Setting a start time and an end time is an effective way of ensuring that a meeting is managed efficiently. During the specified period allotted for the meeting, draw up a schedule of matters to be discussed in a particular order and the length of time each discussion should ideally last. This could be decided by assessing the relative importance of each matter.
It is important to assert authority as the chairperson by outlining and habitually reinforcing certain codes of conduct throughout the meeting. As the leader in the room, you command the respect and attention of all attendees. Therefore, in these circumstances, explicitly detailed “housekeeping rules” can assist in maintaining order.
Some examples of housekeeping rules can include but should not be limited to:
As the chairperson, you are solely responsible for setting the tone of the meeting. Therefore, the onus is on you to ensure that communication between all parties is clear and direct, with no room for ambiguity or misconceptions.
Communication can be verbal or non-verbal. For effective verbal communication, your content, tone, volume, and intonation should be appropriate and expressive enough to convey the message.
For effective non-verbal communication, make sufficient (but not excessive) eye contact, use the right body language, and gesticulate just the right amount (or not at all) depending on your audience and the intent of the message.
Always remember that whatever the tone of your meeting, whether formal or informal, professional or a free for all, what you allow during meetings is what will continue.
Action items allow the committee to track its progress and determine whether or not objectives are being met. Needless to say, they are of exceptional importance. Therefore, when assigning items to be actioned, timelines should be included and persons should be appointed to track/monitor the status/progress of these items. At the end of its term, stakeholders determine the committee’s effectiveness by the number of action items it resolved during its term.
Accordingly, as the chairperson, you must ensure that items are successfully actioned at every meeting you chair.
More often than not, there is at least one person in attendance who refuses to abide by the conventions of common courtesy. They might speak out of turn, interrupt others, and just generally possess an air of haughtiness that makes people feel uncomfortable. As chairperson, you should recognise that the same strategy you employ to enforce order cannot be applied to everyone in the room if that circumstance arises.
Use your discretion and unobtrusively subdue those offending individuals while simultaneously prompting those who might be too silent to share their thoughts. Do this to show that you are in control of who speaks and when. Hopefully, after several instances of this, the troublemaker will realise that they are not being entertained and refrain from antagonising the other attendees.
There is perhaps no greater tool that you can employ than leading by example. If you want your audience to behave a certain way, then observe the rules and standards of behaviour that you have imposed on them.
So make sure and arrive early, be prepared for meetings by reading all relevant documents, do not interrupt others or speak in a condescending tone, turn off your devices that could be distractions, and listen attentively to what is being addressed.
Often, people are more perceptive than we give them credit for. Sometimes we may think we have them all fooled when the truth is they see us for exactly who we are. Therefore, do not insult the intelligence of your attendees by pretending to know what you are doing when you have absolutely no clue. You are more likely to get the assistance you require by being honest about your knowledge and skills.