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This is not advice. Items herein are general comments only and do not constitute or convey advice per se. The information contained in these articles is for guidance only and should not be relied upon without obtaining professional advice having regard to your direct circumstances.


Running a good meeting

With proper planning and a skilled chairperson, meetings can be productive and stimulating. Here are a few tips on planning an effective meeting.

Before the meeting During the meeting After the meeting
- Ask yourself: do we really need a meeting?
- Design an agenda
- Provide participants with helpful information before the meeting
- Tell people the start and end times
- Make arrangements so interruptions are avoided
- Book an appropriate venue
- Make sure all equipment is organised
- Start on time
- Ask if everyone is happy with the agenda
- Set times and guidelines
- Try to stick to time limits
- Control the garrulous
- Encourage different points of view
- Summarise conclusions and decisions
- Close on a note of achievement
- Fix next meeting time
- Thank the group
- Distribute minutes within one day
- Make sure minutes clearly show: time, date and venue; names of those present and apologies; decisions reached; action to be taken, by whom and by what date; date, time and place of next meeting

The chairperson’s role

Have a skilled chairperson run the meeting. Their skills will include:

- Gate-keeping – being aware of who wants to contribute, and assisting all to participate. An example of an effective gate-keeping statement is: “I think that’s an important point, does anyone have a different point of view?”
- Normalising – affirming what has been said or experience as being quite normal. This is important when someone has said something which might be a bit unusual, far-fetched, or risky in some way. “I’m sure there are others who feel the same way” is a way of normalising a statement made by another.
- Noticing and naming. It can be helpful to notice what is happening and feed this back to the group. “I’m wondering if there’s something that’s not being said here” can bring out into the open some conflict that may otherwise be brushed under the carpet.
- Pacing – watching the time, feeling the group energy, and checking this out with the group. “Do we need to take a break here?” is a good example of pacing statements.
- Clarifying –checking with the group that everyone knows clearly what another person means
- Summarising – where you mirror back to the group is where they seem to be up to. It helps make progress clearer and identifies common themes and ideas. “Let’s just go over where we’re up to”. “It seems to me that there are three main concerns...”

Dealing with bad behaviour

It is important that the chairperson can handle bad behaviour.

One difficult character to deal with is “the dominator”, who loves to hear him or herself talk and dominates the conversation by talking over others or for too long. Simply acknowledge the worth of what the speaker says, but clearly state “Thanks Sally, let’s hear what others have to say on this issue”.

Conversely, “the withdrawer” says very little, barely seems to be involved in the discussions, and may be quite shy, or simply disengaged. A good chairperson will draw this person out of their shell, without placing them in an embarrassing position.

The “disruptive clown” continually distracts other by telling jokes. One thing to remember about the disruptive clown is that he/she is often quite bright, and may well have a useful point to make if you can draw them out. When dealing with him/her, it is best to just laugh and move on from their comment.

Reaching decisions

Typical approaches to decision-making include:

- Majority vote
- Minority vote: a sub-committee is appointed to make a decision on behalf of the group
- Consensus: building united judgement, the decision everyone accepts that reflects the best thinking of the group. There is no “winning” or “losing side”. It provides an opportunity for everyone to participate.
- Decision by leader after group discussion: the group proposes ideas and discusses them, but the designated leader makes the final decision
- Decision by expert: an expert is selected, he/she considered the issues with or without group discussion and then makes a decision on behalf of the group.

Each of the methods has pros and cons. The important thing is to consider which is appropriate for your particular meeting, and for all group members to accept that method and be clear about how it works.

Key points to remember

- Be utterly clear about the purpose of the meeting
- Assign roles and set agenda in the first five minutes
- Be clear about the decision making process (Consultation? Vote? Consensus)
- Pay attention to timing, individual needs and the group’s functioning as a whole
- Watch for “groupthink”, or false consensus because people feel pressured to agree
- Always involve people actively. Not many of us want to just sit at meetings and listen. We need to feel useful.


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