Tips for chairing meetings

A tipped chair

A different kind of chair and a different kind of tip, but you see what I’m getting at.

I’m currently mentoring the co-chairs of Haringey Youth Council and I came up with this list of tips for them, which I thought others might find useful.

What are your tips for making meetings run smoothly and involving everyone? Add them in the comments below.

Before the meeting

If at all possible make sure information goes out before the meeting, so you can spend the meeting discussing and making decisions, not listening to presentations.

Have timings for each item on the agenda. This will mean you can get through the whole thing as everyone knows when they need to draw the discussion to a close (or when you’re going to force them to).

Set up the room so that everyone can see one another and you can see everyone. There’s nothing more annoying than wanting to speak in a meeting but not being seen.

When any new people or visitors come to the meeting introduce yourself and welcome them.

In the meeting

Sit next to the person taking the minutes so you can check that you’re both keeping up.

When you want people to move to a decision, summarise what the decision is: don’t try to summarise the whole discussion.

Write up options and decisions so that everyone can see them. This helps avoid confusion and repetition.

When people put their hand up to speak, give them a nod and write their name on a list. This way they can put their hand down and concentrate on the discussion knowing they won’t be forgotten.

Add your name to the list when you want to speak, this will stop you jumping in.

If it’s important to the discussion that you hear from everyone, make sure you go round the whole group and specifically ask everyone for an opinion.

When people give opinions, ask them to explain their reasoning. This will move the debate forward.

Meetings should be about action – what you are going to do – so try to move the discussion into the future tense. Discussions in the past tense tend to be about blame, present tense tends to be about opinions, but future tense tends to be about action. It’s easier to find consensus over the what to do in the future than who to blame for what happened in the past.

If you think everyone agrees with an idea, check by asking if anyone wants to speak against it. If no one does, then you are safe to assume everyone agrees.

Be aware of jargon or ideas that people new to the meeting might not understand. You can either explain them or ask the person speaking to briefly explain the term for new members, guests, etc.

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