How to Chair Meetings – 7 Top Tips

Do you ever sit in meetings and wonder why the meeting is …so dull …so long …achieves so little?
Do you ever wonder why the chairperson isn’t doing anything about it?
Do you ever worry that people are sitting in YOUR meetings thinking the same thoughts?

Do you want people to say good things about YOUR meetings?

If so, then this blog is for you. Chairing meetings involves more than setting an agenda and working through it. It takes pro-active management of some key elements. So, whether you’re about to chair your first meeting or you’ve chaired some already but want to improve your technique, this blog will give you seven tips to put into practice when you chair your next meeting.

In your role as chairperson you are responsible for managing not just WHAT is discussed but also HOW it’s discussed. As interested as you may be in the content of the meetings, you need to place as much, if not more emphasis on how the group interacts to achieve the meeting goals. Here are 7 TIPS to help you manage the “how.”

Identify the End Point:

Everyone knows that having an agenda is good meeting practice but it’s not enough – you also need to clarify the point you want to reach by the time you finish discussing each agenda item, for example: “we need a prioritised list of amendments to the marketing strategy.”

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Map the Route:

Something that we often forget to do is consider how we’re going to reach the end point of our agenda items. Think of it as a journey – when we have a destination to get to, we don’t just get in the car and start driving – we identify the route we’ll take to get there (or we’ll at least use a SatNav to do it for us!) Here are a few examples of “route options”: brainstorming, one minute per person round robin, summarising the pros and cons, Q&A.

Decide on Roles:

Rather than assuming all responsibility for the management of the meeting, delegate some parts of it to others to encourage engagement and make the best of your resources (then monitor them to check they’re doing their job.) Roles might be process manager, timekeeper, note taker, devil’s advocate, action summariser.

Agree Time Control:

Clarify how long you’ll spend on each agenda item to ensure you don’t overrun. There are several ways of doing this, for example: setting a fixed time for each stage of the discussion, establishing ground-rules such as “no digressions” and stopping people who talk for too long.

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Provide Direction:

People like to know what to expect so you need to provide direction. Consider yourself the tour guide of your meeting – let people know what will be covered and how the meeting will be organised and managed. After each agenda item provide a summary of where you’ve got to and then tell them what will be coming next.

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Encourage Involvement:

I’ve been in meetings and wondered why some of the people were there. It’s not worth having people in the meeting if they aren’t contributing in some way. Keep your eye on who needs to be brought into discussions, ask questions to specific individuals based on their area of expertise, give people specific roles and where necessary stop the more dominant people from taking all the air time at the expense of others being able to participate.

Ensure Clarity of Understanding:

You need to be confident that when people leave your meetings they are clear about what was discussed and what actions are to be taken. Research suggests that in order to achieve this clarity, 10% of what we say in meetings needs to focus on clarifying what’s being discussed – this means asking questions that specifically test understanding and summarising regularly.

So when are you chairing YOUR next meeting? What will you try out from these tips to improve your chairing skills and the effectiveness of your meetings? You’ve read this far so make it worth your while – take some action. Then drop us a comment afterwards to tell us about the differences it made.

If you’ve got any additional chairing techniques that you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you – just add them into the comments box below.

Look out for our April blog on what it means to be a Business Partner.

Posted by Gill Bonello

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