News & Gossip - Chairing A Meeting
CHAIRING A MEETING
I've been on committees for over 30 years, but the thought of chairing committee meetings still gave me a little shiver! I found preparation was key. In the past, as Handicap Secretary, I'd know what my actions were from the previous meeting, and I'd perhaps glance at the full minutes the night before the meeting.
That's fine but, as Chair, you really need to be comfortable with calling out any actions that haven't been met, or that need chasing up. So do make sure you're familiar with the minutes and with what actions have been identified. You'll have an agenda, probably prepared by your Secretary in advance, which is your prompt so that you don't go off topic, or forget important points.
The best feedback I've had whilst chairing a meeting was from a lady who thanked me for keeping the meeting moving. We had some sticky subjects and people, with the best of intentions, can be prone to running off at a tangent. Try to keep your committee on the subject at hand and move onto the next topic when you need to.
Do involve everyone too. You may well find you have one or two quieter members who are in danger of not getting a word in edgeways between more vociferous committee members. Don't be afraid of saying "What do you think Mabel?" Mabel will be thrilled that someone has opened a door for her opinion.
Don't panic if there are differences of opinion - that's what the committee is there for and people won't all agree all the time. Don't panic - if you need to call a vote over an issue, that's fine - that's what you're there for. Just make sure everyone has had chance to throw their opinion into the mix.
When wrapping up a particularly involved issue, summarise the points and the outcomes of the discussion. That way you can be assured that everyone is 'on the same page' and it's a check for whoever is taking the minutes that the correct details have been captured.
As well as the Secretary taking the minutes, I've always tended to make my own notes at the same time so that if I needed to summarise a discussion, I was prepared. You also have the backstop if you need it of asking the Secretary to run through the key points.
The most important thing is to make sure you're prepared, that you know exactly what needs to be said, what decisions need to be made. Careful planning will give the meeting a clear objective; you don't want to have meetings just for the sake of having a meeting, or that run on too long.
Meetings aren't scary, just be prepared - and relax! As we speak I have two more committee meetings to chair - I've survived, so you will too!
Do share your own experiences, hints and tips with us!!