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How to Chair a Successful Meeting

How to Chair a Successful Meeting

How to Chair a Successful Meeting

Many hours are spent in meetings; and since time is money, meetings are an expensive commodity.

Unfortunately, some meetings are a waste of time, because they are badly run.

How can you make your meetings more productive?

Learn how to effectively chair a meeting.

We will break this discussion into three parts.

  1. Before the meeting
  2. During the meeting
  3. After the meeting.

1. Before the meeting:

The quality of any performance is based upon the preparation that precedes it.

Good preparation paves the way to a good performance.

Preparation for meetings means three things:

  • Prepare the purpose
  • Prepare the agenda
  • Prepare the room

1.1. Purpose: What do you want to achieve from the meeting?

Every meeting should be to achieve a definite purpose.

The purpose will be to:

  • To make a decision.
  • To inform people of a situation.
  • To communicate a plan.
  • To resolve a problem.

Unless you have a definite purpose in mind, then your actions will be purposeless and a waste of time.

Before you call a meeting (or do anything), you should be able to answer the all-important question: WHAT FOR?

1.2. Prepare the meeting's agenda in advance

The purpose of the meeting allows you to break the meeting into its logical subsets. You should use this logical order to make an agenda for the meeting. An agenda is a list of items to be discussed, and there should be a logic to the sequencing.

1.3. Prepare the meeting room in advance

People are conditioned by their environment.

If you are in an unhealthy environment, then you won't work well for long.

If you are in a supportive environment, then you will work better for longer.

What is a supportive environment for meetings?

  • Sufficient space to accommodate the number of people attending.
  • Fresh air. Not stuffy.
  • Natural lighting. Not reliant on electric lighting only.
  • Comfortable seating. Not uncomfortable hard seating.
  • Water. Not sugary drinks.
  • Maybe a few light snacks. (Not snakes).

2. During the Meeting

2.1. Time-manage the meeting

Time is money. The meeting should run close to the timings set out in the agenda.

If the chair allows the delegates too much leeway, and the early agenda items are given too much time, then the later items will be rushed or omitted.
The chair must keep an eye on the clock, and do everything possible to balance two competing demands:

  • To allow everyone to have their say.
  • To limit the time spent on each agenda item.

The chair should listen for the deviations, irrelevancies, repetitions and trivialities, that creep into conversations, and should be quick to interject and eliminate them.

Keep the train on the on track.

2.2. Assign roles and responsibilities

Every decision or plan, or implication to action that is decided, must be attributed to a specific person, or group.

If only general statements of intention are made, without attributing the corresponding actions to a named group or individual, then nothing will happen since everyone will assume that someone else is doing it.

The chair should ensure that every action point is attributed, and he/she should record that information in writing.

2.3. Manage meeting behaviour of the attendees

There are some people who attend the meeting and who don't add much value. And there are a smaller number who detract value from the meetings.

  • The railroader: is the person who tries to dominate the meeting.
  • The joker: misuses humour.
  • The digresser: cannot keep his mind on the issue at hand.
  • The broken record: cannot stop from thinking and talking about only one thing.
  • The cynic: criticises all ideas without having any positive ideas of his own.

The chair must keep an eye-out for these delegates and take immediate action to limit the damage they can do to the meeting.

2.4. Take minutes from the meeting, include key decisions and actions agreed

The minutes record the meaning of the meeting.

The minute writer has the responsibility to record the meaning of the meeting accurately.

The minute writer needs to develop special skills.

  • To distinguish the important from the trivial
  • To distinguish the relevant from the irrelevant.

The chair should strive to make life easy for the minute writer, by asking the speaker explicitly: "How do you want that minuted?"

The minute writer must record:

  • Conclusions - What people think
  • Reasons - Why they think it.
  • Actions - What follows?

3. After the meeting:

3.1. Review the effectiveness of the meeting

The chair should review every meeting in order to evaluate its effectiveness.

The meeting was expensive and in order to justify its continued existence, it must make more money than it costs.

Don't hold a £300 meeting for a £200 decision. Use our Meeting Cost Calculator to estimate the cost of your meeting.

3.2. Follow up and review the agreed action points

Ensure that the action points that were attributed to specific people are carried out, within the time agreed.

If the decision is not implemented, then the meeting was futile.

Remember that talk is NOT cheap.

And actions speak louder than words.

Summary: How can you make your meetings more productive?

If you are chairing a meeting you should:

  1. Decide what do you want to achieve from the meeting.
  2. Prepare the meeting's agenda.
  3. Prepare the meeting room.
  4. Assign a good minute writer.
  5. Time-manage the meeting.
  6. Assign roles and responsibilities.
  7. Manage the delegates' non-value adding behaviour.
  8. Assist the minute writer to record the essence of the meeting.
  9. Ensure the meeting was worth the money it cost to hold it.
  10. Follow up and review the agreed action points.

About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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