The Ultimate Guide to Chairing Meetings Effectively
I’ve spoken much in previous posts about meetings and how you can use them to build a culture of teamwork where each individual employee is motivated to work collectively towards the business’ goals. I’ve even mentioned how to create innovative thinking by using meetings as an opportunity to inspire your teams.
But I haven’t spoken much about how to effectively chair a meeting, so in our Ultimate Guide to Chairing Meetings Effectively, I hope to help you understand what it takes to be able to effectively chair a meeting and how that can help to improve performance across the board.
I’m sure you’ve been in a meeting, or maybe even chaired one, that you’d consider to have been ineffective. It can seem like chaos at times. Maybe you couldn’t move your team away from a certain topic or you ran out of time in the meeting room you booked. Whatever it was, I’m sure you’ll agree it could have been chaired more effectively.
Luckily, I’ve provided this handy guide…
- First, Know the Purpose of the Meeting
- Be Prepared
- Outline the Agenda
- Take Minutes
- Give Everyone a Voice
- Keep Things Moving
- Ask for Questions
- Determine a Clear Outcome
- Email the Minutes
Before the Meeting:
1. First, Know the Purpose of the Meeting
Before you set out to chair the meeting, you need to know the reason for having it in the first place.
It is paramount that you understand the purpose of the meeting well before it takes place and any other preparations begin. If you don’t know the purpose of the meeting, you’ll prepare for it in the wrong way and the outcome will be too far removed from what needed to be achieved.
That doesn’t sound very effective, does it?
Understanding the main purpose of the meeting will help you to keep everything on track and focused on a clear, definable goal. This, ultimately, allows you to be able to determine the success of the meeting which is one of the most important aspects of a meeting.
Tip: Write down the purpose of the meeting before going in so you can be certain if it was achieved at the end.
2. Be Prepared
Once you understand why you’re chairing the meeting in the first place, you’ll need to prepare every aspect in advance.
This means writing a meeting agenda based on the purpose you defined beforehand as well as other preparations, such as making sure any visual presentations are set up and tested in advance and ensuring any food or beverages are ready for the start of the meeting.
The time you spend in the preparation stage of the meeting is so important for ensuring the meeting runs smoothly and the attendees have everything they need to contribute ideas and opinions. Great preparation helps to prevent any easily preventable interruptions.
Fail to prepare; prepare to fail.
Tip: It’s a good idea to send out a reminder before the meeting to ensure the other attendees are as prepared as you are.
During the Meeting:
3. Outline the Agenda
Make sure that every attendee understands, as you do, the purpose of the meeting and in what order each topic will be raised.
By getting everyone on the same page from the outset of the meeting, you allow every member to understand its structure. This can help to avoid interruptions when attendees want to bring up a point related to a topic that will be covered later on.
Tip: If you get the members of the team to relay the purpose of the meeting to you rather than just telling them, they’ll become more engaged with achieving it.
4. Take Minutes
Once the meeting has begun, I recommend you take notes and minutes. Not only does this make everyone feel as though their input is being listened to, but it means you aren’t relying on memory after the meeting.
If you don’t take notes and try to recall the key events of a meeting by memory, you risk forgetting, and therefore omitting, important details from whatever outcome the meeting has.
When in a collective, it can be difficult to assign responsibility to a particular individual for ensuring each aspect of the meeting is actioned or, at least, followed up. This responsibility falls on you as the chair of the meeting and it’s your role to take minutes at each stage of the meeting.
If you fail to take comprehensive notes, not only does this mean that aspects of the meeting aren’t followed up on, but, perhaps more importantly, it means that attendees will be less likely to provide input in future meetings if they see their ideas are forgotten about as soon as the meeting is over.
5. Give Everyone a Voice
By this stage, you should have prepared everything correctly so that every attendee has a chance to contribute to the meeting. Everyone should feel they have an equal part in the meeting and silly oversights, like not having enough chairs, might inhibit someone from feeling included.
When someone is voicing their opinion or sharing an idea, it is your responsibility to ensure that he or she is heard. This means not allowing any interruptions in your meetings.
Meetings are more effective when everyone feels their voice is heard and their opinions are valued. By giving each attendee time to clearly make their point without being cut off, you give the meeting its best chance of success. Interruptions occur in informal conversations, not effective meetings.
6. Keep Things Moving
You have to ensure that every topic in your agenda is covered in the time allocated for the meeting. Dwelling on a point for too long will mean that you don’t give other topics the time they deserve and will lead to an ineffective meeting.
This is, perhaps, where the efficiency of your chairing will most come to fruition. Keep one eye on your agenda and another on the clock (but not at the same time). Make sure you have time to cover everything you need to in order to achieve the meeting’s purpose.
Tip: If there are topics that can’t be settled in the allotted time, give that topic its own meeting for a future date. It might seem that scheduling future meetings during the current one is an inefficient way to deal with that topic but it will help move things along.
7. Ask for Questions
Once every point has been covered, you can open the meeting up for questions. As mentioned, it’s important to stick to the agenda that you set out before the meeting to keep things moving and ensure each point is touched upon. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t allow the meeting to stray away from the agenda once every point is covered.
Don’t think that chairing and effective meeting means you can’t accept input that falls outside of your agenda. What this doesn’t mean, however, is allowing the meeting to become sidetracked by questions as soon as they arise. If someone has a question during an unrelated part of the meeting, ask them to note it down to be brought up at the end. Outlining the meeting agenda at the beginning will minimise the number of questions arising about topics that will be covered later on.
By allowing questions at the end, you ensure that every team member is clear about what has been covered and what needs to be actioned.
Tip: Give attendees the opportunity to come to you individually and bring up any concerns they might have had during the meeting but would rather not have voiced in such a public space.
After the Meeting:
8. Determine a Clear Outcome
The purpose of any meeting is to, in the end, determine a successful outcome. So, the best way to ensure you’ve chaired an effective meeting is to try to determine a clear outcome that can be taken forward by your team.
Take a look at the purpose of the meeting you wrote down beforehand. Did you achieve this? Great, then it was a successful meeting. If you didn’t achieve what you set out to achieve then, clearly, you haven’t chaired an effective meeting and you’ll likely need to chair another one.
Try to keep the purpose down to a single sentence for a specific goal so that, when you come to determine the outcome, you can be sure if it had been achieved.
9. Email the Minutes
The best way to be sure every point is minuted and actioned is to email out the minutes to all attendees of the meeting. This enables them to be able to double-check that the points they raised have been noted. If they haven’t, they have the opportunity to alert you to what you might have missed.
Sending out the meeting minutes is also a way of keeping the meeting in people’s minds as a document to refer to long after the meeting has adjourned. Having access to the minutes means attendees are better able to action their assigned tasks following the conclusion of the meeting.
Tip: When sending the minutes, it’s a good idea to thank the attendees for a successful meeting and to remind them of the purpose once again so it’s fresh in their mind and they have all the motivation they need to action their follow-up tasks.
That’s the end of the guide. Now you have all the tools you need for chairing effective meetings.
Just remember, there was a reason you called the meeting. Make sure that purpose is clear throughout and that you refer back to it when determining the meeting’s success. Then, you’ll know if you’re effectively chairing meetings.