A good Chair helps meetings to run smoothly and efficiently. They will make sure that:
- All the business is discussed
- Everyone’s views are heard
- Clear decisions are reached
- The meeting starts and finishes on time
A good chair will also:
- Always be thinking about the meeting overall, not just the topic under discussion. This can make it more difficult for you to participate in the discussions
- Always aim to draw a balance between hearing everyone’s views and getting through the business
- Never use their position as chair as an opportunity to put forward their views to the exclusion of others, or to dominate the meeting
No one can achieve this without the cooperation and agreement of the whole meeting – the chairperson is not a miracle worker!
Everyone can learn how to chair well, it just takes a bit of thought and practice. And you will get more confident with experience. Try watching how other people chair meetings, and seeing what works and what doesn’t.
Do you need a Chairperson?
Some groups don’t have a formal role of Chair, or a named Chairperson. However, even very small or informal meetings need some direction and organisation. You could decide to rotate this role. This has the advantage that it spreads the responsibility and gives everyone a chance to be involved with the running of the group.
However, rotating the Chair can sometimes mean that no one takes responsibility for the role, or that the same person always ends up chairing without any proper agreement. If you do decide to have a rotating Chair, work out collectively what is expected of them and agree from the end of each meeting who will Chair the next one. This gives them the opportunity to think about the meeting and their role in it.
We also have an example role description of a Chairperson which you may find useful.