Chairing a meeting of passionate people with diverse views can be a rollercoaster ride.
With years of experience on boards and chairing rowdy meetings, Melanie Raymond has picked up some valuable tips for maintaining control and getting the best result.
It begins, she says, with embracing the diversity of views around the table, being flexible and believing in the value of sharing. "Remember that the person who appears to be the weakest in the room may have the most valuable perspective."
Raymond’s other tips include:
1. Don’t assume
"I’ve learned to never assume that people understand the basis of your authority or your role as chairman. I often start meetings by explaining my role, describing how I’ll go about chairing the meeting and asking people to address the chair. Otherwise, it’s unfair to people who don’t understand governance or the structure of a meeting. It also serves to remind people, perhaps in a more experienced group of directors around a table, of their responsibilities."
2. Set the tone
"As chair, establish your authority in the room at the start of the meeting. Don’t let the meeting run away from you by allowing the loud voices or bullies to gain a foothold early in the meeting. It can be uncomfortable at first, but it will pay off in the end."
3. Swallow the rule book
"Make sure you know your constitution inside out, and the terms of reference for committees. It’s never a good look when you have to check the rules during the course of the meeting; it means your meeting isn’t going well."
4. Take a moment
"When tempers are raised or there is disharmony in the room, it’s good for the chair to take some time to review where discussions are up to. It’s okay to pause and speak as chair – it’s part of your role to ensure a good meeting."
5. Respect their time
"In the NFP sector I believe good people join to make a difference and they need to come away from a meeting feeling that’s what has just happened. They’re usually unpaid, busy people so take time to allow the impact of your work to come out in the course of the meeting. They’ll forgive all sorts of things but it’s difficult to forgive time wasting."
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