Role of the Chair

What are the chair person’s main responsibilities?

 > Keeping the meeting in order
 > Allowing everyone to be heard
 > Getting the meeting through all the business in the time allocated
 > Making sure that clear decisions have been made
 > Making sure it is clear who is doing which tasks

Keeping the meeting in order

How well the meeting runs depends on the people at the meeting, as well as the chair. It makes a Chair’s job easier if the group has some basic rules about how they want meetings to work – think about discussing this with your group.

Allowing everyone to be heard

In larger, more formal meetings it is usual to ask people to speak ‘through the Chair’. This means that they put their hand up when they want to speak, and then wait until the Chair tells them that it’s their turn. The Chair keeps track of whose turn it is. In a smaller meeting you may want to be more informal, but you still need to make sure that everyone gets the chance to speak.

The Chair needs to be aware that some people find it difficult to speak out in meetings whilst others may hog the limelight. It can help to say something like:
“is there anyone who hasn’t talked yet who would like to say something about this…” or “Selma has spoken several times already so I’m going to let Madge go next..”

Sometimes it works well to go round everyone in turn asking them what they think. Before a decision is made, or before you go onto the next agenda item, check that everyone has had their say. Don’t let people interrupt all the time, this is really frustrating for the person who is trying to talk and leads to frayed tempers. Politely ask people to wait until the person speaking has finished.

Getting the meeting through all the business

The Chair must keep an eye on the time and remind the rest of the committee regarding time allocated and what needs to be covered. If it is clear that decisions are not going to made within the allocated time, the Chair can suggest that some items are left to be added to the next meeting’s agenda. It is always important to make agenda items as clear as possible as vagueness leads to endless discussion.

Making sure that clear decisions have been made

At the end of the discussion the Chair should summarise the main points of the discussion and what has been decided. If the committee has agreed to do something the Chair must make it clear what has to be done and who is going to it. Make sure the minute taker has had time to take down details.

What not to do…

 > Don’t use your position to push your own views
 > Don’t talk too much and hog all the conversation
 > Don’t let your friends talk too much because you’re scared of challenging them
 > Don’t ignore people who want to speak