Characteristics of people who chair a meeting well

Decisive leaders are respected and admired. If a meeting goes round and round without a decision it reflects poorly on the person running the meeting. When you see a meeting that’s run really well it’s inspiring, and much wisdom can be learned from watching.

On the flip, if the meetings you attend are not run well you may pick up bad habits thinking that what you see is acceptable.

In a nutshell, here’s a guide to the main differences between how an experienced, effective Chair runs a meeting compared to a Chair who has a bit to learn.

Effective Chair – Listens a lot and says very little
Bit to learn – Constantly gives their opinion

Effective Chair – Speaks after everyone else has spoken
Bit to learn – Always speaks first

Effective Chair – First words on any issue are “what do you think?”
Bit to learn – First words on any issue are “I think we should…”

Effective Chair – See themselves as a facilitator of the discussion
Bit to learn – See themselves as “the one in charge”

Effective Chair – Gives their opinion last
Bit to learn – Gives their opinion first

Effective Chair – At the end of every item, asks the minute taker to read out what’s been recorded so there’s agreement on the information written
Bit to learn – Never asks the minute taker to read out the recorded information

Effective Chair – Clarifies at every point the exact meaning and wording of any resolution, and the action required

Bit to learn – The chair says they’ll sort out the details later


Effective Chair – Allows the minutes to be sent directly to participants

Bit to learn – Insists they “check” minutes before anyone sees them


Effective Chair Reads body language accurately and knows the way the meeting will go before any vote is taken

Bit to learn – Isn’t aware of the body language happening which can give clues to the likely outcome


Effective Chair – Focuses on the process of the meeting

Bit to learn – Focuses on the content of the discussion


Effective Chair Acknowledges and manages conflict

Bit to learn – Pretends conflict is not there and makes no effort to manage it


Effective Chair – Sensitively draws out the wisdom, experience and knowledge of quieter people

Bit to learn – Ignores people who do not speak up


Effective Chair – Has a sense of humour and runs meetings in a friendly atmosphere

Bit to learn – Chairs meetings in a dictatorial style


Effective Chair – Understands the more agreement there is, the more successful the resulting action

Bit to learn – Does not understand “their way” may not work, as they see themselves as “the boss” 


Effective Chair Manages a skilful blend of people, tasks and results

Bit to learn – Tends to focus on the result they want regardless of the consequences


Effective Chair – Knows how to spot distractions for what they are, and is able to get the meeting back on track quickly and respectfully

Bit to learn – Is unaware and/or unable to rein in ramblers and distractors 


Effective Chair – Focuses on the 3GN philosophy – the Greatest Good for the Greatest Number 

Bit to learn – Thinks success is getting “their way”


Effective Chair – Uses a blend of formal and informal meeting procedures for a more efficient and effective meeting

Bit to learn – Does not use any meeting procedures at all to manage the group

If you’d like to learn more strategies and nuances of running better meetings, take a look at David’s Chairing Meetings online course.


If you need expert help navigating your next AGM or board meeting, or guidance on how to define and write your organisation’s Ground Rules, I’m at the other end of an email or phone. I’d love to chat with you.     [email protected]    08 6165 8867