Meetings are an essential part of conducting the business of any board or organization. Meetings provide the forum for discussion and making decisions on programs and initiatives. Having a structure for running meetings will minimize distractions (i.e. participants talk off topic, monopolize discussion time, have difficulty making decisions or fail to respect the contributions of others).
It is the responsibility of the Chair to ensure that:
- the meeting runs smoothly
- all members participate
- all agenda items are covered, and
- all outcomes are understood and respected
- minutes of the meeting are taken and later distributed
For consistently it is practical to adopt a structure for conducting meetings. The structure should include a set of agreed upon rules or procedures to make sure meetings run as effectively and efficiently as possible. Procedures could be agreements such as; only one person speaks at a time, key decisions must be voted on with outcomes of the vote respected by all, and there must be a majority support before a decision or action is carried out.
Do you think your board’s business is carried out in an orderly and systematic fashion? Does everyone have equal opportunity to speak or share their viewpoints? Do some members dominate the discussions? Can you identify any new rules that might make things better at your meetings?
Meeting participants want their opinions and ideas heard and their time used wisely. It is important that the Chair, remain neutral and focus on managing the meeting. At each meeting, the Chair’s responsibility is to make sure participants:
- adhere to the agenda and discuss only one agenda item at a time
- are aware of priority items on the agenda
- maintain order and constructively discuss agenda items
- know and follow meeting procedures
- treat participants equally
No matter how good the procedures are, they need to be reviewed from time to time so the best outcomes can be achieved. A few practical procedures will result in less confusion, more constructive dialogue and better decisions. A well structured meeting process will make the Chair’s job much easier and the board will feel more accomplished as a result.
For more information on chairing an effective meeting, please visit our Chairing an Effective Meeting fact sheet, which can be accessed here.