Avoid the Boring Meeting Blues

Avoid the Boring Meeting Blues: Insights from the FMSC

Boring meetings – we’ve all been there. They’re not engaging or productive, and time seems to move more slowly. We get tired of being spoken at and wish we could ask questions or talk to others in the room about what was just shared.

In July, FIT hosted the Financial Management Standards Committee (FMSC) Advisory Board meeting. With this being the third time around, we did not want to fall into the trap of becoming a “boring meeting”. Here are a few things that we incorporated into the Advisory Board meeting that you may find useful in avoiding the boring meeting blues:

The theme for this meeting was “collaboration”, so it was important for us to ensure the members had opportunities to collaborate. The meeting started with a light-hearted video highlighting the importance of collaboration. Watching a group of ants come together to outsmart an anteater helped ease the members, provide a laugh, and set the stage for the purpose of the meeting.

At your next meeting, make sure the audience members are relaxed from the start. This will help ease any stiffness and promote a safe space for discussion.

At the halfway mark in the Advisory Board meeting, the National Science Foundation (NSF) shared a video on robotic process automation (RPA). NSF was one of two first time awardees of FIT’s Innovation Program. Mike Wetklow, NSF’s DCFO, shared that each RPA “bot” they used was named after a Star Wars character. Outside of being entertaining, Mr. Wetklow’s video and commentary provided new and useful information to the Advisory Board members.

Because RPA is a new technology, many are still confused at its purpose and afraid to ask questions (see Everything You Wanted to Know About RPA but were Afraid to Ask). NSF’s video, however, helped take a complicated topic and make it easy for everyone to understand.

Are your meetings filled with workplace jargon and complex explanations? If so, keep in mind that you may be excluding a part of your audience. Try to use plain language in discussions, so that most of the audience members can follow along and understand your message.

We rounded the meeting out with a final exercise. Members voted on the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) goals their agency is focusing on and where there may be alignment with the FMSC for further collaboration. This voting required the members to take their voting stickers and place them around the room on the PMA goal posters. We found that this exercise had many benefits.

First, it allowed everyone to get up and moving, so that they weren’t sitting too long. Second, this exercise gave members the chance to walk around and network in the federal financial management community. Finally, it presented the opportunity for members to share their voices and contribute.

No matter what type of meeting you go to, there will be outspoken and quiet attendees. Although some will ensure their voices are heard, you must ensure that all voices are heard. Voting activities are a good way to include everyone and have their voice and opinion heard equally.

The FMSC is a platform for collaboration in the financial management community, and we continue to learn from and improve each meeting to increase collaboration. We hope you can use these tips and tricks to increase collaboration at your future meetings. Incorporating these techniques will promote a more informative and fruitful discussion.

Quick References

OMB 16-11, Improving Administrative Functions Through Shared Services

Circular No. A-123 Appendix D, Compliance with the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act of l996

OMB M 13-08, Improving Financial Systems Through Shared Services

OMB M 10-26, Immediate Review of Financial Systems IT Projects

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