Chairing meetings

Before the meeting the chairperson:
  • helps the secretary/minute taker prepare the agenda and therefore decide on the order of business. This is done by:
    1. studying the minutes of the previous meeting to see what needs following up
    2. being familiar with correspondence
    3. working out what reports need to be presented
  • checks that the agenda and meeting details:
    1. are set out correctly
    2. has been sent out in time and to all those who are entitled to it.
At the meeting the chairperson:
  • arrives early
  • calls the meeting to order at the time specified on the notice
  • declares the meeting open
  • calls for apologies
  • leads discussion, item by item
  • encourages a free exchange of ideas on matters of importance to the team
  • sees that debates are conducted correctly so that the business of the meeting runs smoothly
  • rules on disagreements
  • answers questions put by members
  • sums up the debate frequently
  • follows the agenda exactly as set out
  • ensures that a correct record of decisions is being recorded
  • announces the date of the next meeting
  • closes the meeting.

Chair skills

  • Identify which agenda items are for information, discussion or a decision.
  • Ensure everyone has copy of the agenda and any papers for the meeting
The Chair needs to be skilled at:
  • ensuring that everyone has a say
  • managing the meeting appropriately
  • ensuring that decisions are properly understood and well recorded. If necessary, the Chair will repeat the decision for the minute taker and ensure all members agree with the wording

During the Meeting

  1. Communicate
    Start the meeting. Welcome any new members. Make any necessary introductions. Receive apologies for absence. Ensure that additions or amendments to minutes are recorded.
    Set the scene. State the objectives of the meeting and each item.
    Try to be brief when making a point.
  2. Control
    Maintain control. Set out any time limits.
    Allow flexibility and freedom of expression.
    Keep to the agenda. Ensure quorum is present.
    Ensure time is used effectively.
    Ensure that proper minutes are taken.
  3. Coax
    Ensure full participation.
    Draw out quieter members and discourage those who are monopolising the meeting.
    Be prepared to highlight issues that no-one else will, and to be the one who always has to ask the awkward questions.
  4. Compare
    Weigh up contributions impartially.
  5. Clarify
    Ensure everyone understands what is being discussed. Summarise.
    Ensure that if jargon and abbreviations are used, all present understand them.
    Ensure that decisions are recorded, together with who is going to implement them. It can be useful to record decisions on a flip-chart as they are made.
  6. Decision Making
    Ensure that decisions are taken in the context of the organisations strategy and that they are recorded, together with who is going to implement them.
  7. Guide
    Remember that above all you are there to guide the meeting.
    Steer members to work harmoniously and purposefully as a team.
    Keep an eye on time.

At the End of the Meeting

  1. Summarise decisions taken and action points to be followed up e.g. who's responsible, by when.
  2. Agree a date for the next meeting.
    It is usually best to set dates for the year's meetings well in advance.
  3. Agree what special items will be put on the agenda of the next meeting and what work needs to be done, by whom etc.
  4. Ensure that the minutes are written up, checked by the Chair and sent out in good time.

Ensuring a broad participation

It is good practice to run meetings in a round system. That means that once one person in the meeting has spoken they cannot speak again until others who wish to speak have had their turn. This is more democratic and prevents the discussion being dominated by a few individuals to the detriment of the participation of others.

Another protocol that fosters discussion and engagement is to select a few contributors at a time -- say in groups of three -- rather than having to stifle the discussion after each speaker as you select another contributor.

Time limits

One of the most important roles of the chair is to keep an eye on the clock and remind the meeting about any schedule issues. It may be decided that agenda items and individual speakers be restricted to set time intervals.It is the duty of the speaker to adhere to that by reminding all speakers how much time they have left. The Chair can do this by handing or flashing cards or notes to each speaker such as: 'x minutes left', 'Times up' etc.
Sometimes the Chair may need to interrupt the speaker verbally to get them to finish if they go far over their allotted time.

Voting at Meetings

The chairperson must have a clear understanding of the voting rights of members. (See your group's constitution.) There are different ways of voting at meetings. The chairperson must decide which is the most appropriate for the decision being reached. With a show of hands: The chairperson may say "Will all those in favour of this motion raise their hands?" followed by "Will all those who are against raise their hands?" (hands are counted). With a verbal vote: The chairperson may say "Will all those in favour say Aye?" followed by those against say “No”. A ballot vote is most often used when electing officers. A slip of paper is given to each member with the list of candidates outlined.

It is normal meeting procedure to vote on any amendments first before voting on the motion. Once amendments are passed they become part of the original motion so that the final vote is voting for or against the motion as amended.
Competing and separate motions are voted on separately with new motions moved being voted on before the original motion.


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