s children can present challenges to her ability to lead the meeting. Planning ahead with snacks and toys can help keep little ones happy. Older children may benefit from a discussion of the behavior you expect of them, as long as the expectations are realistic. With a bit of advance warning, co-Leaders may be counted on to jump in when your children’s needs draw you away from the meeting at a critical juncture. Family harmony may benefit from easy meals and lots of free time the rest of the day on meeting day.

LLL Group-owned toys can help keep many attending children happy. Inexpensive, quiet toys can be purchased at thrift stores or yard sales. These toys show up only at LLL meetings, so they seem new to children who only see them monthly. Also, because they belong to the Group and were not brought by individuals, such toys may reduce sharing and possessiveness problems.

End the meeting promptly. Keep an eye on the scheduled end-time as well as the state of the children. As with nursing, watch the babies, not the clock! Sometimes before the clock runs out the children will indicate that it is time to go home.

After the Meeting

Evaluate how the meeting went with yourself and also with co-Leaders, Leader Applicants, and other attendees. Let your District Advisor/District Coordinator know how the meeting went by promptly sending her your meeting report.

This article was originally published in the Fall 2002 edition of Lantern, the Area Leaders Letter of Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia (MD-DE-DC), USA. Andrea Kelly and her husband, Marcus, have three sons: Aidan, 6; Ronan, 4; and Keiran, 2; and a baby due in June 2003. She has been a Leader with LLL of Olney/North Silver Spring, Maryland, USA for three years, and Area Leaders’ Letter Editor for LLL of Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia for a year. Brandel Falk is the Contributing Editor for this column.

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