Chairing a Meeting - How to Begin the Meeting

There are several things that you can do at the beginning of the meeting to get it off to the best possible start.

Duties of the chairman at the start of the meeting

Arriving fifteen minutes or so before the start of your meeting enables you to perform these tasks comfortably and gives you sufficient time for a final run through of proceedings with your minute taker.

Firstly, look for any problems with the seating, lighting, heating, or technology that may have an impact on the meeting if left unchanged.

Secondly, ensure that each place setting has a copy of the final meeting agenda, as not everyone will remember to bring the latest copy with them. There may also be other papers to hand out, but in order to avoid people reading through these papers when they should be paying attention to the discussion, agree how and when such papers are handed out to attendees. You may want to allocate a short comfort break before a paper is discussed, so that everyone has the opportunity to remind themselves of its contents.

Finally, make sure that you start the meeting on time. In this way you quickly establish your control of the meeting by your behavior and tone. As the meeting progresses you may choose to be more informal but it is paramount that you begin formally and professionally.

After your friendly and courteous welcome thanking everyone for coming, you should state the objectives and timescales of the meeting. A quick review of the agenda allows participants an opportunity to understand all proposed major items. You do not want any distractions to occur through participants suggesting alterations or additions to the agenda at this stage, because this will take up valuable discussion time and reduce the likelihood of your meeting objective being attained.

However, if a key contributor informs you that they are delayed you may wish to delay proceedings till they arrive to avoid going over the same ground twice, or you may elect to alter the order of the meeting agenda to prevent delays. Your response to this will be dependent on who is delayed and whether or not an alteration to the agenda will compromise the meeting objective.

Once you have declared the meeting open, introduce yourself and the other participants as appropriate to the nature of the meeting. It is especially important to get the names and job titles of the participants correct. Then make any apologies for absence, on behalf of non-attendees. In certain circumstances it may be helpful to get people to say something about themselves as part of the introductions, but ensure you've allocated time for this otherwise you'll be behind schedule before any discussion has even started.

This Meeting Agenda Checklist outlines the five key areas you need to address to produce an effective agenda. This Meeting Attendee List Template provides you with a sheet to record everyone who needs to receive copies of meetings minutes. This Meeting Action List Template enables you to record actions, responsibilities and timescales that result from the meeting.

You may also be interested in:
Chairing a Meeting | The Skills Required to Chair a Meeting | Meeting Rules | Chairperson's Responsibilities Before the Meeting Begins | Chairperson's Responsibilities During the Meeting | Chairperson's Responsibilities After the Meeting.

Key Points

  • Arrive early enough to sort out any practical problems at the meeting venue.
  • Bring extra copies of the agenda and necessary papers so that everyone has sight of these during the meeting.
  • Start formally and on time, as this will set the tone for the rest of the meeting.
  • Introduce the participants and make everyone feel welcome, if appropriate.
  • State clearly what it is that the meeting seeks to achieve and use this to focus the group.
  • State how long the meeting will last and if it is a lengthy one state the times of any breaks.
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