How to chair a meeting effectively

Everyone attending a meeting plays a role in making sure the time is well spent, however, the meeting chair also has the added responsibility of making sure that proceedings run smoothly.

To be an effective chair, you need to possess a range of skills, including organisation, impartiality and communication.

Meeting Taking Place in a Dark Room

The job can be a daunting prospect for some. But following these six points can help guide you:

Preparation:

Legendary basketball player/coach John Wooden said that failing to get ready is getting ready to fail. This applies to business as well as sport. Prepare a clear, concise agenda and ensure attendees have the equipment/technology needed to get messages across. Make sure all attendees have something to bring to the meeting. Time is money. It’s no good inviting people to a meeting to which they cannot make a valuable contribution. Get a tried and trusted minute taker. Punctuality is essential. Set the tone by arriving 10 minutes early.

Communication:

Outline the meeting’s objectives at the outset in easy-to-understand, to-the-point language. Speak in a way that never brokers ambiguity. Ask the right questions; ones that will extract the best answers to your meeting’s objectives.

Control:

Just as you wouldn’t expect a judge to let a court case be hijacked by the loudest speaker or longest rambler, meeting chairs have to keep people to the point. Set an example by being concise yourself. Stick to a tight schedule and timeframe and don’t be side-tracked. This means being assertive while remaining courteous and cordial. Any salient off-topic comments can be shelved for a later meeting. It’s your call when to come to a decision on a certain subject before moving on to the next one. So keep an eye on the clock without being seen to clock watch.

Encouragement:

Make sure everybody becomes involved. This can be done in a polite, subtle manner by directing questions to particular attendees. Ensure that quiet attendees, when they are finally encouraged to speak, aren’t interrupted by the meeting’s “high-decibel” element. Conversely, discourage attendees who try to monopolise proceedings.

Staying neutral:

Maintain a High Court judge-style impartiality to ensure that not only everybody has a say but that you remain neutral yourself, however strong your opinions on a topic. You will also have to mediate tactfully when there is a polar clash of views.

End well:

A short, accurate summary can often be the most important part of the meeting. It’s no good attendees leaving without knowing what has been achieved. So spell it out for them in a clear way. Your ability to summarise on your feet will be one of your best skills. Making an action plan is highly recommended, as is appointing a delegate or delegates to see it through. Set a date and time for the following meeting. If valid points have been made but they are off-topic, then put them on the next meeting’s agenda. Ensure that all minutes get typed up, proof-read by yourself and emailed to attendees no later than three days after the meeting.

 

Posted by Julie Tucker

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