Duties of the Chairperson
The chairperson plans and conducts meetings. The chair arranges the meeting place and sends adequate notice, finalizes agenda and ensures meeting packets are distributed to all attendees.
The chairperson also ensures attendees adhere to meeting conventions, while continually striving to maintain respect, inclusiveness, and fairness as the group conducts its business.
The chair also reviews and approves meeting minutes for accuracy and assigns appropriate persons or committees to follow up action items.
Lead by Example
The chairperson confidently conducts the meeting and sets the tone, but doesn’t dominate the conversation. The chair seeks member input and keeps proceedings on track. Consequently, a good chairperson is amicable, focused, well-prepared, and timely.
On meeting day, the chair arrives early with all relevant documents in hand, including the finalized agenda. The chair introduces him- or herself to new attendees.
At the scheduled meeting time, the chair welcomes everyone and starts the meeting promptly. The chair treats members with respect, listens carefully, and encourages participation by all members.
Understand Meeting Rules
The accepted standard for facilitating discussions, group decision-making, and fair and orderly meetings is Robert’s Rules of Order. These rules allow the full membership to participate on an equal footing using the same language.
The chairperson should possess a fundamental knowledge of Robert’s Rules to conduct a productive meeting. Otherwise, members may not have an opportunity to express their opinions or the decisions may not be legal or fair, if they’re made at all.
Meeting etiquette is also essential. The chair may ask participants to put their cellphone on silent mode during the meeting. They may also ask attendees to leave the room if they must take a call and remind participants that they should not interrupt others when they have the floor.
Stick to the Agenda
Whether a meeting is formal or informal, no one wants to waste their valuable time. Sticking to the agenda ensures the group covers items within the allotted time.
However, some members may dominate the conversation or steer away from the agenda. The chairperson’s role is to refocus the discussion so the meeting can continue on the topic. This may include ending the discussion and moving onto the next agenda item if the situation merits it.
Hone Interpersonal Skills
Sometimes members are very passionate about issues and may react without thoroughly understanding an issue. Other times they may act out because they adamantly disagree. However, majority rules and the chairperson may need to gently remind them of this principle.
The chair needs to have strong interpersonal skills to calm members and clarify misunderstandings.
Otherwise, it’s challenging to carry on, let alone coming to an amicable decision.
The chairperson must also communicate clearly and directly with members to accurately convey their message. This includes eye contact while speaking to an individual and non-threatening body language and tone.
The chairperson is also a goodwill ambassador and will summarize achievements and thank members for their contributions at the end of the meeting. By creating a positive, productive environment, members are more likely to participate in future meetings which strengthen representatives’ participation and lead to better decisions.