I am sure that you too have attended many meetings that keep going for a long time without achieving much. You might have a lot on the agenda or perhaps you have too many people that talk a lot. However, if the person chairing the meeting knows the best techniques to use in chairing meetings effectively, you will be able to cut on the length of the meeting while allowing everyone enough chance to contribute to the deliberations of the meeting.
Today, we will discuss best techniques that you can use when you chair meetings so that your meetings are run effectively. Your goal as chair is to ensure that the meeting is run smoothly and efficiently. There are a few things that you need to do in order to achieve this goal. As chair, you need to focus on four key objectives:
- All the business is discussed: The agenda for the meeting will have been circulated to all those attending the meeting in ample time so that everyone can prepare adequately for the meeting. If members of the meeting are unaware of the agenda, you are already destined to fail to chair the meeting effectively. As chair, you need to ensure that the agenda is sent out and reaches everyone well in time. At the meeting, it is your job to manage the time so that each item on the agenda is given ample time for discussion. Some items may need less and others more time. You should not unnecessarily dwell too long on the first few items on the agenda. There might be more important items on the agenda that are towards the end of the list. As chair, you need to prepare accordingly so that you can be in control of the meeting.
- Everyone’s views are heard: It is not unusual that some members will tend to dominate the discussions in the meeting. As Chair, it is your job to ensure that everyone’s views are heard. You need to moderate the discussions. Some members literally need to be given some ‘quota’ for their speaking time and you may have to curtail their contributions. On the other hand, you also need to probe and persuade other quieter members to voice out their views. You will be surprised by the power and value of the contributions from the quiet members that do not always volunteer to express their views without being probed.
- The meeting starts and finishes on time: This is one of the key matters that most chairpersons fail to manage. Very few chairpersons are able to ensure that meetings start and end on time. If you agree that the meeting will be held from 2 to 4 pm, it is the responsibility of the chairman to ensure that this happens. You need to encourage members to arrive on time and when the time comes, you need to start the meeting promptly. You cannot wait for everyone to come even those that come very late before you start the meeting. You need to send a ‘message’ to late comers so that next time they can keep time. At the same time, you need to manage the meeting so that while all the business is deliberated on, you still manage to finish on time or very shortly afterwards. A meeting that is planned for two hours should not reach three hours. A few minutes up to thirty minutes as extra time may be acceptable but not an hour or hours more than planned. When meetings last too long, members are reluctant to attend next time. Also, long meeting tend to be ineffective without actions being planned or done after the meeting.
- Clear decisions are reached: A key expected output of the meeting is agreements and decisions being arrived at. It is your responsibility as chair to ensure that for every key point on the agenda, clear decision are made. Allow just enough time for members to make their contributions and then you as chair need to summarise the discussions into a decision that is a fair representation of the views in the meeting. n