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Making the Most of Meetings, Part I

Andrea Kelly
Brookeville MD USA
Contributions from Natalie Rawlings Kraut, Plantation, Florida, USA; Roni Mitchell, Pontiac, Michigan. USA; and Kristin Carter, West Babylon, New York, USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 39 No. 1, February-March 2003, p. 8

La Leche League International’s mission is to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother. Leaders empower mothers by using empathetic listening and communication skills and by sharing information without giving advice. If we keep these ideas in mind while leading Series Meetings, we won’t go far wrong. What if we want to spice up our leading style, though? This article discusses ways to make the most of meetings.

Before the Meeting

Preparation will help ease nervousness and allow meetings to flow more smoothly. Preparation may involve practicing what you will say either alone or with someone to listen. Spouses, co-Leaders, your children, and even pets may be wonderful sounding boards for your ideas.

Anticipate what questions a particular topic may generate and think about the possible responses for these questions. Bring resources to the meeting to help with difficult questions. It is fine to answer a mother with a statement such as, “I’d like to look that up in the Breastfeeding Answer Book after the meeting to find more information for you.”

A preparatory step that will help ensure you don’t leave anything out is to write or print out your announcements and meeting outline or idea. If you can provide your co-Leader with a copy of your meeting focus and a brief rundown of what you have planned, she will be able to jump in if your child draws you away at a critical moment.

Many mothers attend meetings to socialize with other like-minded women as well as for the breastfeeding support and information we provide. Plan time for socializing after the meeting.
Another important factor in meeting preparation is consideration of your setting. Ask yourself if the room/home is conducive to the presence of small children, is relatively allergen-free, and is likely to promote conversation.

Group workers can help a meeting run smoothly, particularly at the start. A publicity person can boost attendance by sending reminders prior to the meeting and listing meeting information in local papers and parenting magazines. A greeter can see that everyone is welcomed, is assured she has come to the right place, and has a nametag. A Librarian can check in returned books and assist women in finding books they need.

Starting the Meeting

Start promptly. When mothers who arrive on time are kept waiting, they may feel latecomers are considered more important. When you do start, keep in mind that effective public speaking includes speaking with confidence while using attentive body language. Remember, the the audience wants you to succeed, so enjoy yourself and speak conversationally rather than reading what you have to say off of a piece of paper.

Avoid mixing causes in your interactions as a Leader. LLLI’s statement on mixing causes states in part, “Helping mothers worldwide to breastfeed, so that they can learn mothering through breastfeeding, is the main focus of the work of La Leche League.…The La Leche League Group is not to be used as a forum for a Leader’s non-LLL interests or to do the work of organizations other than LLL” (LLLI Policies and Standing Rules, Appendix 10).

At our meetings, all ideas are respected, but Leaders represent and present LLL philosophy. To mothers at a meeting, the Leader is LLL, and LLL doesn’t take a stand on animal rights, politics, or anything other than breastfeeding. When Leaders mix causes, mothers don’t get the breastfeeding information and support for which they came.

Write down any announcements that you would like to say at the beginning of the meeting. If you finish your announcements with a question to your co-Leader—“Is that all?”—the importance of what you have said may be diminished in the eyes of your audience. (See box for announcement ideas.)

Mothers’ breastfeeding concerns are often the reason they came to the meeting. Assure that each person’s concerns are addressed, even if it means not getting to the planned topic. Answer burning questions first; it allows mothers to focus on the topic when you get to it.

Varying your meeting format will help maintain attendees’ and Leaders’ interest. When deciding on a format, remember that adults retain little of what they simply read or hear, and a great deal of what they see, say, and do. Mothers will see lots of others breastfeeding at Series Meetings, so you’re already halfway there! A meeting structure that encourages mothers to become involved participants rather than passive listeners is more likely to leave an impression.

Possible Meeting Announcements

• Welcome
• Introduce Leaders
• LLL Purpose
• Local Group Information
• Group Workers
• Open Positions
• Membership
• Facility Information
• Baby’s Needs First
• Standard Disclaimer: “Take what you need and leave the rest”
• Participation Is Mother-to-Mother
• Introductions with Icebreaker Question

Andrea Kelly and her husband, Marcus, have three sons and a baby due in June 2003. She has been a Leader with the Olney/North Silver Springs, Maryland Group for three years, and serves as ALLE (Area Leaders’ Letter Editor) for LLL of MD-DE-DC (Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia), USA. This article is adapted from an article originally published in the Fall, 2002 issue of Lantern, the Area Leaders’ Letter of LLL MD-DE-DC, USA. Brandel Falk is the Contributing Editor for the “Leading Meetings” column. All your ideas and articles may be sent to Brandel at Pal-Yam 34, Tsamerret Ha-Bira, Jerusalem, Israel or ImaBDF at inter.net.il (email).

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