I have attended a fair number of meetings in my life, ranging from committee, executive, and general to annual general meetings. Attendance at the meetings has ranged from 5 to 2000. Some have been examples of well run, competently chaired smooth meetings. Others have been the exact opposite – rambling, badly chaired and very long. And of course there have been a lot in between these two examples.

What is it about meetings that cause people to get it so wrong so often? Is it because we don’t often get a chance to chair a meeting and so expand our skills? Is it fear of being in charge of meetings and of being in the spotlight? Perhaps it is lack of knowledge?

I have touched on some of the answers in a previous blog – such as preparation, communication skills and answering impromptu questions. Today I want to concentrate on some basics such as protocol, moving motions, voting and the actual running of the meeting.

Firstly the difference between an MC and a Chairman (and yes it is Chairman not Chairperson or Chair – Chairman is neutral, non gender specific). An MC (Master of Ceremonies) is a person who acts as host at formal occasions. The MC makes a welcoming speech, introduces other speakers and provides commentary in between the speakers. A Chairman is a person presiding over a meeting, a committee, debate or other formal entity. The usual address is Mr Chairman or Madam Chairman. The Chairman is in control of the meeting and remarks should be addressed through the Chairman. The mark of a good Chairman is preparation and knowledge – know your agenda and be aware of what is going to be discussed.

Secondly, moving and voting on motions: this can be very involved. In the simplest form you need a mover and a seconder, ask for discussion, then put it to the vote.. all those in favour, any against , then state the motion is passed or defeated. A couple of things to note – the mover speaks to the motion and has a right of reply – in fact is the last person to speak on the motion. The seconder must reserve their right to speak when seconding or else they do not get a chance to speak. If there is discussion you ask for those for the motion; then those against. Each takes it in turn. The Chairman is in control and sets the time and number that will be allowed to speak. As I said this can be very involved but for most meetings the basics should suffice to ensure a well run meeting.

Finally, one common issue that nearly always arises is who can move and second the motion regarding the previous minutes. There is a belief that unless you were at the previous meeting you cannot move or second the motion. This is not true… any person who believes the record to be correct can move this motion – the difference is in the wording… If you were at the meeting you would say that the minutes be confirmed. If you were not at the meeting the wording would be that the minutes be taken as a true and correct record. If you remember anything about meeting procedures remember this because it can save a lot of angst and time wasted looking for someone who was at the last meeting.

Knowing some of these basic concepts can turn a poorly run meeting into a smoothly run, competently chaired meeting.

“Effective meetings don’t happen by accident, they happen by design.“ (Management by Meetings)

(to those who follow me on Twitter and read the blog you will have by now noted that I did not blog on any of the items I suggested… what can I say – you have to go where the muse takes you… perhaps later for persuasive selling, choices and attitudes or communication and customer service)


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