How to Chair a Successful Meeting
A chair helps to determine the direction of a meeting and how smoothly it runs. It's easy to tell when the person in charge isn't really sure of what they're doing. A few key tips can help anyone to be more effective in this position. Ample preparation and a little confidence will go a long way towards holding a successful meeting.
One duty of the chair is to make sure that things are organized ahead of time. This includes having a space for the meeting, setting things up if necessary, and making sure that everyone knows how to get there. The space should encourage participants to get involved, so sitting around a table or in a circle is better than sitting in rows. Attendees need to have a copy of the agenda before the meeting so that they can be prepared. Having interesting visual presentations can help keep everyone's attention on the business at hand. Decide whether there will be coffee and snacks.
Show up at the meeting a few minutes early so it can begin on time, and hand out any necessary papers to people as they arrive. Starting late will encourage others to be tardy in the future. Introductions and greetings should be made right away, especially if everyone doesn't already know each other. Creating a positive and relaxed atmosphere will make people more likely to get involved. It's good to start off with a little bit of lighthearted chat or humor, but be careful not to stray too far. Tell everyone how long the meeting will last. Keep things on track so that it doesn't go on too long.
Leading discussion is a natural ability for some people, while many have to learn how to do it well. A meeting chair should not be afraid of using their authority in a friendly manner to get things done. This often means moving the discussion in a more productive direction. When a subject has been fully covered, the chair should have something new to bring up. People sometimes need to be stopped from monopolizing the discussion or saying the same things over and over, and other individuals may need to be asked a question to get them to talk. When participants begin to stray off topic, the chair has to refocus things. A brief break can work wonders for relieving conflict if it erupts.
Being able to summarize and condense information is important. Make sure that everyone understands the issues by doing this before something is decided or voted on. Sometimes people make good points but use vague language, and it's helpful to restate what was said so everyone is on the same page. A chair needs to have thorough knowledge of the subjects of the meeting in order to do this.
After the meeting, it can be very helpful to get feedback from other people. There's nothing wrong with going up to the participants on an individual basis and asking them how they think it went and how a future meeting could be more successful.
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