Chairing a Meeting Effectively

Even the most contentious issues can be dealt with constructively and resolved to everyone’s satisfaction if the chair controls the meeting well. On the other hand, a badly run meeting leaves all of the attendees feeling frustrated.

How many meetings have you attended where it has become an exercise in tedium and futility, rather than being a productive use of your knowledge and time? Too many too count. Is this how others describe your meetings how can you turn your meetings into efficient decision making exercises? The answer is ‘preparation’.

Recent research has discovered that professional individuals on average attend over 60 meetings a month, that 2 per day! With many of these meetings turning into your worst nightmare how much time and resources have you’re an your colleagues wasted sat in ineffective meeting? Effective preparation for meeting can prevent this happening.

Preparation enables you to define your objective and purpose for the meeting, helping you to identify the aspects for discussion and who needs to be part of this decision making process. A well structured and timed agenda keeps the focus on the meeting on track and ensures the objective is achieved. Visit our website to find answers to the most common queries managers’ have when producing a meeting agenda.

Part of your preparation must include deciding who needs to attend your meeting so that thorough and conclusive discussions can take place to attain the meetings aim. A vital part of any meeting is the production of accurate minutes and a clearly defined action list. If you are looking for a useful template to help record the actions that result from your meeting and those who are responsible then download our free meeting action list template.

Five Steps to Success

Here are some steps you can follow to ensure your prepare sufficiently for your meetings.

Define the Purpose
There must be a specific purpose for bringing everyone together so that they see the meeting as a productive use of their time, rather than being an irritation in an already crammed work schedule. Communicating this objective clearly and precisely ensures that results are attained. Those who have a vested interest in the outcome want to attend and partake in worthwhile and well-structured discussions. Having a clear purpose in your mind for your meeting ensures you achieve your desired meeting goals.

Have a Timed Agenda
To keep the discussion focused, it is imperative that you have a clear and timed agenda that is communicated in advance. This ensures that everyone knows what is expected and has sufficient time to prepare their own objective arguments for each item so that everyone gains from attending. It is important to define the nature of the discussion, whether an item is informative or requires debate. Your agenda guides those at the meeting to achieve what is required, avoiding unnecessary diversions.

There is no doubt that communicating effectively with participants during the meeting is important, but this is not the only aspect of communication. Attendees need to be informed of all essential details prior to and following the meeting. The messages such communication contains need to tell individuals when, where and length of the meeting so they can organize their time to attend. After the meeting communications have to remind participants of the actions and their deadlines they are responsible for.

A notice in advance, usually 48 hours or more, lets participants prepare properly with supportive data for the planned discussions as well confirm their availability. You email or memo can explain whether the meeting is optional or attendance is compulsory.

Be On Time
Punctuality is also a key factor for making a meeting effective and successful. You are the one who is going to be leading so it is essential that you show your commitment by being on time. Also, set the time according to the participants’ schedules so they are able to attend without any hassle. One thing you must do is start on time. Sometimes managers decide to wait a few minutes for everyone to arrive. This is something you should avoid doing, so start promptly. You are not bound to wait for anyone as long as you communicated effectively.

Stay in Control
An essential aspect to any meeting is making sure participants know what the rules of behavior are. For example, everyone must ensure that their cell or smart phones are switched off, as well as any other devices they might be carrying. Nothing breaks the tempo of a meeting more than a cell phone ringing in the middle of it.

Keep control of the timing and focus of each agenda items discussions. If anyone puts forth a different viewpoint or tries to take the discussion in another direction, you must bring the discussion back into focus and define how you will deal with this matter. You may chose to add it as an item for future meetings or give a brief explanation of why it is not relevant for this discussion.

Before dispersing, let the people who attended know when the minutes will be distributed and what sort of communications they can expect between this and the next meeting. You should also clarify how you expect to be kept up-to-date the progress of any actions.

These five aspects of ensuring your meetings are successful are expanded on and developed further in our free eBook Chairing a Meeting.


Everyone can learn how to chair a meeting effectively, it just takes a bit of thought and practice. Try watching how other people chair meetings, and seeing what works and what doesn’t. Remember, you will get more confident with experience. Chairing a meeting effectively is simply a case of making sure that you take account of all of the following responsibilities:

Before the Meeting

  1. Define the meeting objective and decide if this is the best way to address the issues.
  2. Ensure the key contributors and those with authority to make decisions are invited to attend.
  3. If too few are available postpone or cancel the meeting.
  4. Select the most appropriate time and place for the meeting.
  5. Set a well thought out and timely agenda.
  6. Assign a competent individual to take the minutes.

At the Start of the Meeting

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

During the Meeting

  1. Ensure you establish control from the outset.
  2. Keep the meeting focused and on time, and encourage participation and contributions from everyone.
  3. Agree and minute all the key points and actions with timeframe and accountability detailed.
  4. Ensure unresolved items or non-agenda items raised during the meeting are noted for later attention.
  5. Active listening will enable you to limit the number of interruptions and anticipate and diffuse deteriorating situations.
  6. Draw out contributions from those who have a point of view or question but may be reluctant to communicate it, or who may refrain from doing so.
  7. Sum up all of the items on the agenda, giving each one the time you feel represented its significance to the overall debate.

After the Meeting

  1. Check the minutes prior to circulation.
  2. Review and evaluate the meeting process and your performance in the Chair role.
  3. Review and evaluate the meeting results against the objectives.

Key Points

  • The chairperson carries the ultimate responsibility for the success of the meeting.
  • There must be a specific purpose for bringing everyone together so that they see the meeting as a productive use of their time, rather than being an irritation in an already crammed work schedule.
  • To keep the discussion focused, it is imperative that you have a clear and timed agenda that is communicated in advance.
  • The chairperson is responsible for making sure that all business is discussed in line with the timed agenda, everyone’s views are heard and clear decisions are reached.

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