How often have you left a meeting thinking ‘Well that was a complete waste of my time’ and promised that the next one would be different? Too many times to remember, I bet!

No clear agenda, boring presentations, side-bar conversations, lengthy pointless discussions – we have all been there, trapped in the awful meeting that goes around and around in a circle.

Research suggests that face to face contact is the most effective way to build and maintain good relationships, so why does it go so wrong, so often? Usually because of poor planning, bad chairmanship, and participants who are not sure what is expected of them.

In order to run an effective meeting, you need to think strategically and put some simple steps in place to ensure your meetings are productive and get the results you want.

Here’s our top tips to help you chair better meetings.

  1. The Role of Chairperson. You are responsible for producing the meeting. That is, issuing an agenda, taking charge if the meeting goes off topic, adhering to the time slots set for each topic, clearly indicating the requirement from each agenda item, and ensuring that everyone has a sense of accomplishment as they get out the door at the time promised.Yes, that’s right. Don’t ever call a meeting that doesn’t have a clearly advertised end time. You want participants to leave your meeting, right on time, thinking to themselves: “Yep, he/she knows how to run things well!”


  1. Invest time in your agenda. Meetings that involve a loosely based or vague agenda waste everyone’s time. No one knows what is expected of them. Contributors or presenters don’t know what or how much to deliver. Others don’t know what is coming and whether they are being asked to brainstorm the topic, make a decision on it, or just listen for information purposes.Instead circulate in advance a clear agenda with a note next to each item on what is required from the group, the name of any presenter, and the length of time that will be allocated to the item. A quick phone call to the presenter can spare you ‘death by powerpoint’. Tell them exactly what you want from the presentation and for how long they should speak. A recommendation to ‘keep it conversational’ should be considered.


  1. Keep participants on their toes. Instead of asking the group for their opinions in a linear sequence (which can often encourage the last person in the line-up to fall asleep or play with their phone) jump around the table to keep the whole group engaged. Participants won’t know which person you are coming to next and will stay alert in case their turn comes up unexpectedly.


  1. Play good cop/bad cop. As Chairperson, you need to control the flow of the meeting. You can get a bit of help with ‘policing’ by using the room layout. For example, ifJohn has a tendency to talk too much, you can speed him up without having to cut him off yourself. Before asking for his contribution, notify the person sitting opposite him that they are next. ‘John, we are going to hear your update on marketing for the next few minutes, then we will go to Jennifer to hear about the plans for the fundraising dinner’. You can be sure that Jennifer, directly in John’s eyeline, will make sure he finishes in reasonable time.


  1. Summarise. Watching the clock, and the time allocated for each item, begin to sum up what people have said and move it towards a decision. Capture the decision, and don’t allow the group to circle back around to the start again.


  1. Housekeeping. Note the action steps and the date of the next meeting, if relevant, and then thank everyone for participating, making sure they know their contribution was valuable and valued. Declare the meeting over, and get them out the door on time.

Looking for some extra help? Our one day, interactive, effective meeting skills course is exactly what you need.  Contact our office for a free consultation today on 041-9829673 or email

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