Your annual meeting defines your culture.
Well, not ALL of your culture, but part of it. Remember, your culture is the collection of words, actions, thoughts, and “stuff” that clarifies and reinforces what is truly valued inside your organization, so how you run your annual meeting can have some important implications about what is valued, yet we often don’t make decisions with that in mind. That means you’re shaping your culture without intention, and that can be a problem. As you consider and create your annual meeting, think about these issues:
Span of control
Who makes what decisions? How do you balance staff roles and volunteer roles? What “levels” in the organization make which decisions? As things get crazy, you might end up getting loose or contradictory on these calls, and that can change your employees’ experience of what it’s like to work there.
Follow the money
What parts of your meeting get resources? Both your members and your staff will notice. Sometimes the dollar split is based on how you’ve “always done it,” and other times it’s because influential members (past and present) like it that way. But is that a conscious choice? Because it defines your culture either way.
Who gets on the stage and for how long? What do they look like? How old are they? What kinds of messages are they delivering? All this matters (and has implications about what is valued), so be intentional about it.
Sure, this is impacted by what you can afford, but even within your range, you’re making trade-offs about the time it takes to get there, the price, the level of service and where in the city and region you locate. Each trade-off makes some people happy and others disappointed, so what criteria are you using for those trade-offs? These are not random choices, so be disciplined about it.
In the end, both employees and members will use the annual meeting to make some judgments about what you value and what you don’t. Choose wisely.