How to Chair a Meeting?

How to Chair a Meeting

Having meetings in the workplace is essential for sharing ideas, agreeing; decisions, actions, plans, and reviewing progress. It is also vital to get people together in a room to talk about new challenges, solutions, and new opportunities. Meetings should and can create value, except when they are poorly run. There is more than one way to run a meeting so that it serves its purpose. But generally, it requires the person to know how to chair a meeting with confidence.

How to Chair a Meeting with Confidence?

For chairing a productive meeting, you need to:
1. First, be clear about what you want to achieve from the meeting
2. Identify all the material required
3. Make an agenda listing all topics
4. Invite only the necessary attendees
5. Distribute the plan before coming to the meeting room
6. Set the start and end time and stick to it
7. Nominate a timekeeper and meeting notes taker
8. Prevent late comers from distracting the meeting
9. Ensure each action agreed has one rightful owner
10. Let participants know the meeting rules at the beginning
11. Listen actively to others opinions
12. Speak clearly and avoid using platitudes and jargons
13. Be confident and decisive
14. Be strict but do not dictate
15. Encourage each attendee to contribute
16. Ensure that people do not stray from the agenda
17. Cut off irrelevant discussions
18. Make sure everyone understands the next steps before the meeting ends 

Planning a Meeting

The meeting must have one owner who is responsible for chairing, planning, preparing, and inviting the participants.

When planning a meeting, you need to answer some simple questions: Is it necessary to have a meeting for this or that? Will this meeting generate decisions and actions to find the solution required?  Is this something we can discuss and close through emails without sacrificing our productive time? What are we going to achieve for having this discussion? Who needs to be there, and why?

Making the purpose clear is the right approach for paving the way for a successful meeting.  

Meeting Plan

It is critical you have a plan or an effective meeting agenda, showing a step by step guidance of how the meeting will flow. You can also allow the time you want to spend on each topic and note it on the agenda.

Each topic on the meeting agenda must sound like a question to prevent attendees from debating and rambling, craft the meeting topic as a question. You want all participants to remain focused on the relevant subject throughout the session.

Make sure the agenda and all appropriate materials must be distributed to the attendees for review before coming to the meeting room.

It is not ideal having people reading materials when this could have done that in advance before the meeting.  Also, this allows participants to think about the results they want to achieve from the meeting ahead of time.

Inviting Meeting Attendees

Your meeting has a purpose, so you only need to invite the right attendees who can help to achieve that purpose. Every participant must be there to contribute to the meeting.

You need the right people to attend. And the right people are those who have the authority to make decisions and taking actions.

If those people are unable to participate, they can send others to represent them. Make sure that those who come to deputize have the authority to make decisions and take action. If they cannot decide or take steps, there is no reason for them to be in a meeting.

You do not invite people for the sake of it. It is only those who have genuine reasons to be there can attend the meeting.  Otherwise, it will be pointless for them to be there.

Conducting a Meeting

To conduct a meeting, the chairperson must prepare for everything before the session begins. If you do not do that, your meeting can quickly go into chaos and lose its goal.

You also need to ensure that all attendees have a clear understanding of the purpose of the meeting before it starts.

Start Meeting

The chairperson cannot be the timekeeper, and should not be the one writing down the meeting notes. You have to nominate someone else to be in charge of recording all actions and decisions raised in the meeting. Whoever you chose to take notes also becomes the timekeeper.

Make sure there is an action Log-sheet in the meeting room before you start. The log-sheet is vital because it is where all actions and decisions have to be written down.

The meeting must start on time, even if not all the attendees are there. And the meeting has to finish at the scheduled time as the agenda says. If you have some previous actions and decisions, review them at the start. You want to know whether those actions and decisions are still open or not.

Chairing a Meeting

Chairing a meeting is not an easy task. You need to be firm with excellent chairing skills.  Respecting others’ opinions is one of the critical drivers of successful meetings. You can be active, and a strong chairperson but very respectful to all attendees.

You do not want to dictate and end up forcing some participants to become reserved — that will turn the session into one-way meeting traffic. All the attendees must be free to talk, ask questions, not just the chair.

You can let attendees discuss issues a bit longer if the aim is to find a solution. Watch out those who tend to sound knowledgeable. If what they are talking about is not adding value to the meeting, you have to stop them.

More Reading: 8 Major Issues With Management That Force Good Employees to Quit

Enforcing Meeting Discipline 

Some attendees do not pay attention during the meeting. Usually, they are busy having separate conversations, which distracts others away from focusing on the purpose of the meeting.

If you see individuals having different discussions, pause the session, and ask them to stop or leave. Any discussions that are not relevant to the purpose of the meeting must take place outside the meeting room.

Remember that only those who can contribute positively are allowed to attend. If you feel that some people are not making any meaningful contribution to the meeting, you can ask them to leave.

There are also attendees who do not want to abide by the rules. For instance, people; arrive late, come unprepared, complain instead of finding solutions, do not make decisions, do not turn off their phones, or bring their laptops and check on their emails.

To put it another way, some people don’t want to adhere to the rules of the meeting. But if you control all the negative meeting behaviors, it will make the meeting productive.

Writing the Minutes of Meeting

Writing minutes of a meeting is critical.  If the actions and decisions agreed upon are not written down on the action-log sheet, then your meeting is just a waste of time. You must write down all the decisions and everything you are going to do that come out of the session.

Remember the reason why you are having the meeting. You want to identify issues and raise actions to fix them. You do not need to spend time debating and explaining problems instead of finding solutions.

All actions captured during the meeting must have clearly defined owners and their closure dates. Each action must have one owner, and the individual must be present in the meeting. Those actions shouldn’t be delegated or taken on behalf of people who are not present in the meeting.

Ending a Meeting

Ending well is the critical point where a meeting can fail. So, check to confirm that all issues raised, decisions and actions agreed, are recorded accurately on the log-sheet.

Request preliminary plans from participants who have agreed to take action.  Then agree on how to follow up on the progress of implementing the actions.

Before you close, ask everyone to give their views on the effectiveness of the meeting and make the adjustment next time if necessary.  You can end the meeting early if you think that everything on the agenda has been covered instead of filling up the time.

In conclusion, chairing a meeting is a challenging role, but one you must carry out very well. As a chairperson, you lead participants in a positive way that adds value to the purpose of the meeting.

The attendees must feel part of the process to be productive and deliver the meeting objectives. If you fail to lead the meeting well, it does not achieve the goal. What you need from everyone is to make decisions, or agree on actions to take for a better outcome.

 Read more: Why Team Building Activities are Waste of Time

After a Meeting

Track and closeout actions in a reasonable period
Communicate decisions and actions to attendees and wider interest group
Actions and decisions distributed to participants or saved in the agreed location

Positive Meeting Behavior

Think before you bring up a new topic
Respect others when they talk
Follow the rules of the meeting
Computer off- open or closed, Phone off or muted

Negative Meeting Behavior

Complain instead of finding solutions
Discuss topics outside the agenda
Discuss based on feelings and assumptions
Do not make decisions
Do not adhere to the rules of the meeting

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