How to Conduct a Meeting
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Printed February 1975
Reprinted June 1984
Revised Year 2002
HOW TO CONDUCT A MEETING
Introduction The success of any meeting depends largely on the chairperson’s skill to get
cooperative interaction toward a productive conclusion. This skill, in turn,
requires certain qualities which chairpersons should strive to attain. The
chairperson should be enthusiastic, articulate, well-organized, have the
ability to stimulate discussion, channel ideas, summarize the discussion, and
to analyze objectively and criticize constructively, as well as command the
respect of the audience.
Fundamental to this skill is the quality of sensitivity—the awareness of the
problems before the group, an understanding of the talents and motivations
of the audience, and an insight into the immediate and long-range goals
being sought. A good chairperson is not autocratic, doesn’t dominate the
group, makes sure the discussion doesn’t drift into unproductive channels.
The ability to communicate and help others do so is crucial. A good
chairperson encourages people to participate; he or she gets things done
through people. Tact and diplomacy are implicit in this skill.
General Rules Here are some general rules to follow when conducting a meeting:
Plan the meeting thoroughly in advance.
Prepare an agenda.
Stick to the business at hand. Do not digress from the agenda.
Prevent the meeting from degenerating into a bull session.
Conduct the meeting according to parliamentary procedure.
Public Speaking Hints Regardless of your public speaking ability, the following basic rules will be
Know your subject thoroughly. Speak with authority.
Speak clearly and loudly enough to be heard by every person in the
room. Don’t mumble.
Be as friendly and sincere in tone as you can. Avoid a drab
Never insult your audience. Never offend the precepts of good taste.
Stand erect and stand still. Don’t fidget with your notes, glasses,
necktie, or anything else that will attract attention away from what
you are saying.
Say it in your own words and in your own way. Be natural and
sincere. Avoid being a “stuffed shirt.”
Keep within time limits. Determine in advance how long you want to
speak and how long you want others to speak.
Be diplomatic at all times. Give everyone an opportunity to
participate, within the limits of parliamentary procedure, on the
subject under discussion, and within time limits.
Don’t be a bore. Be lively and stimulating. If you are sincerely
interested in what you have to say, you can communicate with
interest to others.
Be careful of jokes. A joke which has no relevance to your talk or
discussion, doesn’t belong there. If you must pull jokes, make sure
they are well told, well placed, and have some relation to your
subject. Keep them clean and avoid dialect jokes—it takes an expert
to put them across.
Keep your points down. If you are a featured speaker you will make
a much more lasting and worthwhile impression if you limit your
message to three or four well-emphasized points than if you attempt
to snow the audience with a deluge of facts and fancies.
Introductions. Brevity is the essence of good introduction. Discuss
your proposed introduction with the speaker to help provide him
with a strong “springboard” for his subject, and then:
Give only a short sketch of the speaker’s experience pertinent to the
subject he will discuss.
Establish the speaker’s authority and show why he is the appropriate
Present the speaker by name and repeat the title of his talk.
A brief acknowledgement and thanks at the end of the talk is a
deserved courtesy, and also results in an orderly transition to the next
item on the program agenda.
What a Gavel Is For If your chapter doesn’t have a gavel, get one, and then don’t be afraid to use
it. As chairperson, you alone are responsible for smooth and orderly
meetings. Your members expect and have every right to expect this type of
meeting. They want their meetings to run smoothly and to stick to the agenda
and to the subject. They don’t mind being disciplined when they are out of
order. Your gavel is your greatest asset when presiding. With it you bring the
meeting to order, and keep it that way. Bang the gavel when:
More than one person tries to speak at the same time.
The speaker gets off the subject.
When private conversations start.
When you deem the speaker out of order.
Anytime you want a speaker to stop talking.
(To purchase a gavel, see the AITP Chapter Supply Catalog.)
Leading the Group Groups are like individuals; some act impulsively; some respond
quickly to suggestions; others follow a strong leader. The group must learn
to make decisions. Good group thinking is a process that leads to reliable and
convincing group decision. With the right planning and help, both
individuals and groups can learn how to do it.
Decisions represent different points of view. Under good leadership, more
points of view ordinarily lead to surer conclusions. An effective chairperson
draws out and blends the ideas of his group to reach a consensus rather than
a majority decision. To help the group make decisions the chairperson
channels always to make a final decision at a meeting, but the chairperson
should summarize the status of each discussion so all will understand what
has been accomplished.
The Meeting Agenda An important function of the chairperson is to prepare the agenda for each
meeting. For the first meeting the chairperson will prepare this himself; for
subsequent meetings he may enlist the assistance of the secretary. Review the
minutes particularly of the last meeting and your file of pending matters. It is
a good plan to invite suggestions from the members for new topics. But in the
final analysis the agenda is the chairperson’s responsibility, it is his or her
written plan for the meeting.
The agenda should be realistic so that all topics can be covered. Arrange
agenda items in order of priority. Time the items and adhere to the schedule
as closely as possible. Many chairmen find it helpful to indicate on their
personal copy of the agenda the number of minutes allotted to each topic. A
suggested time on each agenda is even better. Allow adequate time for
discussion. If members are to report on specific topics, ask them in advance
to do so and indicate their names on the written agenda. Provide time for new
business that members may wish to bring before the group; this open door
policy is often the key to the enthusiasm and participation necessary for
accomplishing set objectives. Don’t plan too much. It’s better to complete
the agenda with time to spare than to carry over topics to a later meeting.
Sample Agenda for General Here is a sample agenda that chapters can use for general membership meetings:
Welcome remarks by the President.
Introduction of guests.
Introduction of new members.
Introduction of the main speaker of the evening, by the President (or
Main speaker (Or other main event).
Response and thanks to speaker by the President (or Program
Committee reports and announcements.
Door prizes, if any.
Some announcements can be gotten out of the way while the dinner dishes
are being taken away and the tables cleared. If business is to be conducted at
the meeting, then by all means put the main speaker on before the business
Checklist for General Here is a general checklist that can be used to prepare for meetings.
Get information and photo from speaker for publicity.
Write introduction of speaker.
Get publicity and photo to newspaper, radio, TV stations.
Publicize meeting in chapter newsletter, then follow up with phone
calls to members and others who would be interested in attending.
Arrange for necessary equipment—lectern, P.A. system (test before
meeting), gavel, name tags, projector, special signs, screen, tape
Make arrangements for registration table, personnel to record
attendance, sell and collect tickets, and to check on number of meals
eaten or amount of liquor used at hospitality hour.
Make arrangements for photo or press coverage.
Get lists of guests to be introduced.
Make arrangements with restaurant as to number expected, meals to
be served and costs, cocktails, table arrangements, number at head
Settle with restaurant, pay and sign check.
Pick up all equipment.
Chapter officers will make many of these arrangements; the program
committee will handle others. You as chairperson, are responsible for a
smooth and effective meeting, and must handle some of the details yourself,
and delegate others.
Sample Agenda for Board Here is a sample outline that can be used for your planning purposes.
Of Directors Meeting
Call to order and roll call
Reading of the minutes of the previous meeting (and their approval).
Committee reports. (Including Treasurer’s report, Chapter Liaison’s
report, plus reports from committee chairmen).
Unfinished business. (Check minutes of previous meeting).
New business. (Correspondence, phone calls, and business
introduced by Board members.)
Sometimes a problem arises which is so important that it is made the
special order of business for the next meeting. When this is done, the
regular order of the next meeting is modified to give this special
problem precedence, and all other matters are omitted or postponed.
Checklist for a Board Here is a checklist that can be used for your planning purposes.
of Directors Meeting
Notice to members and phone call reminders.
Make arrangements with restaurant or other meeting place.
Make sure minutes are kept in sufficient detail.
Provide necessary materials:
- Member’s minute files.
- Copy of Chapter Bylaws and Association Bylaws.
- Correspondence, other reference materials.
Reports and Feedbacks The Secretary should maintain a written record of what takes place at each
meeting to provide information for future meetings, and for the editor of the
chapter newsletter who will want to briefly highlight action taken at the
meeting. Minutes may be brief or lengthy, depending on the nature of the
subject being discussed. Minutes of the meeting also should be kept with
other historical information about the chapter in order to preserve and
maintain a continuing historical record.
Evaluation is a recurring and important responsibility of the meeting’s
presiding officer. Every effort should be made to get membership reaction to
present meeting procedures, to determine if meeting content can
beimproved, to see in what ways member attendance can be increased, and to
encourage membership to offer program improvement ideas. This can be
done informally or through a questionnaire prepared and distributed by
theprogram chairperson. Also, committee work can be more productive, if
the committee chairperson reports regularly to the chapter President on
results of each meeting .
A Final Word The efforts of the most skilled chairperson will be to little avail if the
audience is sparse, or practically non-existent. Everything should be done to
assure as large a meeting attendance as possible. One way to achieve a good
attendance is to effectively publicize the meeting in sufficient advance time
not only the date, time, place, but other essential information, such as
speaker and subject to be discussed, if a speaker has been arranged, or other
matters of importance of interest on the agenda. Whether sent out separately
or as an article in the chapter newsletter, it should be mailed early enough so
that members receive it a full week before the meeting. This applies even if
the chapter has arranged an agenda for each program months in advance, and
publicized that information. An additional notice helps to serve as a
reminder and thus increases attendance.
Reference Materials The general direction is for all reference materials to be available on the
AITP web site. If these are not available online, contact Association
Chapter Operation Pointers
Chapter Committee Chairmans’ Manual
(Sample Committee Report – Reproduct Locally)
Report of Committee
Date of Meeting
Committee Members Present:
Major Issues or Subjects Discussed:
Brief Report on What was Decided:
Report Submitted By