Rezaul Karim Chowdhury,
As NGO workers, we are now getting huge opportunities to have meetings with INGO and UN officials in Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar. As I advocate for localization, I motivate local NGO leaders to take these opportunities to impress important international stakeholders upon their respective NGOs. If you do not have a positive impression from these international actors, it will be difficult to secure funding. Remember that localization is a moral agreement, not a binding agreement for international actors. Based on my experiences, I would like to provide some tips in this regard:
I. I plead to use the Bangla language at the local level or in Cox’s Bazar, but please not that it should not be an obligation for international actors. As local NGO leaders, we need to find our own way to improve our English proficiency, as speaking and listening are two different skills. When listening, we need to understand what they are saying.
II. Prepare well in advance for the meeting. Collect the agenda papers, do your homework, and make a note of what you want to convey. It is not necessary to intervene always; only do so if necessary.
III. Arrive at the meeting at least 10 minutes early to network with the participants. Take plenty of business cards and exchange these with others. The business cards should have your communication information and can include your social media handles if you consider. Avoid making the card too colorful.
IV. Make eye contact with the moderator or speaker if you want to intervene. Raise your hand to draw the moderator’s attention, but do not intervene unless called upon.
V. Consider what you want to intervene before the meeting and understand the audience’s temperament. Only intervene if it is necessary and the audience is receptive. Prioritize your points and eliminate those that have already been made or are not important. Interventions should not last more than 60 seconds. Avoid using technical jargon and lengthy sentences. Speak in simple language and clearly state your entity.
VI. You may have pressing points, but ideally, do not intervene more than once. Excessive intervening may make you an irritating personality and result in not being invited to future meetings.
VII. Always be respectful to others and maintain the dignity of others. Learn to communicate negative issues in a positive manner and control your emotions. There are other avenues to communicate your issues besides meetings.
VIII. Mobile phones are now an important device, but be mindful of their use in meetings. Follow these tips: (a) do not scroll the screen during the meeting, (b) keep the phone switched off or on silent, (c) do not take pictures unless allowed by the moderator, (d) do not take or make calls during the meeting, (e) do not hold the phone in a way that others think you are recording.
Remember, develop your personality to the point where you can sell refrigerators to Eskimos.
Rezaul Karim Chowdhury,
Executive Director at COAST Foundation
February 1, 2023.