Dear Goodwill Gail,
Several times over the last few months, our unit has gotten short notice from someone announcing plans to attend our unit meeting. The person was not invited, so it caught us by surprise. Here’s our dilemma: A department chairperson or other dignitary calls a day ahead of a meeting to say they are coming to visit us. The person was not invited to attend, and the agenda was already set and full. What do we do now? Do we have to forget about the agenda? Can we conduct business as usual? How do we put our best foot forward when we haven’t had time to prepare?
How to Prepare
Dear How to Prepare,
Your frustration is understandable. Your unit members have worked hard on your agenda, and this unplanned visit could extend the time of the meeting or change its focus. You don’t need to scrap the agenda you planned; however, you should find a way to include the guest.
It’s best to take a positive approach to this situation. Don’t think of the guest as a burden — think of him or her as an asset. Isn’t it great someone wants to visit your unit? Take it as a compliment that someone thought of your group and wants to join your meeting. Isn’t that better than being ignored? How would your unit members feel if no one ever stopped in for a visit? Look at this situation as an opportunity, not an inconvenience. Yes, you need to make adjustments to accommodate the guest, but you may find that the adjustments were worth it. Here’s some advice on how to handle the request:
- First of all, and most importantly, be nice and courteous. You want this guest to see your unit at its finest. One of the best ways to make a great impression is with kindness.
- Respond to guests by saying, “We’d love to have you!” If you have a tight schedule, let the guest know you have limited time. Say, “We have a lot on our agenda, but we really want members to hear from you. Is five minutes enough time to talk during the meeting?” Your ability to make accommodations, while having a positive attitude, will leave a lasting impression. More than likely, the guest will be considerate of the time and won’t want to intrude. They’ll want to see your unit in action to learn more about the ALA mission in action and how meetings operate. The reason for the late notice may be because the person found an opening in their schedule or realized they would be in the area around the time of your meeting.
- Is there information about your unit that you want people to know? Prepare talking points so the guest knows you are doing great things. This is an opportunity to talk about veterans/military support activities or events you have planned and what your unit is doing to celebrate the ALA’s 100 years of service.
- Ask the guest if there is a subject they would like to talk about. If it relates to something you already have planned for your meeting, find a way to work your visitor in to that part of the agenda. If it is unrelated, plan for the talk to be at the beginning or the end of the meeting. If the guest says they just want to attend, be sure to make an introduction and give them a chance to say a few words during the meeting. No matter when the guest will be speaking, introduce them at the beginning of the meeting, so members are aware a visitor is present.
Your guest will understand you had a short time to prepare for their visit. They don’t expect you to do something special in their honor.
In the Spirit of Service Not Self,
Need some advice on how to approach conflict within the American Legion Auxiliary? Send your questions to pr@ALAforVeterans.org with the subject line “Goodwill Gail.” We’ll create a pen name for you so that you remain anonymous. Talk soon!
This article was first published in the November 2019 Auxiliary magazine.