The gentle art of chairing a meeting

To attend a well led meeting is a joy. You feel you’ve used your time well, learnt something, contributed & been listened to. This is particularly true if you have a masterful chair.

I was struck by this thought at lunchtime today having attended meetings last night (a hustings for my local parliamentary constituency) & this morning (a ‘town hall’ meeting at work). The contrast between the two meetings was stark: the work one was excellent, the hustings a mess. I began thinking about why this was. My conclusion: the work meeting had a very competent chair, while the hustings had a weak chair.

A chair is in charge of the meeting; takes control of the proceedings; is supported in managing the meeting; facilitates discussions & input from everyone in the room. Senses when things aren’t going well & sets the meeting back on course. Plus of course makes sure things are running on time, & if not, sorts out if over running the meeting is an option.

This isn’t an easy task. It requires practice & self-awareness. It helps too, to have the opportunity to observe excellent & poor chairs in action to learn from them. I’ve adopted that technique & believe my chairing has improved, thanks to putting into practice techniques I’ve observed.

If you want to improve your chairing skills make sure to observe others in action & reflect on their behaviour. I do wish the chair of the hustings last night had followed that advice.


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