Long talks on the beach
When I first began to run a guild, meetings were an accepted part of the game's culture. You could spot a mass of players huddled together in a zone and tell right away that that guild was taking care of business. Our guild used to meet along the shores of Ro because the roaming Sand Giants would charge at our guild and ensure that the serious discussions didn't get too serious. We needed to meet because our guild was large and we didn't have the many ways to communicate with the guild that we have now in MMOs. Because the whole concept of a guild was fairly new, the meetings were even more important as we took on a variety of topics without any past precedent or resources to consult for solutions.
But the meetings sometimes dragged on, partly because everything had to be typed out and partly because all of the attendees felt they had to talk. Over time, we scrapped the guild meetings completely, but looking back, I wish I had kept them going but just reined them in because I think it would have helped prevent a few conflicts that flared up here and there.
Recap and regroup
It's a shame, but guilds often don't get to appreciate their victories as long as they should. As soon as one hurdle is overcome, another one right there waiting, and because of that, guilds quickly go from elation back to grind mode. It helps to summarize what the guild has done at a guild meeting, to remind members what they've accomplished together. Usually, players are surprised when they do get a summary of their achievements, and it certainly helps boost morale of players who might be frustrated with current progress.
After recapping, it's good to quickly cover strengths and weaknesses. What has your guild done right, and what areas need work? Sports teams look at their past games to pinpoint things that need to be improved, and guilds should do it as well. And by explaining those general areas of weakness, you'll usually get many players eager to step up and help to shore things up. Instead of finger pointing, players collaborate in a positive way.
Introduce new members
Guilds are usually a hub of activity, and it's easy for a new member to get lost in the mix. There are times when members log in and have no idea who the new player is because they weren't online when he was invited and introduced. Guild meetings provide an opportunity for everyone to officially get to know new recruits. It's also a good time for the guild leader to announce names of potential new members so guildmates can keep an eye out and get to know them better.
Carve out a direction
Guilds are at their best when they have something to do. Whether it's taking on a hard raid boss, dominating part of a PvP map, or amassing a fortune by shrewdly playing the market, a guild that has a goal is usually a happy guild. Use the guild meeting to announce short- and long-term goals, and get members excited to take them on. If you aren't sure what direction to take the guild, explore the options with guild members. Instead of guessing wrong and announcing goals that are either too challenging or not a good match for the guild's playstyle, include the ideas of members, who in turn will be more likely to rally behind those goals even when it gets tough.
We've looked at the importance of recognizing players who have contributed to the guild, and a guild meeting is a perfect time to highlight those individuals. It might seem like a small thing, but even a quick shout-out boosts morale and inspires everyone to chip in so that he or she might get that shout-out the next time around. The highlights can be personal victories or even humorous moments (best tanking ability by a Ranger, for example). When players feel that they are appreciated, the guild's morale goes up overall.
Last but not least, a guild meeting is a chance for members to strengthen ties. Lighten things up by sharing a few laughs over sillier moments. Things that might not have seemed funny at the time, like a raid wipe or a mistake, can be humorous once you've overcome them, and that makes it easier for the guild to get past future mistakes and not dwell on them. It matters that players enjoy those around them in guild, and a guild meeting helps bring everyone closer.
But have a fixed time limit
If you do have guild meetings, make sure to stick to your agenda, keep things moving, and follow a fixed time limit. Similarly, you shouldn't require players to attend; make it an event that players will want to join. Guilds can get so busy that members sometimes feel like just a number. Guild meetings are a good chance for players to meet up, have a little downtime, and provide some necessary pauses that break up the grindy feel that can occur in MMOs.
It might seem like a waste of time to hold guild meetings, but the short time spent bringing the guild together can translate to less time spent fielding complaints and handling drama. A meeting gives the guild leader a chance to touch on several areas of management at once, and it also gives the guild a chance to bond and grow stronger.
Do you have a guild problem that you just can't seem to resolve? Have a guild issue that you'd like to discuss? Every week, Karen Bryan takes on reader questions about guild management right here in The Guild Counsel column. She'll offer advice, give practical tips, and even provide a shoulder to lean on for those who are taking up the challenging task of running a guild.