Bode Buckley is a manager in the Technical Committee Operations
by Bode Buckley
A standards development meetings success can depend on your preparation.
Bode Buckley gives some helpful tips to keep your head above water.
THE KEY TO RUNNING A SUCCESSFUL MEETING is preparation. Because
most ASTM committees only meet face to face twice a year, it is
especially important to make the most of the short time together.
The best way to accomplish this is for both the chairman and the
attendees to come to the meeting well prepared. There are a few
simple steps that the chairman can take to ensure this preparation.
Step 1: Contact the Negative Voters
To expedite the resolution of negatives, all negative voters and
commenters should be contacted as the negatives and comments are
received. This one-on-one communication provides the opportunity
to establish a common ground, which may result in the negatives
withdrawal. The communication may also provide a better understanding
of what changes would be required in order to satisfy the concerns
of the negative voter.
Chairmen should confirm that they have received all of the negatives
and comments from ASTM by checking the ballot closing report.
This information is sent to both the subcommittee chairman and
technical contacts along with copies of the negatives and comments.
Chairmen should anticipate the procedures they will follow to
resolve the negatives. If the chairman is unsure about the policies
and procedures that might be involved, the staff manager should
Step 2: Follow Up with Everyone Who Had a Job to Do
Six weeks before a meeting the chairman should review the minutes
from the last meeting and make a list of all of the action items
from that meeting. To be sure that progress is being made on each
of these items, the chairman should touch base with all of the
task group chairmen with a simple phone call or an e-mail. This
Finding out where each task group stands;
Ensuring that the task group chairman has copies of the appropriate
negatives and comments; and
Determining what action needs to be taken at the next meeting.
This follow-up may also serve as a reminder to the task group
chairman to get the job done.
Step 3: Create an Information-Full Agenda for Mailing
The agenda prepares the meeting attendees to discuss the issues
that will be resolved at a meeting. An agenda with little substance
does not adequately prepare the participants. An information
full agenda will:
Identify the topic;
Provide background information about the item; and
Identify what action the committee needs to take.
An example of an information-full agenda is found in Figure
1. Note that each topic is clearly identified, including who will
be reporting on the item and the amount of time that will be allotted
for its discussion.
The second important part of this agenda is that it gives background
information for each item. Quantity of information should not
be confused with quality. Particularly for items that are complex
or controversial, the clearer the information presented the better.
For example, in some instances a summary of the issues contained
in a negative vote may be more helpful than attaching actual copies
of the negatives. This is especially true when there are sections
of the negative that have already been withdrawn or when the same
concern is raised in multiple negatives.
Finally, the agenda identifies a goal statement. Specifically,
this is what action the committee needs to take at the meeting.
This could include anything from Determine the resolution of
a negative to Determine if a task group is necessary to research
If a chairman is not able to attend a meeting, he or she should
still prepare along these lines (as well as secure a substitute
to chair the meeting). Being prepared can insure a successful
meeting no matter who is present or how daunting the tasks that
lie before the participants. //
Look for Part II: During the Meeting in the April SN.