A wonderful opportunity in medical research led me to a job in a major public relations firm in NYC for a time. While there, I learned some very valuable lessons which I added to the lessons I’d already learned at meetings of a major national women’s club. Together, the lessons have proven to be a great benefit to me personally and professionally and I am grateful to all who participated in my education. I mention this today because PR also taught me that opportunities are everywhere and there are more than you can handle, if you just look.

One thing I learned is that you never go to a meeting without a pad, a pen and a number of questions or suggestions that need to be explored. The second thing was that brainstorming is extremely valuable whether you are directly involved in the project or just serving as an outside ideas person. All of this has been brought to the fore for me recently as I discussed a meeting of a local environmental group.

People who are involved in environmental or any other issues are good people, I’m sure. But being a good person doesn’t get the job done. Being organized, having strong leadership, deadlines and planning are key. The group had many shortcomings in all of these areas. Here are some points to consider:

1. Meeting monthly can be fine if there are also meetings of committees that take place prior to the monthly group meeting. You can’t expect to get everything accomplished at one giant meeting. Well, let’s not say giant because this group only has about 15 people in it.

But reports from committees are important and follow-up actions are a part of the plan. Naysayers, too, aren’t helpful. Don’t just say something didn’t work.

2. Provide reasons why prior efforts didn’t work, what you tried, what you could have done. Really do an analysis of what might have been wrong with the original approach and seek ways to remedy this.

A committee chair without this attitude might as well resign. Wanting to be a king pin may suit a personal need but it doesn’t move the entire group’s agenda forward in meaningful ways. Ego must take a back step here.

3. Use tools of mindmapping and allow that to provide a physical representation of the group’s actions, committees, goals and whatever else needs to be seen. A visual representation can really fire up the ideas engine in everyone. You can get free programs, so use them if your finances are a bit on the thin side. No one needs to buy expensive software to get really important jobs done.

4. Invite “outsiders” in to offer a fresh perspective on where you may need to make adjustments to your plans. Let them cast a wide net and don’t poo-poo everything you’re hearing. Write it down, take it home and think long and hard about it before the next meeting. Then come prepared to discuss all the points made and why it might or might not work. Be open minded.

I can’t tell you how many brainstorming meetings I was invited to for products/service where I hadn’t worked but they wanted my input. It ran from home appliances, wines, to ways to get people to do cancer screenings or weight loss. Fresh eyes, you see?

5. Assign people to specific portions of your plan and give them a deadline. Prepare a copy of this deadline (listing everyone and their charge).

6. Set up a point person for media and have them outline a media plan for outreach to media who might be interested or can become interested. Work the phones and email to really drill down on this. You need publicity and this is absolutely free if you get your message across in an appealing way.What’s your best hook here? You may want to brainstorm this, too.

7. Have you considered joining other community groups where you might get ideas and support for your group? Yes, business groups enter into this equation. You might even end up with a sponsorship arrangement and some funding.

8. Who’s going out to make presentations to the community in local libraries, churches, schools, etc.? Do they have leave-behind matrials for the presentations? A one-page leaflet can do the job and it’s easy and cheap enough to develop.

Give everyone their marching orders and Good Luck to you in your efforts.


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