Business work, especially in the office environment, demands a certain degree of collaboration. For example, important decisions often require more than a single person's perspective, and important work often requires the expertise of several people to complete. Meetings are a way to structure and organize collaboration, but without a sense of purpose or control, they can become long and inefficient very easily. Knowing how to plan, prepare and lead a meeting that you will chair will help you achieve an effective meeting and avoid wasting it.
Part 1 of 3: Prepare for the meeting
Step 1. Discuss the upcoming meeting with those who will be attending
When you find out that you will lead a meeting, it is advisable that, first of all, you spend a little time talking with those who will be attending, especially with the higher ups or important people. Ask them if there is anything specific they want to discuss at the meeting. Make a note of their responses and use them as a guide when creating your agenda.
Consider asking attendees what they would like to discuss is a smart approach, not only because it will make it easier for you to develop the agenda, but also because it involves them in the meeting process before the meeting has started. People are more likely to attend and pay attention during meetings if they know that matters they consider important will be raised
Step 2. Write and distribute the agenda
The meeting agenda can be a valuable tool not only for the person who will chair it, but also for those who will attend it. Keep in mind that agendas contain valuable information about the meeting, such as when it will be, where it will be, and who will attend. Most importantly, they also outline all the topics to be discussed, allowing everyone to prepare. Send the agenda in advance and keep in mind that the more important the meeting, the sooner you should send it.
Consider that one of the things that your agenda should definitely contain is the time limit to deal with each of the issues that will be discussed. Developing a rough schedule in advance will help make it easier to keep the meeting on track. Although some of the items on your agenda require more time and others less, a schedule will make it easier for you to follow up on these items and help you adjust the times accordingly
Step 3. Research the topics to be discussed and the previous meetings where they have been discussed
Those who attend the meeting may not be aware of all the issues you plan to discuss; some may not have attended previous meetings, while others may have simply forgotten all or part of the information. As the chair of the board, it is a good idea to know the history of the discussion thus far. Try talking to people who have attended previous important meetings to find out if there are any significant unfinished business that you can take up at your meeting. You may also want to ask the clerk of record for the minutes of past meetings to help you plan.
Minutes from previous meetings can be an important resource when you chair one. The minutes summarize the discussions and decisions that took place, this will help make it relatively quick and easy to finish the task. You may also want to distribute the minutes of an important previous meeting along with the agenda to those who will attend yours
Step 4. Prepare in advance the space in which the meeting will be held
On the day of the meeting, you want to make sure that the room or location where you are meeting is clean, presentable, and ready to accommodate attendees. You want to make sure that all the technology components of the board (such as presentations, projectors, screens, etc.) are working properly and are ready for use, consider that technical problems can consume valuable time and disorganize the board.
If you are going to use an electronic presentation in PowerPont, for example, take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the remote control or the controls you will use to change transparencies. You don't want to waste time juggling the controls when important topics are being discussed
Part 2 of 3: Act as the Chairman of the Board
Step 1. Call the meeting to order
When it is the scheduled time for the meeting to begin and all attendees, or at least the most important ones, are present, get the attention of the attendance. Introduce yourself as the chairman of the board and explain its purpose. Set the time frame that will be allocated to the meeting and inform everyone of the time you intend for it to end, it could be a little before or a little after, but announcing your time limit from the beginning will help you keep everything under control. If some of the attendees don't know each other, take a few minutes to roll call and introduce the important attendees.
Keep in mind that some companies and organizations have strict and regulated procedures for starting and conducting a meeting. For example, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), in the United States, uses a system known as Robert's Rules of Order, which includes calling the board to order by striking a hammer and very specific rules for filing. and approve motions
Step 2. Summarize the relevant points from the previous meetings
At the beginning of meetings that are part of a long and ongoing project, you will want to briefly brief all attendees on the status of the project so far with a quick summary of the relevant facts and decisions from previous meetings. Keep in mind that not all attendees may know as much as you do about the topics to be discussed, so updating everyone quickly could go a long way toward making the meeting efficient and effective.
- Instead of summarizing previous meetings yourself, you may want the clerk or registrar to read the minutes of the previous meetings to give the summary an air of formality.
- You might also consider reading important correspondence or communications that have taken place since the previous meeting.
- Keep in mind that if you distribute copies of the minutes and correspondence to attendees, it will generally not be necessary to read the material aloud.
Step 3. Allow important attendees to report the status of the situation
Then let those with relevant information on the matter report to the assembly any new or recent events that have taken place since the last meeting. The events that can be dealt with at this time could be of virtually any type, for example new problems faced by the company or organization, personnel changes, project developments, and strategy changes. Meeting attendees will also want to hear about the results of specific actions that have been taken as a result of the previous meeting's decisions.
Step 4. Present all unfinished business
If there are issues that were seen at the last meeting that have not been resolved or decisions that have not been made, make an effort to discuss these issues before moving on to the new issues. Realize that the longer old issues go unresolved, the less attendees will want to take responsibility for them, so try to pinpoint and resolve all unfinished business during the meeting. Generally, unfinished business is specifically listed as "undecided" or "scheduled for future discussion" in the minutes of previous meetings.
- Depending on the culture and rules of your workplace, your company or organization may have specific procedures for making decisions, for example, meeting attendees may need to reach a majority consensus, or may be tasked with task of making all decisions to a select group of high-ranking employees.
- Keep in mind that some things are too big to be completed between one meeting and the next. Therefore, not in all cases it will be necessary for you to dwell on the details of long-term projects that are not yet completed. However, decisions or projects that require immediate action need to be addressed.
Step 5. Talk about new business
Then talk about any new issues, concerns, and issues that need to be discussed. Keep in mind that these issues should arise naturally from developments or events that have taken place between the previous meetings and this one. Try to get concrete and defined decisions from the attendees, consider that the more issues you leave undecided, the more you will have to deal with again at the next meeting.
Step 6. Summarize the meeting's conclusions
When you have touched on all the issues past and present, take a moment to summarize the meeting's findings for all attendees. It breaks down the results of all the decisions that were made and, if necessary, describes the specific actions that attendees are expected to take before the next meeting.
This step is crucial, as it will be your last chance to make sure everyone leaves the meeting knowing exactly what stage projects are at and what is expected of them
Step 7. Finish by laying the groundwork for the next meeting
Finally, tell everyone what to expect for the next meeting and, if you've already started planning it, let them know when and where it will take place. This helps attendees feel that there is continuity from one important decision or project to the next, and also gives them a time frame to move forward or complete assigned tasks.
Keep in mind that you don't necessarily have to plan another meeting if it covers all past and present business. However, if there are enough unfinished business to warrant future discussion, or if you are waiting to see certain projects unfold, it is probably a good idea to plan a future meeting
Part 3 of 3: Lead the Board Effectively
Step 1. Guide the discussion, but don't dominate it
One of your responsibilities as chair of the board is to keep the discussion active and focused on the issue. Your task is not to offer your opinion on every topic that is raised, nor to keep the discussion fixed on an exact schedule. Have some flexibility. Allow other attendees to speak freely and let new discussion topics emerge, even when they are not on the agenda. You may find that you have to subtly end or change certain talking points in order to keep the discussion on track, but don't feel like you have to control every aspect of the meeting. After all, it is a collaborative process.
As the meeting progresses, keep an eye on your schedule. If you find yourself falling behind, you may have to skip certain discussion topics or schedule them for later, in the interest of time. Don't be afraid to do this if the issues being discussed are very important
Step 2. Encourage all attendees to participate
As chairman of the board, your job is to ensure an open and productive discussion. If you notice that certain attendees who might have relevant knowledge about the issues being discussed do not open up with the group, encourage them to speak. You don't need to challenge them to speak or mention them outright, saying something like, "I think Mrs. Smith's experience could be of use to us on this matter" is a great way to get less active board members involved.
Step 3. Make sure everyone understands the topic being discussed
It may be difficult to remember that not everyone who attends the meeting has the same amount of experience or knowledge on the topics to be discussed. To ensure that all participants are able to invest their time wisely, you may want to give yourself the opportunity to briefly summarize complicated topics or issues as they are discussed. Attendees with less knowledge are sure to appreciate it.
Step 4. Don't ignore difficult or uncomfortable questions
If a competent president doesn't keep everything under control, boards can become surprisingly unproductive. Do your best to ensure that all important matters that you plan to discuss are addressed. Don't let attendees blame each other or offer vague excuses to explain unsolved issues. Try to raise and get answers to issues that no one wants to talk about. While this may not necessarily be what all attendees want, these are the very uncomfortable questions that need to be answered most in order for the meeting to be as effective as possible.
Make sure important decisions are recorded, if you have an official recorder or a minutes writer, assign them this task. If you are going to be faced with the task of asking the tough questions, you want to make sure that the answers they get are well documented
Step 5. Watch the times
There's a reason boards get such a bad rap, many think they're a huge waste of time. To prevent your meeting from taking too long, use your power as meeting chair to speed up discussions. Don't be afraid to schedule certain unimportant matters or conversations for a later date if the meeting seems to be taking longer than you expected. Be prepared and willing to quickly adjust your schedule to make sure none of your attendees waste time.