Happy chairs by Lars PlougmannAs people, we are all complex creatures and approach situations in many different ways. This is often seen in meetings. There are the people who like a meeting to be fast paced and decisive but also people who like to discuss, reflect and reach a consensus. When leading a meeting it can be a delicate balancing act to keep everyone on board.

Sometimes the behaviour of delegates can interfere with the running of the meeting so here are some tips to keep things on track when chairing a meeting

Know yourself – make sure you understand your preferred style and decide if it is appropriate for the meeting. Some delegates may really grate with you but you should always be even handed

Think what you want to achieve and make it clear to delegates what you expect of them – a decision, a point of view or information for example. Reinforce this at the start of the meeting

We’ve all met delegates who think their view is the only valid one or who just like the sound of their own voice. Make it clear you want to hear from all delegates and keep to timings on the agenda. Develop a supply of phrases along the lines of “Thanks Jane, let’s hear from John now”, “We’ve only got 20 minutes to hear from everyone, lets move on now”

Often there will be a delegate with a fixation on a particular issue, which they raise at every opportunity. Often their pet issue will be totally irrelevant to the meeting. One way to diffuse the issue is to have a “Car Park” sheet. You can say to the delegate “I appreciate that’s an important issue for you but it’s outside the aims of this meeting. I’ll put your issue on the Car Park sheet and you and I can discuss it at the end of the meeting”. Make sure you follow through and do this of course!

Some delegates are naturally more quiet and reflective. They can find robust debate harsh and aggressive. Try and draw them into discussion by asking them easy questions or using their name in an example. “So if we make Mark a super user he’d be able to change the master list”. Flattery can also be a good technique “Sue, I know you worked on a similar project last year, it would be really useful to hear your views”

What techniques do you have for dealing with behaviours in meetings?

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