In this episode we look at how to chair a meeting.
DENISE: Has everybody got a copy of the agenda?
Would you mind taking minutes John?
JOHN: Not at all.
DENISE: Good. Well, then let's get started.
First of all, thankyou everyone for attending at short notice.
As you know, the objective of this meeting of the Capital Works Committee is to discuss a proposal for some urgent building work at our Southside plant. As we've got to reach a decision which may involve spending, we'll run it as a formal meeting.
Now, you've read the proposal, so without further ado, I'd like to open it up for discussion.
Perhaps if we can start with you Tan – what's your view?
TAN: Well, I'm not convinced that the work is as urgent as this report suggests, so perhaps we should…
DENISE: So, to sum up – I think we are all aware that some urgent work does need to be done, and we will need to work on a longer term plan for a major refit.
Well, if there's no more discussion – we'll put it to a vote. We're recommending that tenders be called for the urgent work needed. All those in favour?
All those against?
Then that's agreed.. Any other business?
Then we'll close the meeting. Thankyou everyone. The next meeting will be in two weeks, at the same time…
Meetings. We love them or hate them – but we have to have them. Of course there are many different kinds of meetings –from an informal chat, to a Board meeting, or even an Annual General Meeting – and some are more formal than others – and so the language used in them changes.
Today we’re looking at a more formal meeting – and in particular at the role of the chairperson – or the person who runs the meeting.
Our Chairperson is Denise. Let’s look at how she starts things off.
Denise first makes sure everyone has an agenda – or a list of the items to be discussed at the meeting.
Then she asks someone to take minutes – or keep a record of the meeting. Then she announces the start of the meeting – she officially begins it.
Let’s practise some useful phrases for these three purposes…
Has everybody got a copy of the agenda?
Does everyone have an agenda?
Everybody should have received an agenda.
Would you mind taking minutes John?
Could somebody take the minutes please?
Well, then let’s get started.
What does the chairperson do after formally beginning the meeting?
Did you notice the different parts of that introduction by the chairperson?
First, she thanked people for attending the meeting. Even though it may be their job – it’s good practice to thank people for attending.
Next, Denise states the objective of the meeting. Of course a meeting may have more than one objective, but often meetings have one main objective, or aim.
The Chair should state the objective of the meeting. In this case it is to discuss a proposal, and to reach a decision. A proposal is simply a more formal word for a suggestion – but it is usually a detailed suggestion, in a written form.
Let’s look at some different ways of stating the objective of a meeting…
The next job of the chair is to invite discussion. Let’s look at how Denise does this…
Denise says ‘without further ado, I’d like to open it up for discussion’.
‘Without further ado’ just means without any more procedure. We’re going to discuss it straight away. Then she says ‘I’d like to open it up for discussion.’ ‘it’ refers to the proposal she has just outlined.
Try repeating this phrase after me:
‘Let’s open it up for discussion.’
Let’s open it up for discussion
Okay – now, you can open a topic for general discussion – which means anyone can have a say. The Chairperson controls the discussion. Or, the Chairperson may invite particular people to speak. This is what Denise does – watch again…
Denise invites Tan to start the discussion. Let’s practise a few phrases for asking someone to speak…
Who’d like to start the discussion?
What’s your view Tan?
Let’s hear from Tan.
Do you have a view on this Tan?
Another job for the Chair is to summarise the discussion – that is, concisely state the main points made during the meeting.
Denise summarises the main points from the discussion. To introduce this she could use various phrases – practise these:
To sum up…
So the main points are…
The outcome of a meeting might be a suggestion for an action. Depending on what kind of meeting it is, this could be called a motion, or a recommendation. In our example, Denise puts the recommendation of the meeting to a vote.
Notice how Denise controls the meeting – she doesn’t say ‘Is there any more discussion?’ She says ‘If there’s no more discussion we’ll put it to a vote.’ She is controlling the meeting by moving on. She then reiterates, or re-states the recommendation and calls for votes by saying ‘All those in favour’ – that is those who agree, and ‘All those against’. Votes are only taken in a formal meeting procedure – in a less formal procedure, a decision can be taken by consensus – by everyone agreeing during the discussion.
Notice that after the vote, Denise says ‘Then that’s agreed.’ A meeting agrees, or doesn’t agree to a recommendation. If it’s a more formal motion – we say the motion is ‘carried’ or ‘not carried’.
Often at the end of the meeting a chairperson will call for ‘any other business’, before they officially announce the meeting is closed, and announce the time for the next meeting.