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Privileged soapbox? How to be an effective chairperson
By Robyn Pearce

How many poorly run meetings have you attended? Ever noticed a chairperson who uses their position to grandstand and bulldoze their own agenda, leaving battered and silenced colleagues grumbling into their teacups in the corridor. I'm sure some people think that's their right as a chairperson, especially when they're the boss. However, there are infinitely more effective ways to build cooperation.

Let's check out how an effective chair handles the group.

Functions: The agenda; control and atmosphere of the meeting; 'the buck stops here'; making sure that everyone contributes; ensuring that the tasks are evenly shared out, and the willing horses don't end up with all the work (conditional on individuals' time constraints, of course); impartiality.

If you need training, get it. An effective chairperson can make or break the effectiveness of any meeting.

Be structured. Don't dodge all around the agenda. Stay focused on one issue at a time, finish, and then move on.

Give trivia the time it deserves. If something is urgent, but relatively unimportant, put a time limit on discussion.

Watch the quiet people, and involve them. It is very easy for these folk to be dominated and talked over, and yet, because they are quieter, and not in such a hurry to air their opinions, they usually have very valid things to say.

Ensure that the vocal members don't dominate the meeting. If someone wanders, a chairperson has to kindly but firmly thank the garrulous one, saying something like, "Let's hear from ... ", or "I think we need to keep on the topic."

Side conversations. These can be huge time-wasters, and the chairperson must nip them in the bud immediately, or the precedent will be set. They may have to stop the meeting and INSIST on only one person speaking at a time. If the pattern has already been set in an existing group, put it at the top of your next agenda for discussion, and get agreement. The rest of the group can then help the chairperson enforce it. Anyone who wants to chat socially can carry on after the meeting. 

About the author: Robyn Pearce, of TimeLogic Corporation, has helped 1000's of folks in 'Getting a grip on their time'. Visit http://www.gettingagripontime.com for FREE subscription to her email that includes "how-to" practical time management assistance, books, tapes, products, and more.

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