In this context I don’t mean the thing you’re sitting on but the person leading the meeting! Chairing is a skill that we’re expected to learn by osmosis and the thought of leading a meeting can strike fear into the inexperienced.
Here are some rules and tips to help you manage your meetings with confidence
- If you are leading a meeting then you are in charge of it. Some of the delegates may be more senior than you but it’s still your meeting. You may be able to draw on their experience and knowledge but this does not mean they can take over.
- You need to be very well prepared and organised. Make sure you block out preparation time in your diary. Identify the minute taker and contact them well in advance of the meeting. Read through minutes of the previous meetings so you are up to date with proceedings. Draw up the agenda well in advance and review it to check items are in a logical sequence. Make sure there is adequate time for discussion. Think about which are the most important items on the agenda – which items would you drop if necessary.
- Get to the meeting room well in advance of the start of the meeting. Check the layout of the room, Choose your seat and distribute papers if necessary. Welcome delegates as they arrive
- Start on time and keep to time – everyone’s time is valuable including yours. Use the timings on the agenda to move items on and to keep the over talkative in check. Phrases like “ We’ve only got 10 more minutes on this so I want to move on from you, Susan” can be very useful
- Ensure all sides of the debate are heard. Be even handed and dispassionate, give everyone a chance to contribute. Use your common sense to make sure debates are kept in proportion.
- At the end of an item close the topic down by summarising the discussion and decisions made, reviewing the actions in the minutes and then introduce the next item. This gives the meeting a structure and keeps things under control. Similarly in a long meeting give a quick review of the morning after the lunch break
- Keep your sense of humour and humanity! Admit it when you’ve made a mistake and see the funny side of things. Be understanding when others make mistakes or slips of the tongue. People will appreciate a well run but humane meeting
What tips do you have for running a successful meeting?