10 tips for chairing a meeting

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If you have to chair a meeting, make it a rewarding experience with these
ten tips.

1 Know why the meeting is being held

Keep focussed by knowing exactly what outcomes you are hoping to achieve.

  • Our main objective today is to try to reach an agreement on the Saxony contract.
  • We're here today to decide whether to invest more in research and development.

2 Set a positive tone

Set a positive tone early in the meeting. Greet everyone before you sit down. People bond around food and drink, so encourage the participants to help themselves to coffee and biscuits.

  • Hello everyone. It's nice to see you all. Please help yourselves to coffee.

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3 Have copies of the written agenda

Make some copies of the agenda in case participants have forgotten to bring theirs.

  • Do you all have your copy of the agenda? There are some spare copies here.

4 Let the group know the timeframe

Have a clear framework and guidelines for working together.

  • We have only ninety minutes today. I'll update you on the human resources situation, and then I'd like us to brainstorm some solutions to the challenges we face.
  • We have ten minutes each for items one to five, and only five minutes each for the other items. I'm going to ask you to stick to this timeframe or we won't get through everything.

5 Appoint a minute taker

Don't take the minutes yourself, even if this is your usual task.

  • Anja, please could I ask you to take the minutes?

6 Assign a timekeeper

Quietly ask someone sitting adjacent to you, to keep an eye on the clock so you do not run late. After each item, give a short summary or recap before going onto the next topic.

  • Andreas, would you be my timekeeper, please? It would help me if you can just give me a quiet reminder when we're nearing the end of the allotted time for each item.
  • So, before we move on, I'd like to recap what we have achieved so far.

7 Manage the group dynamics

Make sure nobody dominates the meeting or keeps interrupting others. If people are silent, ask them for their opinions.

  • Mark that's very interesting, but I think Bill is trying to say something.
  • Mr Schneider, what do you think about that comment?
  • Kerstin, would you like to add something to that?

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8 Handle conflicts impartially

If people start to argue, clarify what they have said and ask the participants to propose solutions.

  • What Max said was that we can't afford to waste time right now. What do the rest of you think? What about you, Alex?

9 End with action steps

Make sure everyone knows what he or she is expected to do as a result
of the meeting.

  • So before we close, John is going to re-write the contract, Grace will arrange for the invitations to be sent out and Manuel is going to phone headquarters.

10 Follow up

The best decisions are worthless if they are not implemented. Phone or email the participants after an appropriate time to see how they are progressing.

  • I'm calling to ask how you are getting on with the report you agreed to write during the planning meeting.
  • Did you manage to get hold of someone at head office?
  • Is everything going according to plan?